Thursday, January 27, 2011

A new Middle East arrives, sooner than expected
26 January '11

Whew. Reality is outstripping the media’s ability to deal with it at all, not to mention interpret it accurately. Several major events in the Middle East that will have serious consequences are all happening at once:

First and worst: Hizballah now controls Lebanon. Jonathan Spyer manages to find one positive thing to say:

From an Israeli point of view, Hizbullah’s move into plain view may also bring advantages. For a long period, the non-Hizbullah “government” of Lebanon functioned for the Shi’ite Islamists as part cloak, part human shield.

The emerging situation looks set to have the virtue, by contrast, of clarity. This would raise the possibility of the next clash between Israel and Hizbullah taking on the unfamiliar dimensions of a state to-state conflict. — Jerusalem Post

Well, he may have a point there, but consider that Lebanon, once a democracy, is now a full-fledged client state of Iran, ruled by an extremist Islamist party. Lebanese Sunnis and Christians are disenfranchised. The West loses one (of course, it’s been ‘losing’ Lebanon for a long time, but now it’s final).

Second, and probably-going-to-be-bad: Egypt. Whether the violent protests there will turn into a true revolution is unclear. But if they do, the history of revolutions (viz. 1789, 1917, 1979) indicates that rarely do they bring better government (the American revolution wasn’t really a revolution, it was a secession) — usually the most ruthless party carries the day. In Egypt, that probably means the Muslim Brotherhood, yet another extremist Islamist party.

Even if this blows over, Hosni Mubarak is 82. How long will he continue to control Egypt, a country of 80 million, with the world’s 10th largest military — one which is armed with high-quality American equipment?

Protests have also been occurring in Jordan. The King has announced moves to improve the economy, but of course that will not help insofar as his opponents are Muslim-Brotherhood Islamist types, who don’t care a fig about the economy. There have been demonstrations in Algeria and Yemen as well.

The Tunisian revolution which first inspired the unrest hasn’t run its course. It remains to be seen what kind of regime will replace the corrupt dictatorship of former President Ben Ali. Most commentators think it won’t be Islamist. Don’t bet on it.

Third, consequences still unclear: The Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA has been buffeted by an attack launched by Aljazeera, probably orchestrated by the Iranian bloc. The so-called ‘Palestine papers’ will not have much effect on the image of Israel in the West — partisans on both sides are already interpreting them in accordance with their own positions — but they have wrecked the position of the PA in the Arab world and boosted Hamas.

Here are some interesting facts about the ‘papers’ from Barry Rubin:

1. Most of the routine material comes from actual documents but not the “interesting” parts that everyone is talking about.

2. That still does not mean that these documents accurately reflect what happened since they are the version of PA officials

3. On a number of specific points and on all the points being publicized the claims made are so ridculous that these [documents] must have been altered. The texts read almost like a satire themselves in which someone set out to write a narrative in which the PA gave everything and got nothing in return. Indeed, the picture is so exaggerated that it should be obvious these claims are phony. But of course that assumes that people were going to use logic and know something about the issues…

4. In addition, the Guardian and al-Jazira often distort what is in the documents to exaggerate it even more. Some of the specifics are really absurd like the legalistic-minded Tsipi Livni saying she is against international law and even saying she planned to expel Palestinians from Israel after an agreement.

5. Yet almost all of the media uncritically quote these distortions.

6. Some even add new items that were neither in the documents nor in the original coverage. The most notorious example is the claim that the PA recognized Israel as a Jewish state. — Rubin Report

It will be interesting to see if the US will be able to continue supporting the PA. Of course, keep in mind that the ‘papers’ discredit the PA in Arab eyes by purporting to show that they are not an extremist organization, and are willing to compromise!

These three events represent the dawning of a new Middle East — unfortunately one in which both democratic and conservative non-Islamic forces have lost ground to radical Islamism. And one which isolates Israel even more.

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