Sunday, August 22, 2010

Iraq and The Real Middle East Conflict

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By Barry Rubin

Aymenn Jawad is a talented young Arab writer who shows how to analyze regional politics well. His short article on Iraqi politics and how they fit into the Nationalist-Islamist, Iran-Syria-Turkey bloc versus Arab regimes' conflict really makes the issues clear. Recommended reading.

Basically, he shows how Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing for influence in Iraq just as the Saudis were battling with Iran and Syria in Lebanon but gave it up as a lost cause. Meanwhile, the United States and Europe are acting clueless about this huge struggle in the region that will determine its future. The central issue is not Israeli-Palestinian or even, in a sense, Iranian nuclear. It is the massive conflict between two blocs.

One of them is composed of Iran, Syria, the Turkish regime, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Iraqi insurgents. The other consists of all of the Arab regimes except for Syria and the Lebanese March 14 coalition. There are some forces, like Qatar, that play on both sides at times.

The revolutionaries have Islamist ideology and both financial and terrorist backing from Tehran and Damascus. The relative moderates--whose interests in some ways parallel those of Israel and in most ways the West--are hoping for Western backing. Poor relative moderates to depend on such unreliable patrons.

The West continues to see the region largely in terms of the outmoded Arab-Israeli conflict when there is a battle to the death among Arabs and among Muslims going on in front of its eyes. It is often more concerned with engaging or apologizing for the radicals than it is in helping the relative moderates against them.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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