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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rami G. Khouri, "New rules for the Middle East," International Herald Tribune, May 26, 2008.

...we now have a rare moment in the Middle East. Iran, Turkey, all the Arabs, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Israel all share one and only one common trait: They routinely ignore the advice, and the occasional threats, they get from Washington.

The accord that has resolved the immediate political crisis in Lebanon is the latest example of the new political power equation that is redefining the Middle East. It reflects both local and global forces, and 18 years after the Cold War ended, provides a glimpse of what the post-Cold War world will look like - at least in the Middle East.

Several dynamics seem to be at play, but one stands out as paramount: We are witnessing the clear limits of the projection of American global power, combined with the assertion and coexistence of multiple regional powers (Turkey, Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas, Saudi Arabia, etc.). These local powers tend to fight and negotiate at the same time, and ultimately prefer to make reasonable compromises rather than perpetually wage absolutist battles.

The Doha accord for Lebanon was much more than simply a victory for Iranian-backed Hezbollah over the American-backed alliance. It is the first concrete example in the Arab world of a negotiated, formal political agreement by local adversaries to share power and make big national decisions collectively, while maintaining close strategic relationships with diverse external patrons in the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The Lebanese agreement (unlike the failed Fatah-Hamas unity government) is likely to succeed because all the parties know that to live together peacefully they must make mutual compromises. This accord has been forged in the furnace of Middle Eastern demographic and political realism, in contrast to the hallucinatory absolutism that often drives American-Israeli policy

This is not a full defeat for the United States - it's more like a draw. It puts into concrete political form the most powerful force that has defined the Middle East in recent decades: the willingness of individuals, political movements and some governments to openly defy, challenge, resist and occasionally to fight the United States, Israel and their Arab and other allies.

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Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of The Daily Star and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Distributed by Agence Global.Recommend this Post

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