The Israeli defeat against Hezbullah:


Implications for Lebanon and ME

 A lecture delivered to the  Gulf Cultural Club by

George Joffe* and Nazar Abboud **

On Wednesday 20th September

 Introduction: Saeed Shehabi As we all know the Palestinian issue, the Arab Israeli conflict, has been the core or problems in the Middle East over the past 50 or sixty years. It is unlikely to disappear soon and it is also unlikely to keep the region stable. Today as we listen to statements by president and prime ministers all over the world there is a unanimous view that unless the Palestinian issue is solved the region will remain unstable. There will always be instability, confusion and political as well as military movements. We want to discuss the recent war between Israel and Hizbollah which apart from the view of President Bush was not sorted out in favour of Israel. Hezbollah has been given of a least a psychological victory if not an outright military victory. We will discuss this issue tonight with two distinguished speakers.

Nizar Abboud: It is very hard to talk about the conflict because you know so many details and you do not know what to say and what not to say. I was born in  1948 and it is no secret now, you can tell by my grey hair. I have lived in that part  of the region, especially after the creation of Israel on the land of Palestine and I have known it all right from the beginning. I will speak as an eye witness from that area and why we are keen to maintain the resistance.

 My early recollections about South Lebanon is that  we were marginalised by every Lebanese society: we were just there near the border. We were denied any real help from the governments. Even someone who wanted to visit us from Sideon or Beirut needed permission to move from any city into  the south Lebanon  border area because this was a no access area for anyone who wanted to view that virgin part of Lebanon because it remained virgin for such a long time.

 The reason for that which we did not know was that the rivers were running freely into the sea. There were probably  other plans or designs which could be used an ulterior purpose for a buffer zone between two states: the new state and our state.

We were scared all the time just looking at Israel. It was a nightmare to drive your car, or your donkey at that time, near the border because it was a scary place. It was meant to scare you. We had to  survive by trying not to be close to that area.

 Then we had so many wars in Lebanon: in 1958 the Lebanese system which is  built on schizophrenic  foundations. There was a dispute about whether we are Arabs. Are we Arabs or are we just Mediterranean, European or just Muslims. The crisis of identity in Lebanon has always been there ever since its inception even before 1943 when the French colonial power left that area.

 For many decades in the 19th century we had civil wars all about identity. Lebanon was  a mosaic and south Lebanon in particular was a no-go area for many people. Only those who were banished could stay in that part of the world : schools and  services were at a minimum level. Then we had wars: the 1956 tri-partied aggression against Egypt and the Suez crisis. In  1958 there was the Baghdad Pact and Lebanon had to side with that pact,  Chamoun at the zenith of the Maronite power decided to side with the Americans. Then there is the Muslim or pan Arab view which wanted  us to be more Arab and more associated with our neighbourhood. And then we had one of two choices: to be with Syria or to be with Israel. So Lebanese  society has always been split because we have many cultures that are closer to Europe  and the Mediterranean than to the Arabs. 

So this crisis reflected itself in 1958 in a mini civil war during Nasser’s time. After that we had to again accommodate ourselves with each other. And suddenly we had the Six Day War and Lebanon stayed outside that conflict for many reasons one of them not  annoy those who considered themselves not Arabs or more affiliated with the West then with the Arabs. This  created a real crisis inside Lebanon. The Lebanese asked :"Why didn’t we support the Arabs? Why didn’t we fight? Why were we not involved in that war. Long after that the Palestinian refugees who were in Lebanon started resisting along with Lebanese who started to help the Palestinians on national grounds. Then in the late 60s we had the feydeen phenomenon in South Lebanon. 

South Lebanon became a ground for the first conflict . On a regular basis infiltrators used to go inside and try to liberate their land. And the people of south Lebanon had to take the retaliation from the Israelis.

 I remember very well  when we opened the first office for Fateh in Al Kyahem. That was in 1968 or 1969. Then the people of the small town of ten thousand really demonstrated and they forced the army to accept the first office for the Palestinian feydeen to be opened in south Lebanon.  From Al Kyahem it spread little by little with the support of the population. Every town had an office for the Palestinian resistance and many Lebanese were involved. The people of the south wanted to tell the Palestinians that they were not alone and to stress that we sympathize  with you and we do not accept this dual identity.

 That war lasted  between 1968 and 1975. We had real war starting in 1968 in south Lebanon and the feelings were very high that Israel is the enemy, people were killed the cities in south Lebanon were randomly in the attacks on south Lebanese towns and cities. There was an attack on Beirut International Airport in 1969. Many Palestinian leaders were killed by the Israeli mossad who were there. This really establishes Lebanon was involved. Because they did not fight in 1967 Lebanon and Jordan were involved in guerrilla warfare for the first time. Then things started.

 The war spilled over into Beirut itself. In that civil war between 1975 and 1991 we had many other wars where Israeli invasions took place like in May 1978. The Israelis decided they would establish their buffer zone and they really moved in heavily in many towns and the area  was  depleted of the population.

 Out of this turmoil and out of the invasions and especially   after 1982 there was no real role for the central government in Beirut. This is what made the people believe that it is time they really filled this vacuum of power. The central government doesn’t care about that part of Lebanon, then the people themselves should care about it.

 The  Palestinians abused their power when they were in the south and did not care about the services. They just used the land to launch attacks and did not care about the retaliation.  They were not involved in defending the towns themselves. They just used hit and run tactics. They would for example attack Al Mutala in northern Palestine and we expected that all our towns would be shelled and people would be killed in exchange for someone who just mischievously  fired katusha rockets. 

This culminated in the 1982 invasion when Israel went in. There was no real resistance in south Lebanon. Within a few days Beirut was invaded. They did not plan to go into Beirut. The original plan was to reach the Aouni River near Sideon but since there was no resistance and total withdrawal the Israelis carried on and they managed to get the PLO out of Lebanon.   

The people of the south found themselves without the Palestinians and without real support from the Lebanese government. In Beirut some Lebanese took their weapons and started shooting at the Israelis. I remember very well the Al Hamra incident when some Israeli officers felt too safe staying in a café and someone wearing a tie and a suit came out of a taxi and shot at them. Hours later there was another attack on the Israelis and seven Israeli soldiers went into a building and seven of them did not come down.  The next day we heard the Israelis with their loud speakers shouting: “We don’t want to fight anymore in the city, we are withdrawing from the city, please don’t shoot at us”.

 That was the first defeat of the Israeli army. I think the Israelis reached their peak at that time. We have seen defeat after defeat of the Israelis. They were evicted from Beirut. It did not happen by a central government decision, it did not happen by a decision from Syria, Iran,  Cuba or Vietnam. It simply happened by an individual initiative. Some parties took the initiative. They felt they are too humiliated to be invaded like that.  They felt it  was total humiliation  when they saw the Israelis with the pflange their supporters who identified with them and with the West.. It was time to fight for their dignity and the dignity of their families. And I believe this was the origin of Hezbollah.

 It emerged from that strife, from that conflict when some people thought it is time, we have to fight. Since 1982 the resistance fighting went on despite the internal conflicts between different groups and parties: secular and non-secular, even between Hezbollah and Amal  at a certain stage for the control of certain areas. That reflects that Lebanon is made up of multi-cultures and multi allegiances.

 After the latest victory some people denied a victory because in south Lebanon a few thousand fighters managed to repel the Israelis and stay for almost 34 days resisting the strongest army in the Middle East supported by the United States and Britain with  state of the art technology, the best weapons, the best intelligence and  satellite photos. These elite fighters managed to repel the elite Israeli army.

 This shows how much faith they have in what they are doing and how much they don’t trust anyone to come to their rescue. This means they were prepared to fight because they knew from that long experience that no one would come to their rescue.

 They learned from 1948 when the Palestinians went out from Palestine in the hope that they would return supported by the Arab armies, that  there are no Arab armies to come to their rescue. And they knew that neither Syria. Iran, Egypt or any other state would  jeopardize their security and come and fight alongside them. So they were prepared for an all out fight to the end and they were prepared to die or to win or to martyr.  This was the name of the game because these people know winning is a must and they are prepared to die for winning. It is not just death for death: it is death for the sake of their integrity and for the defense of Lebanon.

 Those people  who are on the other side of the camp  believe that there was no victory:  they do not want to believe that Lebanon could become a fighting force in the Middle East. They want Lebanon to be business place a tourist place more  than a real country. They view Lebanon like Ali Baba’s  cave where you can put your money take it out, bring it in any time  and it is safe there. It  is a business city, it is not a real city. They never believed that Lebanon is a real society.

 Herein lies the dilemma. These people talk about Lebanon, Lebanese independence first and Lebanon last. There is nobody but Lebanon. The others talk about it from a business  point of view as long as this Lebanon can bring them results. Before the Taif agreement we had a different set of coalitions which means the factional society of Lebanon. After that we had the oligarchs  in Lebanon emerging as a new power and negating the present chieftains and the feudal lords, even the war lords. These came with a huge wealth backed by Middle Eastern oil wealth.

 A new alliance was emerging in Lebanon after the Taif Agreement where Mr Hairiri came as a tycoon and  he used his wealth to have more alliances inside Lebanon, not just on  an ethnic or sectarian basis. He had alliances and affiliates from all factions from the Christians and  Maronites – even the Syrians were working with Hairiri because of his financial power. His power was not just in Lebanon, it even extended to Europe.

 For a certain time this was used very well until his assassination. He managed to compromise the fighting, resisting Lebanon with the old system which could talk to the west and to the east at the same time. He was pragmatic and he knew that the resistance could yield good results for the dream country he wanted to create.

 Then this détente between the resistance and the state managed to work well until the liberation in 2000 and after that and we see Mr Hairiri  actively  in 1996 for the April understanding to protect the towns and villages: if we do not attack your civilian, you will not attack our civilians. Let the fight be between armies.

 Those who assassinated Hairiri wanted to bring that understanding to a close. They wanted Lebanon to be purely on this side especially with the new Middle East envisaged by the USA and their plans for the area to make pax Americana in the Middle East where Israel is dominating power and the states will be split into many ethnic states as we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and others. We suddenly found ourselves facing many assassinations in  previous months. We do not know exactly who was killing who but at the same time there were assassinations of leaders of the resistance.

What is going to happen now is on everybody’s mind and after the victory. There is a real conflict now inside Lebanon between two factions:  the 14 March group and the 8th of March group.  

 The 14th March are the Hairiri camp or the future camp, the flange  and  the Lebanese forces with the Druze aligned together versus Hezbollah and the other national groups and political parties.

 The victory is not accepted by the 14th March camp because they believe this will make Lebanon a confrontational country in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The 8th March camp believe they are part of the Middle East and they should really defend the country. Lebanon is strong by its strength not by its weakness as per the old saying.

 How can this be resolved? I think on Friday (September 22nd) we will see a big celebration victory. This will reflect and show how many  Lebanese support the 8th March camp. The victory has given that party a much stronger power than it used to have.

 The state of Lebanon is such that so much corruption has taken place during the past 15 – 16 years that the government itself  is unable to deliver even basic things to the people. Before this war Hezbollah achieved some understanding with Michel Aoun across the barriers of factional alliances. For the first time the Christians, the Shias the Druze –  many of these are in one camp working together on a national basis and that is going to reflect on Lebanon. This time we are talking about political fault lines, not factional or sectarian fault lines as was the case before all these wars.

 Wars have transformed Lebanon and people now think more about politics than they used to think in the past. The old leaders tried to bring things back to where they used to be because in this way they can have more popularity among their constituencies. The victory has changed this rule and it will remain like this for a long time because the victory has its supporters in every sect and in every category of society. Even  those who think that the Sunnis are purely with  Hairiri and 14th March group are mistaken. There is  a long history where these groups have fought alongside the Palestinians and  alongside the resistance and we have seen in recent wars some Sunnis martyred in the  fight, at least three of them.  That  is a real change. It is not purely Shia anymore. Everybody hopes that Lebanon will emerge out of that in a better constitutional shape as a country not as just a mosaic of factions.

Saeed Shehabi: Thank you for this  analysis of the development of the political situation in Lebanon with regard to the conflict  with Israel from the 1950s until the last war. Of course it is clear that he is hoping that the forthcoming times will be better in terms of national reconciliation although he is also casting doubts on the intentions of some groups who are not ready to acknowledge the victory. We share his optimism, we hope that the doubt that he has will not be realized in the future because Lebanese unity is necessary in order to enable that country to face up to the challenges of the Israelis.

George Joffe: I would like to talk about  are the consequences of what has occurred in the last two months and try to understand what the implications of all this are going to be for the Middle East, but not just for the Middle East but in a more global sense.

I would like to begin with a statement from somebody who is not one of my favorite politicians, but who on this occasion actually said  what is correct and that is Condelezza Rice.  She  said towards the end of the conflict, towards the end of those 34 days of bombardment  of Lebanon that we are seeing the birth of a new Middle East. I think that is correct.

 But I am also convinced that the Middle East that is to come is not the Middle East that she anticipates. It is not going to be a Middle East based on democracy rather than  stability in terms of Western interests. It may well be democracy but it will not arise for those reasons. It is not going to be a Middle East that is pro the USA nor indeed prepared to accept in its current form the situation of Israel.

I know that many governments have come to terms  with the fact that Israel is now part of the architecture of the region. But the way Israel has behaved over the last two months is such that I find it difficult to imagine that any state in the region could accept Israel as it currently exists. And I think that is one part of what we need to analyse.

 I should add that it seems to me that the situation in the Middle East today is worse than I can ever remember and I have quite a long memory going back some 40 years. I really think it is disastrous. Having said that we need to think about what this means because as in all situations of this kind there are winners and there are losers and I think we need to understand who and what they are and what their gains and losses  are.

 To understand that we need to bear in mind something else. The gains and losses are  not merely objective facts. It is not just what actually  happened on the ground that counts here. It is also a question of what the perceptions of gains and losses are. You are perceived to have won and you are perceived to have lost. And beyond that to it is also a question of those who won by not loosing and those who lost by not winning.

 So it is an extremely complex set of different values and outcomes. And then finally we need to consider the direct and indirect consequences of what has occurred. There are those who are engaged inside the Middle East in the problems of the region. There are those who are affected by it though not necessarily engaged by it.

 So basically that is what I want to try and do. To establish in all those terms, objective losses, objective gains, perceptions of losses  and gains and gains that were not losses and losses that were not gains.  I want to analyse how it actually affects the region.

I have to begin, of course  with the core adversaries. Ostensibly the core adversaries were Israel and Lebanon, the states engaged in the struggle. But I  wonder whether the struggle wasn’t another kind of struggle involving Hezbollah and indirectly Hamas. What you are actually looking at is the consequence of asymmetric warfare inside the region. For the first time it is not so much states that count but movement within states with particular objectives and the way in which the outcome has affected them may prove to be more important in the future. Non state actors now play a role equivalent to states inside the region.

 Let me begin with states because  in some ways I think they are still very significant. Both Lebanon and Israel lost heavily. Lebanon quite clearly because of the material damage and loss of life. But Israel much more because it did not succeed in a project which was ill-founded, ill-directed, unacceptable morally, unacceptable politically and certainly unacceptable diplomatically.

 The problem for Israel is that it did not achieve its primary objective which was first to destroy Hezbollah and second to subjugate the Lebanese state into part of the diplomatic  hinterland with which it could live. Its perceived to have failed as well, even though  it did massive damage to Lebanon and also in a sense to Hezbollah as well. 

The perception of its failure has one very important significance and here I would like to remind you of something which you  won’t have thought of I am sure: the collapse of  colonial empires inside the Middle East dates from 1930. It was the year in which the cracks inside the imperial edifice started to appear. It was reinforced in 1940 with the Second World War. It wasn’t that either Britain or France were really weakened, but they were perceived to be weakened and that meant that resistance to them became a viable alternative.

 What has  happened with the  case of the war in Lebanon is that the idea has been perceived to be weak, has been perceived not to be able to carry through its agenda with all the massive means at its disposal and particularly it could not defend Israel. It could not prevent the rocket attacks down as far as Haifa and even further south. That is the first thing. It has lost credibility because it could not defend. 

But it has also lost credibility in the wider world because it behaved in ways that are construed to be criminal. It has been accused of war crimes and I think that is probably justified. And worse than that in pursuing its primary objective of trying defeat Hezbollah it also behaved indiscriminately and used the tactic of terror in effect to try and achieve its objectives.

 So in a sense thereby it has lost an awful lot And that is going to have its implications in terms of the way in which Israel behaved before, not necessarily good. But  certainly it will affect it. Yet having said that we need to bear in mind that in one sense some of its objectives were achieved. The United Nations Security Council Resolution when it finally came, when it was allowed to come did set up a boundary force. It did replace the failed security zone in the south. There are now 15,000 troops from Europe and Turkey there. How viable that is going to be we don’t know but it marks a change in the situation. It did require in effect that Hezbollah should withdraw in a sense that at least it would not be able to launch attacks within   that zone and at the moment that holds.

 So there is some kind of security restored to Israel. And Israel is allowed under the resolution to respond if attacks do occur.  So you could argue that one objective: that of guaranteeing the security of northern Israel  was partly achieved, at least temporarily. That is a very meager gain but nonetheless it is a gain.

There are some indirect effects too but I think we can best see those if we look at the situation inside Lebanon itself. Lebanon did lose objectively, massively, even if there was a solidarity cemented within the Lebanese population. It lost because of the loss of life, it lost because of the damage to the infrastructure, it lost because of the damage to private property. There were an estimated $15bn worth of losses and that is pretty heavy.

 But the war also increased inter communal tensions. I accept that there may well have been a solidification of resistance. Indeed I know that. But we can’t deny that the split between the Maronite community in particular and the Shia community in particular is now more intense than it was. It is interesting to note,  and this pre-dated the war, that there was a split in the Maronite community between the Aoun faction and the Lebanese forces. And that is very significant.

 It is interesting to note too that Amal and Hezbollah are perhaps for the first time operating together – or so it appears. That is certainly significant. But it does mean that the division between  the two factions of the kind that my colleague outlined is now a reality. That is a great danger because the Lebanese state must now be extremely fragile. It would not take very much for that breakage to become more permanent. In other words, there is a danger of a kind anticipated last year after the assassination of Rafiq Hairiri which now seems more real. A break-up of the Lebanese state is a possibility

 I know the Lebanese will fight against that and will try to prevent it from occurring. But we can’t deny that now, as a result of the pressure of the war,  it is a greater danger than it was in the past.

 I also  wonder where the Sunnis and the Druze are going to place themselves. But again  even though there are some very negative outcomes there are some positive outcomes too to the Lebanese government. It has been able, for example, to restore its authority, or some kind of nominal authority. The Lebanese army is there. It has not been there for 15 years or more. It may be a nominal presence and even though it will do little to contribute towards the objectives laid down in the United Nations Security Council resolution it is there.

 As a result of the war and the way in which  it began and the consequences of the violence it is true to say that the Lebanese government can once again, and now in slightly different circumstances,  open up the crucial question of the relationship of the government to Hezbollah.  That could be significant. I have no idea of the way it will play out but it will be significant.

 There are some domestic consequences for Israel and we have to bear these in mind because these will have a very direct effect on what will happen in the next few days.  There is to be a meeting of the quartet at the end of the week (Friday 22nd September). What they can actually do will in part be determined by what has occurred. 

Inside Israel the Olmert government is dead. It continues to operate but it is only a matter of time before it disappears. This raises a very unpleasant possibility that the next government will be much more extreme. Almost certainly it will be led by Mr Netanyahu. He is no friend of anybody and certainly not of Lebanon. Therefore we have to anticipate that there is a grave danger that he may try to correct the mistakes that Mr Olmert made. It will require very little to provoke Israel into a further attack of the kind we have just seen. That we been directly  related to the nature of the  success of the consequent Israeli government.

 The second consequence is that any idea of unilateral withdrawal will not happen. I can’t imagine that the Israeli public will accept any arrangement that reduces Israel’s presence inside the occupied territories.  Even if the government could be persuaded to talk to the new Hamas –Fatah unity government, don’t assume that it would do so seriously or genuinely. I think it most unlikely.

 So actually despite the murmurs in Europe and the murmurs in Washington of hope of a solution and new opportunity opened up by the war I don’t think that is the case at all. We need to look again at what happened to Hezbollah. There is no doubt that Hezbollah has acquired a status and prestige which is without parallel. I can think of no other group, non-state actor inside the Middle East that has achieved so much in terms of its prestige, so quickly. And that is even though Sheikh Nasrallah has admitted that the seizure of the soldier was a miscalculation. He  never anticipated a response of the kind that actually occurred.

The simple fact of surviving and fighting in itself is a demonstration  of the power of the mind inside the Middle East.  Lessons were to all other factors that will actually reinforce the role of  Hezbollah as a resistance movement and as an example inside the region. 

That has come at a cost. One I have already indicated. The crisis within the Maronite community, the crisis within the Lebanese government and the future relationship between the two. It has come at the cost too that even though there is a renewal of unity inside the south, there is now foreign force  and that may be both a provocation and a hindrance to Hezbollah being able to further its agenda to force out Israel from the south.

 And there is an important speculation that we need to undertake. Why did they actually decide to capture the soldiers in the first place. I will give you three possible reasons that have been suggested. I am not certain that any of them are true forceful reasons but nonetheless they give an indication of the complexity of the situation that we now face.

 The first is that it  is actually part of a complex process of trying to prevent some kind of concessions to Israel after its misbehavior in the last five years. It begins with the organization by Marshad in Damascus of the initial  Hamas  seizure of a soldier outside the Gaza Strip. And in that context the argument is that Hezbollah wanted to  give support to Hamas by repeating that experience.

 The second explanation is that it fulfilled a long-standing Hezbollah promise,  one that was echoed throughout Lebanon, of forcing Israel to disgorge the prisoners that it has held in some cases for decades as it had successfully done in 2004.

 The third explanation is that this was  done simply because Hezbollah is the creature of Iran and Syria. Certainly Iran and Syria supported it. Certainly they are crucial to its ability to operate effectively both as an element inside the political structure of Lebanon and as a resistance organization. But I know of no evidence that suggests that Israel simply resonates to Iranian and Syrian demands.

But the consequences of its actions has been to change the position of both states.

 Those changes inside the European Union are a direct consequence of the re-evaluation of the situation inside the Middle East forced on the European statesmen by the events in Lebanon and the war. And in that context Hezbollah’s actions have a profound effect on the geo-politics of the region.

 But that raises a very disturbing consideration about the United States. Where does it stand and what is it going to do? At the moment the United States is profoundly discomforted inside the region. It has the crisis in Iraq, the crisis in Afghanistan, Israel’s failure in the recent war and the situation with Iran regarding arms control to deal with.  So the question is how is the United States now going to respond in the face of what are a series of diplomatic defeats.

 The assumption is that the United States will continue to be concerned about multi-literalism, that it will co-operate with Europe, that it will in effect try a more mature approach. I have to tell you I think that calculation is profoundly misguided. To assume that the neo-conservative tendency inside the United States  that has driven the formulation of foreign policy since 2001 as  somehow being overturned in Washington is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of the political process there. 

The neo-conservative ascendancy still applies despite its reverses in Iraq or indeed with Israel. This means that the Bush administration after a period will not necessarily respond to  more multi-literalism. It will not necessarily tolerate European hesitancy and indeed the evidence is  beginning to emerge that that is the case We know that the United States supported Israel in its war and supported it because it saw the war as a mechanism for destroying Hezbollah and thereby changing the political dispensations inside the region.

 We know too that the United States has plans in being to attack Iran. Ninety-four sites have been identified as key to the disruption of the Iranian programme in nuclear power, whatever that may mean for nuclear weapons. We know too that airforce planners anticipate that there will be collateral damage, that  between 2,000 and 15,000 people will be killed, simply because of the location of the sites that they want to destroy. We learned yesterday that the United States Navy has been told to prepare eventuality plans for the possibility  of such engagements.

 We also know that in the more lunatic fringes of the neo-conservative groups that influence policy in Washington there is an alternative plan in being as well. It is to isolate Kozastan  from the rest of Iran thereby  starving the regime of oil and oil revenues. Use the Ahwazi Arabs as the mechanism by which this can be done and thereby hope to see the regime overthrown by a popular uprising. I seem  to have heard that somewhere before – there was a similar  sort of plan for Iraq. It may seem irrational to you but that does not mean it cannot actually occur.

 The problem is we don’t know what the outcome is going to be and we don’t know actually what the European response to such plans will be either. Do not assume that  Europe will somehow reject these ideas. Europe is profoundly imbued with the same assumptions as now  inform  the neo-conservatives in Washington. And beyond that too European statesmen depend heavily on the idea of the trans-Atlantic Alliance. They are not going to abandon that. So there are still certain uncertainties in Europe as well. 

The there are other factors. There is the question of China and India: these are factors which cannot be ignored: not because they are major military powers but because they operate economic and political alternatives inside the Middle East itself. In effect we are seeing a recreation of the situation of the Cold War inside the Middle East. Once again Middle Eastern power  are  beginning  to look towards alternative sources of influence and power to balance off the pressures they find themselves under from Washington or from Europe.

 And the finally there is the question of what is actually happening inside the Arab world. I can’t imagine a worst outcome for established regimes. They are even further discredited then they were. Anti-Westernism is even more intense. It is not just directly against the United States. A kind of  credibility is being given to the thesis of Samuel  Huntington that there is in fact a clash, and it is a cultural clash and it is innate.  And at the popular level the thesis of Salafi jihadism has been given an enormous boost. That must in effect argue for a national confrontational situation.

 To sum up those ideas I would say that basically the West has scored a spectacular and catastrophic own goal. It has done lasting damage to its interests. They are not going to be easily redeemable and the new era that Mr Bush, Mr Blair and Condelezza Rice has indeed arrived but it is not going to give them any of the benefits they expected. And that is the worse outcome of all.

 *George Joffe is a Research Fellow at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge and Visiting Professor of Geography at Kings College, London University. He specialises in the Middle East and North Africa and is currently engaged in a project studying connections between migrant communities and transnational violence in Europe.  He is also a lecturer on the Centre’s M.Phil. in International Relations.

 ** Nazar Abboud is a journalist from South Lebanon, living in London for 20 years. He holds a degree in English Literature from the Lebanese University which he obtained in 1982. He covered Lebanese and Middle Eastern affairs with frequent visits to the region. He had also covered extensively the 1982 Israeli invasion, and was  the victim of six kidnappings  by Israelis and other militias factions. 

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