Monday, July 17, 2006

US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: In Shambles?

Many see in the current crisis in the Middle East evidence that US foreign policy in the region is in shambles. I think they are seriously mistaken. The best evidence of this is that Hezbollah’s war with Israel is not drawing unqualified support from governments in the region. While Syria and Iran clearly have done so, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan have blamed Hezbollah for the current violence.

This is indicative of a growing division between Sunni states and Shia states over the road to peace in the Middle East. While the dividing line is not perfect (Syria is largely Sunni), the former seem to be orienting in a moderate direction favoring a peaceful resolution based on a guarantee for Israeli security. The latter’s only vision of peace is one resulting from the extermination of Israel. As the current violence indicates, Iran has a solid claim to the leadership of those supporting this view.

The growing divide between these two views would appear to be related to the course of the broader war on terror, which has increasingly pitted moderate Sunnis against radical Shia and Sunnis. The world that the radicals want to create not only has no room for Israel, it also has no room for moderates.

One rather suspects, in the end, there is also no place for Sunnis. This makes Sunni Syria the state with the most to lose should it continue its current direction. Already heavily dependent on Iran, Syria is becoming isolated in the Middle East and the Sunni world. The country’s best option is to turn course and distance itself from Iran. That would leave Iran supremely isolated, and that would be a victory for US foreign policy in the Middle East.

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