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NEWS DISPATCHES > Grim Future For Lebanon, Iraq and Neighbors

3 Aug 2006

Events of the last few days have cast a dark shadow over the prospects of negotiating or enforcing peace in the Middle. Wednesday saw a record number (231) of missiles fired by the Hezbollah into Northern Israel. Israel also intensified her military campaign in Lebanon with promise of expanding ground operations. Meanwhile the carnage in Iraq continued unabated with a gruesome attack that cost the lives of many youths playing or watching football.

On Thursday, the BBC disclosed a leaked report by the outgoing British Ambassador to Iraq William Patey in which he deduced that "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy”, This view on Iraq’s future was also aired by the region’s top US commander (Gen. John Abizaid and his colleague) during a testimony at the Senate Armed Forces Committee in Washington Thursday. On the Lebanese front, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to launch missiles at Tel Aviv (Israel’s capital) if Israel strikes deeper into Beirut. He was certainly referring to the (400-600kg) Iranian made zelzal-2 missile with a range of 200km. Most of the missiles employed so far by Hezbollah have been katyushas (range 25km) and to a limited number of Fajr-5 missile with a range of 75km. Israel recorded her highest deaths (4 soldiers and 8 civilians) Thursday in 23 days of fighting with Hezbollah.

Countries like Syria and Iran that have a role to play in any future negotiations between Israel and Hezbollah are instead issuing bellicose statatements. On Thursday the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as repeating his call for the elimination of Israel. “Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," He said during a meeting with other Muslim leaders in Malaysia.

As the crisis in Iraq is now claiming an average of about100 lives a day and the sectarian and ethnic divide widening, many in America are beginning to question the wisdom of going into the country in the first place. Britain’s Tony Blair is apprehensive of the possible destabilizing role of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his armed militia in a future Iraq. Shall he play a similar role as that of Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Palestine? These are questions are some of the unanswered questions in the Iraqi puzzle.

The Strategists in the Bush administration who were selling the idea that Iraqi democracy will serve as a springboard for the spread of democracy in the Middle East are certainly having a second thought. What we see emerging is an apparent failing American policy that is both helping to turn the anger of Muslims against the U.S. and tearing the fabric of Middle East society apart.

If Iraq slides into full civil war and the crisis in Lebanon and Palestine persist, the whole Middle East may be sucked into a bloody and complicated war.


Njei Moses Timah