Obama and the Muslim Cold War

[Jerusalem Post] Hillel Frisch - Relations among the Muslim states of the Middle East have never been worse. A razor-sharp cold war separates the moderate Arab Sunni states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and most of the Gulf states, from an Iranian-led axis that includes Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Qatar. Meeting the Iranian threat is the most important issue dividing these two camps. Hamastan is anathema to the first camp, for it sets a number of bad precedents. Gaza is the first area in the Arab world to be ruled by an organization that rose from the ground up, a fundamentalist movement that can claim a certain democratic legitimacy. Hamas is creating a revolutionary theocracy in the area under its control. It is the "deepest" Iranian bridgehead in the Arab world. Obama will be surprised to discover that objection to any substantial movement on a Palestinian state will come less from Israel, and more from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - which fear that Hamas would probably take over Judea and Samaria via an expanded Palestinian state. As far as they are concerned, Israel did not batter Hamas sufficiently to allay their suspicions. These states prefer "process" over meaningful movement regarding the Palestinian problem. Nor will these Arab countries be pleased about the newfound American desire to engage Iran and Syria. Saudi Arabia remains committed to seeing Bashar Assad tried in an international court, not letting him off the hook by engaging him. The mainstream Arab countries, like Israel, seek U.S. resolve in confronting the Iranian-led axis, not an "outstretched American hand" to the radical part of the Muslim world. The writer is a senior research associate and Arab affairs specialist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

2009-01-29 06:00:00

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