An Unusual Alignment of Interests in the Middle East

(Commentary) Michael J. Totten - More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear. He knows those in the West find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran's Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse. Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. What we have, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the Iranian-led "resistance" instead - which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It's an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn't have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there.

2010-04-01 07:31:22

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