Absent the State in Lebanon, Watch New Pacts Arise

[Daily Star-Lebanon] Rami G. Khouri - The memorandum of understanding to ease sectarian tensions that was signed in Beirut Monday between Hizbullah and the Lebanese Salafist Belief and Justice Movement (BJM) is highly symbolic in revealing the constantly evolving line-up of major political actors in the Arab world. There is indeed a "new Middle East" being born, as U.S. Secretary of State Rice predicted in mid-2006, but its contours and protagonists are very different from what she had in mind. The accord signed between Sunni and Shiite Muslims denounced all forms of sectarian incitement and "any aggression by a Muslim faction on another Muslim faction," and also called for confronting the "American agenda." Its particulars are less important than its symbolic affirmation that Shiite empowerment and Sunni Salafist self-assertion are among the most popular movements spreading throughout the Middle East. They dramatize the reality that four other types of political expression that had dominated the Middle East for much of its modern life since the 1920s - secular and leftist-nationalist political parties, government-centered parties, Western-oriented elites, and military regimes - have lost glamour, impact and credibility.

2008-08-20 01:00:00

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