Middle East Situation Tense, Short-Term Outlook is Grim

I refer to Kamla Sarup’s opinion “Peace in 2006”. As an observer of Middle Eastern Affairs, I think the writer is rather optimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East.

To take a number of examples: Unfortunately Iraq appears to be heading towards a bloody civil war. For every American soldier killed in Iraq, some 50 Iraqis are murdered by fellow Muslims.

The only solution which was unthinkable two or three years ago is to divide the country into three federated states: Kurdish in the north, Sunni in the Centre and Shi’ite in the South.

The Syrian people are living under a ruthless unprincipled dictatorship. The opposition is too weak to bring the regime down. The Syrian leadership is accused of murdering the former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafiq Hariri.

In Israel/Palestine, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.

Israel refuses to end the occupation and it has refused to negotiate meaningfully with the secular moderate Palestinian Authority President Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, which boosted Hamas’ chances of success. The unilateral steps on the ground by Israel have complicated matters even more.

In Lebanon, Hizbulla refuses to disarm and arguments between different communities are still raging. The President Emille Lahoud whose term was extended by Syria despite Lebanese opposition still clings to office and refuses to reign. This is causing tension and everyone hopes the 1976-1990 civil war does not return.

In the Sudan, the massacres in the Darfur Region have not run their course yet. Intervention by outside powers is now urgent.

Iran refuses to cancel or postpone its nuclear uranium enrichment programme despite the UN warnings of sanctions.

In Libya, an odious tyrannical system has impoverished the people. Human rights abuses are rife and Libyan Prisons make Abu Ghraib seem like a Disney Resort. libya is an oil rich country, yet the Libyans are hungry. The corrupt regime must go.

The situation in the Middle East is tense and the outlook is grim, at least in the short-term.

Of course we still have trouble brewing in Kashmir, Nepal, the Congo and Chechnya. I can only hope that 2007 will be better than 2006.

Nehad Ismail is a writer and broadcaster, who writes about issues related to the Middle East from his home in London.