Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Syria and Iraq: A Lebanese vision of the future?
Two big things happened in the Middle East yesterday, with interesting visions of a future Middle East. A lot of people have been wondering about a reshaping of the Middle East's power balance since the latest Iraq conflict and Iran nuclear situation commenced, and yesterday's activities only added further fuel to the fire.

Yesterday, it was announced that Iraq and Syria concluded negotiations and commenced diplomatic relations after a period of 24 years. This is a critical step, most notably as although it may have occurred under US approval (or desperation?), the US holds little control over the relationship going forward. Syria has a vast history of trying to exert control over satellite states, and currently finds itself in a power struggle with Iran for dominance in the Middle East.

Yesterday's assassination of Pierre Gemayel, a Lebanese cabinet minister and strong opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon, was another important event, as it shows Syria's growing confidence to spurn regional diplomatic efforts to contain it and continue with its satellite state dominance. It's the 5th such assassination pegged on Syria in the last 2 years, which is phenomenal in itself.

With Hussein's fall in Iraq, and the subsequent insurgent activities in the country, quite a large power vacuum was left in the region, and Syria and Iran have stepped into the breach. The next few years will be critical in the reshaping of the regional power balance. I would back Iran to become the dominant force in the region, and that is no easy acknowledgment for the US.