From the Ashes of War, Hopes for Peace

Bush and his partners in the region must turn their full attention to longstanding issues like the Palestinian problem

ALTHOUGH the Iraqi military defeat has reversed Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait, it has left the Middle East in a state of flux - ripe for either a diplomatic breakthrough for peace or renewed hostilities and violence. For this reason, the United States should immediately pursue a postwar strategy together with its Arab coalition partners and Israel to build a new equilibrium of power and thus pave the way for peace. The Gulf war and its consequences clearly delineated between the winners and the losers. Unfortunately, however, wars do not end neatly and the residue of Arab resentment and anger evoked by the Iraqi military defeat will not readily be mitigated.

Those countries that have supported Saddam such as Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and the Palestinians have provided fertile land for continued anti-American sentiment, which is spreading into other Arab states including Sudan and Libya. Many of their citizens are disillusioned and confused. They refuse to accept Iraq's defeat and want to cling to their ill-fated dreams.

There are four critical areas on which the US should concentrate. First, to lessen the adverse psychological impact of the war, the US needs to demonstrate that the Middle Eastern countries can be better off politically and economically as a result of the Iraqi defeat. The difficulty here is that the US cannot do so on its own. The postwar socioeconomic, political, and psychological healing must be seen as an Arab enterprise. The oil-rich Arab countries must spearhead their own version of a ``Marshall P lan'' to help restore the economic viability of the Arab countries that have suffered economic dislocations. Countries such as Jordan and Yemen which have sided with or paid ``lip service'' to Saddam should not be excluded.

Second, to stifle the violent activities of opposition groups who seek some representation in government throughout the Arab world, the US should encourage Arab members of the coalition to introduce some reforms leading to the development of democratic institutions. Although most of the Arab states may be decades away from developing democratic systems allowing for legitimate succession to power, certain levels of reform consistent with each country's own social and political orientation are still possi ble.

Third, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis consistent with heightened Israeli security concerns should be found. Watching the devastation of Kuwait and losing the ability to act independently against Iraqi Scud missile attacks have profoundly shaken Israel's confidence. The knowledge that their national security is inextricably interwoven with regional security has hardened the Israeli's position on the issue of territorial concessions on the one hand, and increased Israel's awareness of its li mitations and the need for a solution to the Palestinian problem on the other. To make it conducive for Israel to eventually concede territory to the Palestinians would require a historic change of attitude - the recognition of the state of Israel by Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon with the blessing of Saudi Arabia, at a minimum.

Failure to bring the three-year-old uprising in the West Bank and Gaza to fruition, disillusionment with the PLO leadership, and a lost gamble on Saddam have increased Palestinians' dispair. But these events may also have increased their willingness to enter into meaningful negotiation.

Finally, President Bush's call for a new regional security arrangement to insure long-range political stability must rest on three major pillars: (1) Israel should be part of any future security arrangement, hence the need for a resolution to the Palestinian problem. (2) A new equilibrium of power should be established, including the the protection of smaller states by Arab coalition forces, the prevention of a power vacuum in Iraq, and maintaining security agreements between the US and individual state s, including Israel. (3) An agreement, with enforcement provisions, should be reached between the US, the Soviet Union, the European community, and China prohibiting the building of facilities to produce weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East while containing the flow of other weapon systems.

Notwithstanding current popular sentiment to the contrary, Arab states view the US as the foremost power that can dramatically affect their future well-being. Bush's diplomatic skills will now be put to their greatest test. Having taken such a bold military step and succeeded, he stands a better chance than any of his predecessors to build a new ``Middle East order'' from the ashes of the war.

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