Arab states vent rising wrath
The Mideast crisis has prompted varied steps against Israel and US. A regional roundup.
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Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said that "the Arabs cannot make war without Egypt, or peace without Syria." The lasting truth of that observation was demonstrated recently with a two-week flurry of Syrian-sanctioned guerrilla attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border, sparking fears of a second front opening in the Middle East conflict.Skip to next paragraph
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Analysts say the escalation was Syria's way of saying that its interests should not be forgotten while international concerns focus on Israel-Palestinian violence. It was also an expression of Syria's opposition to a Saudi peace initiative, offering Israel full normalization with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from occupied Arab territory. "I don't see the Syrians trying to fundamentally shift the balance of power with Israel, but they will keep up tensions," says Michael Young, a Lebanese political analyst and commentator. "Syria is a hard-line country, but that doesn't mean much when its strength is limited."
Despite unease in neighboring Lebanon over the impact on its fragile economy of further instability along the southern border with Israel, Beirut is expected to continue following the lead of Damascus, its political master. Lebanon's moderate and pragmatic prime minister, Rafik Hariri, announced Friday that his country would join Syria in boycotting a meeting of European Union foreign ministers and their Mediterranean rim counterparts this week in protest at Israel's attendance. The decision means that Lebanon will have to postpone the signing of a landmark economic and political agreement with the European Union.
In Tunisia, a similarly "moderate" Arab state, which has struggled to contain its own Islamic militancy for decades, investigators are probing the death of 16 people including eleven Germans in what German officials believe was a suicide at- tack on an ancient Jewish synagogue last week.
Initially, Tunisia's government described the synagogue blast as a "tragic accident'' but acknowledged this week that investigators are now pursuing other leads. Meanwhile, the Tunisian government, which entertains several million Western tourists annually, has remained largely distant from the rising tide of anger being expressed elsewhere in the Arab world toward the US and Israel.
In Libya, Muammar Qaddafi has been keen to both organize demonstrations against Israel, and to participate in them. Mr. Qaddafi has stressed his country's backing for Palestine in tough language for years.
"Mass annihilation of the Palestinian people" and "Zionist terrorism" are two of the most common descriptions by Libyan officials of the recent Israeli offensive in the West Bank. Libya's Ali Abdul Salaam al-Tureiki, the chief of the Committee for African Unity, Qaddafi's brainchild, has called for a full boycott of Israel.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco will meet with President Bush on Tuesday at the White House. On the first leg of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East, the young king asked Mr. Powell upon his arrival in Morocco if he didn't think he should have gone to Israel first. Such suggestions from moderate Arab states would have been mostly unheard of in years past. King Mohammed is expected to press the US president to continue an active role in the Middle East and think about backing an international peacekeeping force for the region, which Washington has so far refused to contemplate.
Neighboring Algeria remains embroiled in a full-scale civil war that witnesses brutal attacks and counterattacks week in and week out. The official news agency APS reported over the weekend that Islamic rebels had killed seven family members and wounded four others in western Algeria.
Internal conflict has kept a potentially oil-rich nation both from prospering and voicing its opinions on the Middle East crisis in any meaningful way, say many analysts.