The burst of diplomatic activity that the Middle East has witnessed in recent months frequently deviated from Washington's policy guidelines, underscoring the decline in American influence in the region.The new U.S. administration will need a new and more constructive approach to handling the various issues of the Middle East.
The resumption of the Conference on National Dialogue, after an interruption of over two years, is a welcome step. National dialogue is a profound necessity in Lebanon. At the same time, a faulty or incomplete approach to such a dialogue could backfire and pose a threat to Lebanon's stability.
The current crisis in Lebanon, ignited by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, is rooted not only in opposition to the Syrian military presence, but also in frustration at the lack of presidential or parliamentary elections since 2000.
Despite its reactive origins, the recent mobilization of the Shiite community in Lebanon does not seem to be an ephemeral episode, but rather a new chapter in an ongoing epic of communal consciousness and activism with far-reaching political implications.
Underlying the political map of the Middle East —those weird straight lines of Sykes-Picot vintage running through the desert— is the real configuration of this enigmatic region: the ethno-religious layout. Kurds, Berbers, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Turks, Armenians, Copts, and more, depending on where one decides the Middle East ends.
With the departure of Syrian troops from northern Lebanon and the approaching withdrawal from the rest of the country by April 27, the electoral balance of power in Lebanon has radically changed in advance of elections scheduled to be held by May 31.
Hizbollah is sometimes cited as a positive example of how inclusion in the political process can moderate Middle Eastern Islamist parties. But Hizbollah is less a model than an exception to the norm; indeed, it is a unique phenomenon in contemporary politics.
As Israel contemplates military action to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, it is essential to take a closer look at Iran's most powerful man - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - and his views toward the Jewish state. A clearer understanding of the precise challenge Iran poses should disabuse Israeli leaders of the idea that force is the best way to neutralize it.
There is no easy solution to the predicament of Hezbollah's armed status. Thus far, the organization and the new Lebanese government have resisted calls by the United States and the international community to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which urges the state to disarm all militias.
Compared to the dramatic events that shook Lebanon in the past six months, the parliamentary elections that took place between May 29 and June 19 were anti-climactic. Local and foreign observers expressed disappointment that, apart from the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, remarkably little has changed.