US to Play a Leading Role in Lebanon?

(New York Times) The conflict in Lebanon may constitute an incentive for the United States to reconsider its Middle East diplomacy and to reemerge as a major player in the Middle East

A New York Times op-ed by Thomas Friedman emphasizes the global implications of the current conflict between Israel and Hizballah, and the limits of a solely "local response."

Friedman estimates that a growing awareness of this local-global connection and of the need for a strong international response seems to be shaping the United States' current policy vis-à-vis the war in Lebanon. So far the American response to the situation in Lebanon has indeed been along the lines of this analysis:

  • US President Bush has underlined the role of Syria and Iran in the current crisis, while news reports indicate that the Bush administration is currently using its leverage on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to encourage them to convince Syria to turn against Hizballah, and to ultimately to weaken the country's alliance with Iran.
  • Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in a Special Briefing on Travel to the Middle East and Europe (7/21/06), emphasized the global character of the ongoing conflict, and made clear that the end game must be disarming the terrorist groups to create regional stability.

The Reut Institute contends that a renewed, strong, and credible US presence and public diplomacy effort in the Middle East could be a decisive element in creating a new status quo in Lebanon, based on the effective control of the Lebanese government alongside international assistance. Furthermore, such a change in US Middle East policy would also affect Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Sources

  • Friedman, The New York Times, 21/07/06. Full Text.
  • US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, US Department of State, 21/07/06. Full Text.
  • Cooper and Sanger, The New York Times, 23/07/06. Full Text.
  • Buzbee, Associated Press, 22/07/06. Full Text.
  • The Boston Globe, 23/07/06. Full Text.