Handling Mideast with care

Published on Gulf News, by Patrick Seale, Nov. 27, 2008.

… Nevertheless, there is a sense that some change is unavoidable and must come. In Washington, the neo-conservatives, who had shaped President George W Bush’s Middle East policies, are out of power and on the defensive. The new team will have much to do clearing up the wreckage caused by these ideologues, and restoring America’s battered authority and reputation …

… The expectation in the region is that Obama’s team will be more open to dialogue, and more even-handed than its predecessor. But the real concern is that it will attempt to bring piecemeal solutions to Middle East’s conflicts, rather than grasping that they are all inter-linked and will need a global settlement …

… Iran must be made an offer it cannot refuse, because the danger of nuclear annihilation is still the greatest latent danger facing the world – as it was during the Cold War. The latest historical research has shown that the danger was only narrowly avoided during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis – as much by luck as good judgment.

It is probable that Iran might be persuaded to give up its uranium enrichment programme only if there was progress towards an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and towards the withdrawal of US troops from its immediate vicinity in Iraq and the Gulf. A final inducement would be US support for a nuclear-free Middle East.

If Obama is to win over the Arab and Muslim world – as he is well-placed to do – he needs a global vision. The time has come for America to stop inflaming regional conflicts, but instead to work actively for peace for the benefit of Arabs, Israelis and Iranians, not to mention Turks, Kurds, Armenians and the many other nationalities of this deeply-troubled region. (full text).

(Patrick Seale is a commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs).

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