Lebanon Destroyed, Destabilised, Desperate for Change

The 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah has left Lebanon heavily damaged and politically destabilised, with hopes for a better future only dimming as the New Year approaches. Before Jul. 12 this year when the war broke out, many people in this nation of four million situated north of Israel believed they were finally shaking away the last of the dust from the 15-year civil war 1975-90 which decimated the country. That civil war was fought between extreme Muslim and Christian groups. Lebanon is now believed to be about 60 percent Muslim. 

Blair's Mideast Message Echoes Past Failure

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been touring the Middle East with one clear message — to make peace in the Middle East, Iran must be isolated. There is little new about Blair’s strategy. Though it contradicts his initial support for the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to open talks with Syria and Iran — a position he quickly withdrew from after having been corrected by U.S. President George W. Bush — it fits well with the approach of his predecessors when it comes to creating momentum for peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Fearing Civil Wars, Cairo Counsels Restraint

While the situation in U.S.-occupied Iraq has slid further into chaos and sectarian strife, Egypt has watched anxiously as two areas closer to home — the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon — have also been roiled by the specter of civil war. Although tense political standoffs in both the Gaza Strip and Beirut have prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity by Cairo, there has been little by way of progress in either case. In nearby Gaza, attempts to forge a national unity government between leading opposition party Fatah and the Hamas-led government ended in failure, with the two sides unable to agree on terms for power sharing. 

Israel Watchful of Hezbollah Moves

An Iranian and Syrian satellite, Hezbollah operating unfettered, and the Israeli army ceasing to patrol the south — that is the fate Israeli leaders fear could befall Lebanon if anti- government forces succeed in ousting the elected government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. For two weeks, anti-government protestors have camped outside the parliament building in Beirut, insisting that the demand of the Hezbollah-led opposition for veto power in the cabinet be met. “For now, Israel is avoiding carrying out operations in Lebanon because of Siniora,” says one Israeli analyst Shmuel Bar. 

Losing Arab Allies' Hearts and Minds

Attitudes towards the United States reached new lows through most of the Arab world over the past year, according to the findings of a major new survey of five Arab countries released Thursday. The report found that attitudes towards U.S. cultural and political values have become increasingly negative, although not nearly as negative as Arab views of specific policies. Particularly remarkable, negative opinions towards the United States have skyrocketed in two key Arab monarchies long considered close allies of Washington, according to the findings of a major new survey of five Arab countries released here Thursday by Zogby International and the Arab American Institute (AAI). 

Lebanese Waters Still Stained Black

Squally winter weather in the eastern Mediterranean poses a fresh threat to marine ecology from Lebanon to Turkey this year, due to the remnants of the oil slick caused in July when Israeli forces bombed a power plant south of Beirut. Between 10,000 and 15,000 tonnes of crude leaked from the crippled power plant of Jiyeh, 30 km from the Lebanese capital, Jul. 13-15. The spill seriously contaminated the waters along the Lebanese and Syrian coast. Environmental damage to neighbouring Cyprus, Greece and Turkey was somewhat reduced by operations to mop up the floating oil. But the danger persists.