The Middle East that awaits the Clinton administration is a locus of terrorism, drugs, refugees, armaments and oil. Iran, newly pragmatic on domestic and economic issues, is not inclined toward cooperation with either its neighbors or the wider world. Iraq's Saddam Hussein wasted no time in testing the resolve of the incoming American president. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia find an increasingly educated middle class seeking a greater voice in the political process. Turkey, after half a century of avoiding outside entanglements, is a country at risk. The former Soviet republics of Central Asia are newly relevant to American policy, with Muslim fundamentalism on the rise and the nuclear arsenal of Kazakhstan still intact.
The USA should not make the same mistake with Syrian President Assad, that it made with Iraq's Saddam Hussain. "Assad now needs US favor more than the reverse. Yet he will try to induce Washington to pay him for allowing himself to be helped; this must not happen. US-Syrian relations can prosper only if American officials adhere to positions that are morally grounded and politically sound".
When President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in Geneva last November, the fundamentalist Muslim rulers of Iran devised their own interpretation of the summit conference. "The biggest worry of the two superpowers," Radio Teheran announced, "is neither the star wars' nor the speedy buildup of nuclear weapons, but the revolutionary uprising of the world's Muslims and the oppressed." Iran's President Sayed Ali Khamenei asserted that the two leaders, fearful of revolutionary Islamic ideology and the disturbing effect it has across the Third World, met to figure out "how to confront Islam."