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A Strategy for Peace in the Middle East

Palestinian Fatah fighters in Beirut in 1979.

The olive tree, the oldest tree in the world, whose leaves form the symbol of peace, grows in the Middle East. Also to be found there is a concentration of the most modern weaponry of our epoch, weapons being used right now in warfare.

Peace, like a tree, is a process of growth; it demands great patience, continuous nurturing and the surmounting of many obstacles. Enmity, on the other hand, like a storm brewing, can emerge unannounced. The Middle East is diverse enough to harbor the two processes at one and the same time, and it remains sufficiently magical to attract the opposing forces in the world in the spheres of ideology, strategy and energy.

Important mutations have, nevertheless, occurred, introducing an entirely new situation. One is the change that has occurred in geopolitical priorities: it is the Persian Gulf, a region of about 400 kilometers square, that has taken importance over the warm water of the Mediterranean. Control of the oil and water of the Persian Gulf has a critical influence on the economy of the free world-on the price of gasoline in the United States, on Europe's economic condition, in determining Japan's ability to function-while the Strait of Hormuz has become more of a temptation for the U.S.S.R. than the Mediterranean basin. Energy has become more important than geography.

The Persian Gulf is populated by Muslim states ruled by kings, sheikhs and generals. Not a single Gulf state can be certain of its stability, and almost all are caught up in the contradictory processes of precipitate enrichment and swift modernization on the one hand, and of political backwardness and fragile social structure on the other.

For the first time in the second half of the twentieth century-and this is another change-one of the most important states of the region, Iran, has been captured by a fanatical religious preacher: Ayatollah Khomeini. Employing the most modern means of communication, with cassettes and television cameras, religious fanaticism, resembling the uncompromising

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