Courtesy Reuters

The Middle East: A Year of Turmoil

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Once again events in the Middle East and adjacent areas dominated the world situation in 1980. To Americans, the inability to obtain the release of the 52 diplomats held hostage in Tehran since November 1979 was particularly dismaying. But of even greater underlying importance was the inability to mount a firm allied or regional response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where a grinding and brutal war went on with no sign of ending. In the fall, military conflict broke out between Iraq and Iran, again with no end in sight and with consequences for oil supply that by the end of the year had further tightened market prospects, and caused a new jump in oil prices. Finally, the Camp David process-which the Carter Administration had regarded as its greatest achievement-bogged down over issues of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza that lay at the core of any hope for settlement of the issues between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

So it was a grim year for the peace of the area and for American policy there. Leaders in friendly Arab states, and in Israel, had already been shaken (rightly or wrongly) by the inability of the United States to do anything to preserve the Shah or forestall the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79-perhaps the most destabilizing event in the Middle East in the past decade. Now they watched as President Carter sought in vain for ways to negotiate the hostage issue or bring effective pressure to bear on the Ayatollah Khomeini

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