Reuters Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

Assad and the Future of the Middle East

The consequences of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 have significantly changed the entire range of power relationships in the Middle East. They have done so in a manner neither desired nor expected by any of the players in this latest phase of the Middle East puzzle game. They have enabled Syria suddenly to emerge from isolation and humiliation and to seize the power switch of Middle Eastern diplomacy. They have diminished and rendered uncertain Israel's role in the area. They have brought the Soviet Union back into the Middle East in a position of influence from which it will not easily be dislodged. They have profoundly affected American diplomacy, drawing it away from a broadly based peace initiative and sucking the Marines into a narrow, dangerous position in Lebanon, where U.S. forces have already suffered serious casualties. And they have conjured up again the danger of a superpower confrontation in the area which neither power desires but which the Soviet Union may be less reluctant to avoid than in the past.

Israel made a fundamental miscalculation in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon and achieved none of its broader goals. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon's sweeping geopolitical concepts were clear: to secure the northern borders of Israel from PLO-organized rocket attacks (hence "Peace in Galilee"); to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization militarily and politically, thereby depriving the Arab population of the occupied West Bank of leadership; to have Lebanon's Maronite Phalange (Lebanese Forces) join Israel's final drive into Beirut and form a Phalange-dominated Lebanese government, which would then become the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel; and, more long run, to encourage or push the Palestinians on the West Bank and in the Diaspora to move to Jordan ("Jordan is Palestine"), where they would, because of their overwhelming majority, eventually overthrow the Hashemite dynasty. The ensuing destabilization would once again produce Israel's intervention in one form or another. That would bring Israel's power to the borders of Saudi Arabia

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