Saturday, May 17, 2008

Articles in Le Monde and The New York Times highlight the threat of radicalization among Lebanese Sunni, who feel humiliated by thrashing Hezbollah gave the Sunni militia and institutions in Beirut. Their attention has increasingly turned to hardline and even Salafists preachers who have denounced Hezbollah and Shiites in general as enemies. Fighting along sectarian lines broke out in Tripoli last week. Although the main players are different, this type of polarization has reminded many Lebanese of the situation before the outbreak of the civil war in the 1970s.

Of further interest regarding Lebanon: New York Times columnist David Brooks reports speaking to Barack Obama about Lebanon, among other flash points in the Middle East, and being impressed by the candidate's knowledge and policy sense. Obama clarified to Brooks's satisfaction that he did not consider Hezbollah just a political party and that he would strengthen the Lebanese state as a provider of services to its citizens in order to peel away Lebanese Shiite support for Hezbollah. Obama would not rule out any talking with Hezbollah, because tough strategies work best when coupled to diplomacy, but he would not talk unconditionally with Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran. Brooks concluded that Obama is a realist regarding the Middle East. That's quite a good thing for Brooks and other moderate conservatives.

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