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No Need to Panic

Author: Steven Simon, Lecturer, Dartmouth College
February 4, 2011
Foreign Policy


How, and how much, will American foreign policy toward the Middle East be changed and reshaped by ongoing events? The answer depends on how interconnected the Arab world really is. Accepting that changes taking place in Egypt are likely to change the bilateral relationship with the United States, the question is, are there analogous changes taking place in the region?

In Israel, a transition already seems to be underway, one which has led to diminished U.S. influence. It is probably true that, if Egypt were to abrogate its treaty with Israel, the Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu administrations might find common cause. But most observers don't actually think the treaty at risk, despite the Muslim Brotherhood's talk of preparing the Egyptian military for war.

In Lebanon, a transition is also underway, in which Hezbollah's and Iran's influences have been boosted, and Syria's long-term objectives been made more secure than anytime in the past five years. These changes preceded the Cairo earthquake. Syria itself seems to be at little risk of regime-threatening demonstrations or the kind of rebellion that ended with the suppression of Islamists there 30 years ago. Relations between Damascus and Washington remain frosty and essentially unproductive -- but not as a result of events in Cairo, which are unlikely to change things one way or another when it comes to U.S.-Syrian ties.

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