Lebanon and Palestine are the most dramatic examples of the new ideological battle that now defines much of the Middle East, where local players and medium-strength regional powers often interact with one another in parallel with foreign powers’ interests and goals. While tensions were increasing in Beirut last weekend in anticipation of Tuesday’s nationwide strike action by the Hizbullah-led opposition against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in Damascus the leaders of the two leading Palestinian political groups, Hamas and Fatah, were meeting under Syrian auspices to try and solve their dispute over who rules Palestine and defines its foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel.
If you were too young to remember the Cold War, study this dynamic closely, because it is a miniature version of the former global contest. It is possible that the Middle East-anchored new cold war we are living through these days may persist for many years, or it may be over in two or three years, depending on how both sides harness and use their competitive assets. For now, we can only identify some of the new rules and realities of the regional confrontation.