A quick sweep across the Middle East can give some information that will help us understand where the pieces are during this moment of relative quiet in the chess game of international diplomacy. A number of items are worth noting.
Iran just reported they have found new Uranium deposits in the northern and southern coastal areas that may have tripled the amount reported in previous estimates. However, there has been no independent confirmation of these claims. Previously, western experts had thought their uranium mines were close to exhaustion of raw uranium. If they actually made these discoveries, Iran would be in a position to forge ahead in weapon building if that is their ultimate intent.
However, the timing of the announcement could indicate a desire to strengthen their negotiating position when they meet in Kazakhstan this week with the United States, Russia, China, Britain , France, and Germany. The West continues to believe that enrichment up to 20 percent demonstrates intent to build nuclear weaponry. Iran could only be positioning itself for a more signification status at the negotiating table.
Iran has also sounded a warning that it will stand behind the Assad government in Syria. However, conditions continue to deteriorate in that country. Lebanon has been pushed to the wall with overflowing refugees escaping into their country. As a result sectarian tensions continue to rise. In some areas fugitive rebels from Syria has clashed with Lebanese soldiers. Moreover refugees live amid mud and sewage in some area like the village of Mejdel Anja. The number of people fleeing Syria has strained Lebanonese provisions nearly to the breaking point.
Lebanon has always maintained a delicate balance between various ethnic groups. Many Lebanonese now worry that the influx of 400,000 Syrians can disrupt the mixture because most refugees are Sunnis. From l975 to 1990, Lebanon fought its own civil war over sectarian issues. No one wants to return to this status.
My son Dr. Robert Todd Wise taught at Balamand University in Tripoli when these eruptions began. Even at night, his family could hear shooting in the streets. This condition has not improved.
In Egypt, the turmoil also continues. This past week opposition leader Mohamed El-Baradei called for a boycott of the approaching parliamentary elections. Baradei will be remembered for the role he played in the United Nations nuclear control efforts and for being a Nobel laureate. Immediately critics within his own movement disagreed with him. This dispute demonstrated the fragility of the new opposition to the leadership of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Many feared that a no-show response would only strengthen the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A frequently heard sentiment across Egypt is that Morsi is acting like Mubarak and the country is going nowhere but backward. Mubarak held rigged elections and his party stayed in a dominating position in parliament.
While there has been somewhat of a lull in reporting chaos in the Middle East, it is only momentary. Watch these trends I have been discussing. They are a prelude to the next song to be sung. Hard to tell whether it will be a fugue, but probably it won’t be a symphony.