Spanning the Middle East

The Wall Street Journal is all over the Middle East today. Bret Stephens picks up where Fouad Ajami left off yesterday, dubbing the Iraq War “The Twenty Years’ War” and recycling Ajami’s argument that all would be much better had the first Bush administration deposed Saddam Hussein “when it could.” For Stephens, the lesson is that “wars are best fought swiftly to their necessary conclusions” and hopefully President Obama sees Iraq as an opportunity to forge a “counterweight to Iran.”

Meanwhile, AEI scholar Michael Ledeen focuses on Iran’s domestic situation. Ledeen says the country is embroiled in internal conflict, fed by attacks against its petroleum industry, unemployment, electrical failures, sanitation problems, and the government’s “campaign of repression.” These have only strengthened the opposition Green Movement, and Ledeen hopes that Western governments will more forcefully support the dissidents if they only “understand what’s going on.”

Iran is also on the minds of the editors, but for different reasons. The Journal says a “joint leap” into a peace agreement, similar to Begin and Sadat in 1979, will be hampered by Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and support for Hamas and Hezbollah, which only serve to make Israel feel less secure. And while the editors say they “hope for the best,” they warn if talks fail, “the White House and the Pentagon should prepare for the consequences of failure.” Their conclusion is briefly echoed in the Washington Post by Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow David Makovsky, but he says “inaction also poses risks,” and urges the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis to combine their “bottom-up” cooperation on security and economic institutions with a “top-down effort.”