Triggers and Fault Lines Political Minefields Could Touch off New Conflicts Series: Peace in the Balance: A New Instability Threatens the Middle East. Second of Two Reports

Article excerpt

1. TURKEY: Its new alliance with Israel is seen as a threat by Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The Islamist prime minister signed a $20 billion gas deal with Iran, but a worried secular military curtails Islamist power.

2. LIBYA: A secret NATO report leaked to a Spanish newspaper warns that Libya will have ballistic missiles with a 1,250-mile range by 2006.

3. ALGERIA: Islamic guerrillas have waged a violent insurgency since 1992. Turkey, Egypt, and some Gulf states, trying to control their extremists, see a dangerous example.

4. EGYPT: Though it receives $2.1 billion in US aid a year, a CIA report last year warned that Egypt had acquired missile parts from North Korea. Its largest military exercises since 1973, carried out last October in the Sinai, were aimed at a possible conflict with Israel.

5. SOUTHERN EGYPT: The Islamic fundamentalist violence of the early 1990s has been crushed by Egypt's military, but remains a potent force easily tapped in Cairo's slums and in southern Egypt.

6. SOUTHERN LEBANON: The last "hot" front line in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Occupying Israeli troops here face daily losses from Iran-backed Hizbullah guerrillas. Israel wants to get out, but does not trust Hizbullah to stop rocket attacks on northern Israel.

7. ISRAEL: The Arab-Israeli peace process begun in 1991 has all but collapsed, and was further shaken by a double bombing in Jerusalem July 30. The US has done little so far to stop the slide. The Israeli army has tested plans to invade and reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza if Palestinian rule falters. Israeli Defense Forces last year asked for a $1 billion budget increase to prepare for possible war with Syria. Israel broke off talks with Syria last year.

8. GAZA STRIP: Antipeace Islamist groups are responsible for terrorist attacks against civilian targets in Israel. Once jailed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, most activists have now been released. There is renewed pressure to arrest them.

9. ARAB EAST Jerusalem: Jewish settlement continues on occupied Arab lands, creating flash points. Palestinians born in Jerusalem are also losing their residence rights under Israeli policy.

10. HEBRON: Handfuls of heavily guarded Jewish extremists live among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Diplomats expect conflict to intensify.

11. TEL AVIV: Internal divisions have polarized Israeli society between left and right, and pro- and anti-peace camps.

12. SOUTHERN ISRAEL: To counter Israel's nuclear arsenal - some of which has just been reported by Jane's Intelligence Review to be vulnerable to "third world missiles" with nuclear warheads - Arab opponents have pursued chemical and biological weapons.

13. JORDAN: King Hussein took a risk by making peace with Israel in 1994. But the crisis in Palestinian-Israeli talks has angered Jordanians, who have seen little peace dividend.

14. IRAQ: UN inspectors have worked to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, but Baghdad continues to thwart efforts. Since northern and southern uprisings against President Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War, Saddam has tightened his grip, despite a broad UN- and US-imposed no-fly zone. He also exposed two covert CIA operations meant to topple him. Neighbors see Iraq as a buffer against Iran's Islamic fundamentalism and fear Iraq will become too weak - or too strong.

15. SAUDI ARABIA: It has nearly one-fourth of the world's known oil reserves. But despite spending billions on arms, it is unable to defend itself against Iran and Iraq. King Fahd is ailing, and the Crown Prince is seen to be less pro-West. …