Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

Two countries are each the subject of two articles in this issue: one, Iran, which has dominated the headlines recently, and another, Libya, which has received much less attention of late. In the wake of the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's reported abandonment of a nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Iran and the United States have been somewhat eased, but concerns remain high over Iran's role in the region.

Two of our articles analyze that regional role; together, they offer a glimpse of Iran's involvement in regional politics. Iran's defenders often note that modern Iran has never attacked its neighbors (not, at any rate, since the time of Nadir Shah in the 18 th century) but has only defended itself against external aggression. But Iran's regional role, if not one of overt military aggression, has at least been one of cultivating al?lies and clients within neighboring states, particularly (since the Islamic Revolution of 1979) those with significant Shi'ite populations. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations examines Iran's role in Iraq since the American occupation in 2003, a subject of obvious concern to the US and, especially, to the Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. In the other article, Abbas William Samii analyzes the curious triangular relationship between Iran, the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hizbul?lah, and the 'Alawite-dominated government of Syria.

Though Libya has received much less attention than Iran, there is growing inter?est in the "new" Libya (new in its recent openness to the outside world, its abandon?ment of its weapons of mass destruction programs, and its economic reforms), though its leader, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, has been in place since 1969, making him the lon?gest serving Arab leader today, slightly edging out Sultan Qaboos of Oman, who has ruled since 1970.

Two rather different articles on Libya examine the recent changes from two dis?tinct perspectives. Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer of the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies looks at the decision to abandon the nuclear and other weapons programs, cit?ing interviews with senior current and former Libyan officials familiar with the process. Given the nature of the sources and their sensitivity, many of her sources are unnamed, but the article offers an intriguing look at the Libyans' decision-making processes. …

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