Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

This issue provides, I hope, a veritable, smorgasboard of food for thought. The articles cover a wide range of subjects and countries. Some are as timely as the headlines, and others look back over some of the men and myths that have formed the modern Middle East. At a moment when the violence in the Israel-Palestinian arena has not only forced a revision of old assumptions about the peace process but shows signs of changing other fundamental assumptions about the interrelationships in the region, I hope that articles like those in this issue will provide insight into the region's past and present.

Ayatollah Hossein `Ali Montazeri was once the heir apparent of Ruhollah Khomeini, and one of the founding theorists of the concept of velayat-efaqih, upon which the Iranian political system is based. Long under house arrest, Montazeri's voice is rarely heard by the outside world. Geneive Abdo, a veteran correspondent based in Tehran, conducted an "interview" by fax with Montazeri, seeking his views on the applicability of the concept of velayat-e faqih today and other issues. Although The Guardian ran brief excerpts from this interview, it has not previously appeared in full. For anyone interested in the ongoing debate in Iran, or the broader question of how one creates an Islamic government, Montazeri's faxed interview makes for fascinating reading.

Although the peace process seems to be on hold for the immediate future, issues of territory and boundaries remain at the heart of the dispute between Israel and Syria, and will come to the fore again when the process resumes, as it someday must. Frederic C. Hof of Armitage Associates has published a number of articles and monographs dealing with border issues in the Middle East; his work on Syrian-Israeli border issues was widely read during last year's peace talks at Shepherdstown, West Virginia. In the second article in this issue, Hof examines in detail the experience of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon and the United Nations' demarcation of the boundary, and suggests some possible lessons to, be applied in a future Golan Heights withdrawal. The negotiations so far have demonstrated that what might seem to some to be cartographic minutiae often become critical; this article, I hope, adds to our understanding of the issues and suggests means of approaching them. …

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