by W. KHALIDI
IN ALL THE Arab countries of the Fertile Crescent political power is at the moment (if only nominally) in the hands of a group which may be called traditional Arab nationalists. Many of these fought against the Turks in the First World War. They also led the nationalist struggle against the Mandatory régimes. They belong to a vague nineteenth-century school of liberalism, are secular in outlook, and basically pro-Western. On the question of Arab unity they favour the status quo policy of the Arab League, for which indeed they were responsible. On the question of Palestine, they do not lead but are led by public opinion. They are representative of the old aristocratic families of the towns and the feudal and tribal chiefs of the countryside. They are also in alliance with powerful local industrial and commercial interests. They are the Middle Eastern group upon which Western policy is based.
Everywhere they are on the defensive, and in some countries in thinly camouflaged rout. In Lebanon, the requirements of denominational equilibrium and a clever policy of replenishment from younger members of the same group have kept them more firmly in power than anywhere else, but they are not by any means unchallenged there. In Syria, a series of coups d'état has considerably weakened their hold over the country, and the recent return of President Kuwatly gives them only a momentary and precarious respite. In Jordan, the discrediting of the old Palestinian oligarchy of Jerusalem families, the murder of Abdullah, and the removal of Glubb have all but destroyed their power. In Iraq they seem to be supreme, but the very measures to which Nuri Pasha has to resort show that, to say the least, their supremacy is not effortless.