The Great Powers and the Middle East
The June War of 1967 and its consequences have confirmed the United States and Russia as the chief external factors determining the future in the Middle East, as they still are in world politics as a whole. Although China and Europe may be seen as growing influences in the area, and both might become more important for different reasons during the coming decade, their effect has remained marginal, since neither are yet capable of living up to the hopes of diplomatic or military support pinned upon them by different Arab elements which regard them as potential avenues of escape from dependence upon the Soviet Union and America.
For the Arabs, therefore, it has been vital to understand the nature and limits of American and Russian policy. In this they have not always been successful, even allowing for the degree to which the odds at the moment are against them and the difficulty sometimes of understanding rationally what Washington is up to.
Robert Stephens is Foreign Editor of the Observer and the author of Nasser, a Political Biography. He has frequently worked as a correspondent within the Middle East.
This discussion is abstracted from a lecture given on March 16 at the Lebanese University, Beirut, at one of a series of three meetings sponsored by the Kamel Muruwwa Memorial Foundation on "The Middle East in World Politics" between March 16-20. The speakers at these meetings were Mr. Stephens, Igor Belyaev of Pravda, and Jean Lacouture.