>The Shia crescent

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I read a short and illuminating article in the Times a few days ago about the balance of power in the Middle East and the politics of the ‘Shia crescent’. I hadn’t realized that Hezbollah was so much more politically formidable than Hamas, despite its politically weaker position in Lebanon, which still has all characteristic confessional and ethnic divides that made it a pretty unstable convocational democracy in the 1960s and 1970s. Iran also emerges as surprisingly powerful and well placed in the post-Saddam context. Developing nuclear capability is clearly an obvious option for them as neither the EU’s ‘soft power’ nor the US’s hard powers seem capable of intervening effectively. Perhaps post-Turkish enlargement the EU’s neighbourhood policy might just reach there, but that seems likely to be 20 years too late if it happens at all. Nationalism is a great solvent for an upcoming power, as I guess the China also shows. Coincidentally, I also received an email plug for book on Hezbollah from I B Tauris, – obviously an entrepreneurial academic publisher – now selling in paperback for a tenner.

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