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Syrian uprising reaches the edge of Damascus, according to the Washington Post. Hanin Ghaddar argues that Israel actually prefers to keep Assad in power as a lesser evil to a possible Islamist takeover. And so too does Hezbollah! As perhaps does Russia, according to the NYT. But despite this, Assad’s regime is looking more and more shaky by the day.

According to the Washington Post, Hamas is looking for a new sugar daddy in Turkey and is distancing itself from Iran. “Hamas is developing new relations with Turkey, according to new reports coming from the region. The arrangement includes opening an official Hamas office in Turkey in a matter of weeks and a reported Turkish pledge of $300 million to help re-build Hamas-controlled Gaza. … ‘Far better a Sunni sponsor with growing influence than a Shia paymaster that is an international pariah under growing sanctions. One has to wonder how the Turkish role affects the internal dynamics in Hamas, where the Gaza hierarchy appears to be pushing aside the formerly dominant outsiders, led by Khaled Meshal from Damascus.'”

The New York Times reports that Hamas leader Khaled Mashad has appeared in Jordan to announce he is no longer associated with Syria. “AMMAN, Jordan — Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, made a rare and pointedly low-key visit to Jordan on Sunday, days after Hamas officials signaled that he had effectively abandoned the group’s base in Damascus, the Syrian capital.” The NYT believes this indicates a growing confidence among regional capitals that Islamist parties will soon come to dominate the Middle East, with Amman positioning itself as a “go between”.

Jordan wants to restore relations with Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, because the group is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamist allies are forming new governments around the Arab world, and because Jordan wants to remain an influential go-between in the region, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jordan does not want to damage its relationship with Hamas’s chief rival, President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, nor to anger Jordan’s allies, Israel and the United States, which consider Hamas a terrorist group.

The word “go between” is a much nicer one than the term “fixer”. All the real money in the Middle East seems to stem from either causing trouble or getting paid not to cause trouble. You can even earn a handsome some by simply hosting discussions between extortionist and extorted. But in the scheme of things, Jordan’s position is relatively benign. After all, what would do without go-betweens?

But by the looks of it, President Obama’s transcendent vision for the Middle East, uttered with such intensity as he uplifted his chin during the height of the Egyptian overthrow of Mubarak, has eventuated in a somewhat less noble outcome. Israel has a new set of enemies to replace the old. The Sunnis and Shias are at daggers drawn. Democracy advances, such as it can under Islamist wings. American citizens are hunkered down in the US embassy in Cairo. And Iran is still its way to build a nuclear bomb. Maybe progress in the Middle East consists simply of watching the merry-go-round turn one more time.


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