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September 08, 1989 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Gorbachev Needs
New Mideast Policy

MITCHELL BARD

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ikhail Gorbachev
continues to receive
plaudits for his
"bold"unilateral initiatives
on arms control. The Soviet
leader had demonstrated to
much of the world that he is
a genuine moderate. Gor-
bachev is determined to
reform the Soviet Urion's in-
ternal politics and, some
believe, end the foreign policy
of adventurism. Those skep-
tical about the "new think-
ing"need look no further than
the Middle East to find
evidence of a continuation of
"old thinking."
The Soviets have definitely
reached out to countries in
the Middle East. Muslim
countries that formerly
eschewed relations with the
proponents of atheism are
now establishing increasing-
ly high levels of diplomatic
contacts. At the same time,
the Soviets' desire to re-enter
the peace process has led
them to become increasingly
civil toward the Israelis,
holding out the possibility of
resuming relations severed in
1967.
Coupled with the diplo-
matic and public relations of-
fensive, however, Moscow has
continued its persistent ef-
forts to undermine Western
interests by suporting Arab
radicals. While Gorbachev
talks about arms control in
Europe, he sends his most
sophisticated weapons to the
Middle East, escalating the
arms race in that tinderbox
region.
Within the last year, the
Soviets have shipped their
top-of-the-line fighter, the
MiG-29, to Iraq, Syria and
Libya. They have also
delivered Sukhoi-24 bombers
to Iraq and Libya and un-
doubtedly will later send
some to Syria. Moscow's
clients have upgraded the
capabilities of their missiles
and received newer, more ad-
vanced SS-21s and Scud-Bs.
Navies have played a relative-
ly minor role in the Arab-
Israeli conflict, but this may
change as a result of Soviet
deliveries of naval equip-
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to Syria.

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Rather than facilitate the
peace process, these Soviet

Mitchell Bard is a
foreign policy analyst in
Washington, D.C.

42

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1989

.

Mikhail Gorbachev:
Mideast glasnost?

arms transfers threaten to ex-
acerbate the conflict. Syria is
openly seeking "strategic
parity" with Israel to prepare
for the next war. Gorbachev's
willingness to facilitate Hafez
al-Assad.'s efforts only con-
tributes to Syrian intran-
sigence. Continued Soviet
support for Libya's Moammar
el-Qaddafi defies all rationali-
ty if Gorbachev's thinking is
any different from that of his
predecessors.
The threat posed by Soviet
Middle East policy is not
restricted to Israel. The
buildup of Arab arsenals also
provides a backup to Soviet
forces in the region. More im-
portantly, the Soviets have ex-
panded their facilities at the
Syrian port of Tartus, enhan-
cing the Red Fleet's capabili-
ty to threaten NATO forces in
the Eastern Mediterranean.
If Gorachev wishes to
demonstrate new Soviet
thinking, he can do so easily
by changing his country's
destabilizing Middle East
policy. He can restrict the
supply of weapons to Syria
and Libya, re-establish rela-
tions with Israel, change
Moscow's voting behavior at
the U.N. on Middle East
issues, and try to moderae
Syrian and PLO attitudes
toward Israel.
Gorbachev may be too con-
cerned with internal Soviet
problems to risk a radical
shift in Middle East policy.
The failure to do so, however,
leaves him open to the charge
that his actions do not match
hiS rhetoric. More important-
ly, the consequences of his ac-
tions in the Middle East could
lead to conflicts elsewhere
that he wishes to avoid. ❑

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