When Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and threatened to use chemical weapons to destroy half of Israel, the Washington Post described the event as a "political earthquake" whose aftershocks "will be apocalyptic for the Arab world."
When U.S. and coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and vowed to build the first democracies in the region aside from Israel, the Associated Press called such developments a "political earthquake" that "shook the political foundations of the Middle East," an assessment echoed around the globe.
When in the summer of 2005 Iranians elected a new president who vowed to accelerate Tehran’s nuclear program and provoke a direct confrontation with the United States (the "Great Satan") and Israel (the "Little Satan"), Agence France-Presse characterized the election as a "political earthquake."
These were not isolated examples. Yasser Arafat’s death was described by the media as a "political earthquake." So was Ariel Sharon’s stroke and sudden fall from power, together with the rapid rise of Hamas to power in the West Bank and Gaza shortly thereafter. Indeed, a search of a leading news database found 729 news stories published or broadcast over the past decade that described tumultuous events in the Middle East as "political earthquakes." And these do not even begin to include coverage of the first Palestinian uprising (intifada) in 1987–88, the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the overthrow of the shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Arab oil embargoes ofthe 1970s, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Six Days’ War in 1967, the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, or any of the terrorist attacks orpeace talks that have occurred over the past several decades.
To be sure, much about the politics of the region is murky and confusing to Western minds. But one thing is increasingly certain: the eyes of the nations are riveted upon Israel and the Middle East, the epicenter of the momentous events shaking our world and shaping our future. And now a new crisis is brewing.
IRAN GOES NUCLEAR
The man Iranians elected to be their president in the summer of 2005 was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who until then had been the mayor of Tehran. Few outside the capital city knew much about him at the time. Even those inside may not have fully appreciated what they were getting themselves into. But with each passing day, the picture became clearer—and more troubling.
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