- By Patrick SealePatrick Seale is a British writer who specializes in Middle East affairs. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East.
While one war rages in Libya, another rages in Washington as to the necessity of U.S. action there. Indeed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said as much this weekend, noting that Libya was not a "vital national interest." But if Washington is looking for an Arab state in the throes of unrest, one that is key to its regional and national interests, planners might want to pay more attention to Syria, which is currently undergoing upheaval not seen since the early 1980s.
Syria lies at the center of a dense network of Middle East relationships, and the crisis in that country — which has now resulted in the deaths of well over 100 civilians, and possibly close to double that number — is likely to have a major impact on the regional structure of power. The need to contain pressure from the United States and Israel, for decades the all-consuming concern of Syria’s leadership, has suddenly been displaced by an explosion of popular protest highlighting urgent and long-neglected domestic issues.