The Middle East crisis dominated the weekend meeting of the G-8 nations in St. Petersburg while pushing down other important issues. Three foreign affairs newspaper columnists discuss how other countries have been handling the Middle East crisis.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, NewsHour Special Correspondent:
That crisis dominated the weekend meeting of the G-8 nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, and reduced the focus on such issues as Iran's nuclear program and North Korea's missile launches.
For more on the Middle East situation and what options the outsiders have, we go to David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post. Trudy Rubin, she's a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. And William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard.
David Ignatius, to you first. We've heard two very different views here. The Israeli ambassador telling Jim that the entire region is being held hostage by Iran and Syria. And on the other hand, the Syrian ambassador telling Gwen that that's a myth, that these are Lebanese fighters who are fighting for what they believe in and they are justified.
Which side is accurate?
DAVID IGNATIUS, The Washington Post:
Well, this is one of those situations where, you know, I don't think an outsider should choose one side or the other. The whole point about a more active U.S. role as a mediator would be to try to bridge the enormous gap.
It is true that Syria and, to a much greater extent, Iran have great leverage over Hezbollah. It's also true that Hezbollah is popular, is powerful in Lebanon because it has many, many hundreds of thousands of Shiite Lebanese followers. In other words, it's not simply a puppet of outsiders; it has its own strength.
But I do think that this is a week in which we ought to think about the role the United States can play, traditionally has played in the Middle East as a mediator. It's obvious that this is a part of the world that really needs outside help now.
Well, before we get to the U.S., let me ask you, Trudy Rubin, this role that Iran and Syria play here, how dominant are they? Are they pulling the strings or not for Hezbollah?
TRUDY RUBIN, The Philadelphia Inquirer:
I don't think Hezbollah would have done the kind of attack they did across the border unless they had a very clear green light from Iran.
When I was in Iran in late May, several senior officials said to me that the United States would never have peace and stability in Lebanon — and they emphasized that — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and they added Central Asia, unless they had a dialogue on regional issues with the Iranians.
And one has to think that this incursion by Hezbollah happened just before the G-8, which was going to discuss the issue of whether Iran should be taken back to the Security Council on the issue of freezing its nuclear program. And it's hard not to conclude that Iran was sending a message: "If you think you can pressure us, we have the ability to pressure you."
That doesn't mean, as David said, that Hezbollah was a puppet, but I think it probably does mean that Hezbollah got the green light.