IN the aftermath of the reprisal raid on Beirut airport by Israeli commandos, the Middle East last week seemed closer to war than at any time since all-out hostilities formally ceased 19 months ago. Jordan mobilized 17-year-olds, and King Hussein urgently called for an Arab summit conference. Diplomats of the U.S., Russia, Britain and France met in three capitals to discuss the crisis. In Washington, officials judged the Middle East the one place right now where a confrontation with the Russians could occur, and a White House aide reported that the turbulent region...

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