IRAN: The Crescent of Crisis

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"interference" if Washington's policies do no suit their own local politics and passions. Foreign policy first aid seems necessary in at least two places, Turkey and Pakistan. Policymakers perhaps need to be more aware that the "Marxism" of some of these countries is as fragile as the regimes themselves. Even Ethiopia's strongman, Lieut. Colonel Mengistu, is said to have turned down Soviet demands that he set up a political party, and he is carefully watching over his country's dealings with the Russians.

In much of the Third World, nationalism has already been shown to be the best antidote to Soviet expansionism. It is possible that CENTO has outlived its usefulness. A State Department official argues that CENTO is cited in Washington these days as "exactly the sort of thing the U.S. should not do in the Middle East today." In the 1950s a ranking U.S. ambassador in the Middle East, Raymond Hare, summed up the U.S.'s minimum interests in the region as "right of transit, access to petroleum, and absence of Soviet military bases." That probably remains the bottom line today. Toward that end, the U.S. may have to step up technical, economic and (very selectively) military aid. Already the U.S. has a potential "archipelago of allies" that aid each other in opposing Moscow-supported internal subversion and provide selective arms support to nations in need. Two examples: even though it maintains, officially, a nonaligned foreign policy, India has quietly tried to moderate Soviet influence in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have sought to reinforce North Yemen by providing it with some arms to defend itself against encroachment from South Yemen and thus thwart any Soviet designs of gaining full control over Red Sea access routes.

In the long run there may even be targets of opportunity for the West created by ferment within the crescent. Islam is undoubtedly compatible with socialism, but it is inimical to atheistic Communism. The Soviet Union is already the world's fifth largest Muslim nation. By the year 2000, the huge Islamic populations in the border republics may outnumber Russia's now dominant Slavs. From Islamic democracies on Russia's southern tier, a zealous Koranic evangelism might sweep across the border into these politically repressed Soviet states, creating problems for the Kremlin.

A more immediate question is what impact the turmoil in Iran will have on U.S. efforts to bring about a Middle East peace. Both Egyptian and Israeli officials indicated last week that they were willing to resume the stalled treaty negotiations. Government sources in Jerusalem predicted that the remaining problems on the document could be worked out by March at the latest. Meanwhile, Anwar Sadat remains committed to a proposal he has made to Washington before: lean on Israel enough to get a comprehensive settlement, then build up Egypt with a multibillion dollar Marshall Plan and use it as a policeman of the Arab world. A more modest version of that grandiose scheme could fit in with a plan for a trilateral power structure in the Middle East that some Americans and many Israelis have proposed: the development of the entire area using Israel's technology, Egypt's manpower and Saudi Arabia's money.

Whatever the solution, there is a clear need for the U.S. to recapture what Kissinger

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