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Lebanon's waves in the Gulf

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Since Israel's invasion of Lebanon, the Western world's attention has focused on implications for the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict and on the opportunities created - or ended - for its peaceful resolution. Yet the way in which the Lebanese crisis unfolds in the near future will also have far-reaching implications for the Persian Gulf.

The presence in Lebanon of the Palestine Liberation Organization - symbolizing the deeper problem of Palestinian nationalism - has been the core factor behind the present crisis. Likewise, the fate of the PLO, and the way in which the whole Palestinian problem will now be approached, will be most consequential for the future shape of Middle East politics and in particular for the prospects of long-term stability - or lack of it - in the Gulf.

Among the reasons:

* Throughout the region there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been away from their homeland for many years, but they remain Palestinian in their thinking and in their support for the goals of Palestinian nationalism.

* A large part of the population of smaller Gulf countries consists of Palestinians (e.g., 25 percent in Kuwait). Even Saudi Arabia has a large number of Palestinian workers.

* This population is among the most sophisticated and politically aware of the Arab peoples, with a higher proportion receptive to such extremist ideas as pan-Arabism, Arab socialism, and now various forms of revolutionary Islam.

* Many Palestinians play important professional roles in Gulf governments, bus-inesses, and other institutions; and they have numerous sympathizers among other nonin-digenous (particularly Arab) peoples in these countries.

During the past 15 years the growing Palestinian presence in Gulf countries has been a key motive for the latter's direct involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict, even though it has stopped short of actual military confrontation. Together with other factors, the net result of this involvement has been closer interaction and direct linkages between developments in the Gulf and those in the zone of Arab-Israeli conflict.


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