A week of Middle East alarum bells, Western economic wrangling
This has been a week of alarum bells in the Middle East and economic anxieties (probably more serious) within the Western community of nations. The Soviets underlined their concern about the Middle East and sent a warning signal to Washington and Tel Aviv, by pulling out of Lebanon 110 women and children dependents of Soviet diplomats based in Beirut.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State George Shultz went to Paris to meet with leaders of the Western economic system and relearned how unhappy America's trading partners are about the main features of Reagan economic policies.
Mr. Shultz was still pushing for a campaign of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union. European opposition is as solid as ever. And Mr. Shultz defended as best he could President Reagan's domestic economic policies. The partners want above all a decline in high US interest rates. They think the present high rates can ruin economic recovery both in the United States and in Europe.
In Washington, the White House this week was deferring to the European allies and congressional critics on another matter. President Reagan reviewed the US position on arms control talks and promised to present new American proposals that might prove interesting in Moscow.
The sudden, unexpected, and startling departure of the Soviet women and children from Beirut coincided with news that Soviet Communist Party leader Yuri Andropov has taken on a second role as chairman of the Defense Council. In effect this makes him commander in chief of all Soviet armed forces. It follows reports that there are now between 4,000 and 5,000 Soviet troops in Syria, some of them manning and controlling antiaircraft batteries.
It coincided also with reports that Syria has been increasing its troop strength in Lebanon and is now up to between 35,000 and 40,000 Syrian soldiers, supported by another 12,000 to 15,000 soldiers with the Palestine Liberation Organization.