A dose of reality follows on heels of superpower summit euphoria
This has been back-to-earth week after the exhilarating if, in part, illusory expectations surrounding the summit. Down on earth the two superpower leaders, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, found themselves trying to reassure their respective hard-right followers that they had done less at the summit than had appeared on the surface.
The Middle East brought a flare-up of Arab resistance to Israeli rule in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank which was new and different. Day after day Arab youths taunted and attacked Israeli police and soldiers. The killings were the heaviest since rioting in 1980-81. By the end of the week, this was taking on the dimensions of a serious uprising.
In Jordan, King Hussein wrestled with a serious dilemma. He wants modern fighter planes. He was promised them by the Reagan administration, but Congress forbade the deal in order to please Israel. The King could get them from Britain or France, but would have to pay the full retail price. Moscow has offered what the King wants - at half the price.
The summit had impact in the American political arena. Among the Republican candidates for the Presidency, Senator Robert Dole was in trouble. He had tried to straddle the issue of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty which his party leader, President Reagan, had signed with Mr. Gorbachev. He had said that he would work to put it through the Senate, but wasn't sure how he would vote himself.
Indecision was undermining his claim to leadership. Vice-President George Bush stood foursquare for the treaty. Other Republicans had denounced it as a ``sell out,'' as ``appeasement.'' By midweek, Senator Dole was moving toward endorsing the treaty, citing support for it by the allied leaders in Europe.
President Reagan's first move in foreign affairs after waving farewell to the Gorbachevs was to unveil a Sandinista defector, a Maj. Roger Miranda Bengoechea, to the public and Congress with a detailed account of the alleged military ambitions of the Nicaraguan government led by the two Ortega brothers, one of whom is President, the other defense minister.
Major Miranda had defected almost two months earlier. His ``revelations'' were brought forth in the hopes of influencing Congress to continue American support for the contra rebels.
Most startling of the Miranda disclosures was that the Ortega brothers plan a total Nicaraguan armed force of 600,000 men to be armed by the Soviet Union, and with the arms to include MIG-21 fighter planes.
It is to be noted in this context that the Sandinistas have been asking for these fighter planes for seven years, but none have yet been sent. The reason is that the US has informed the Soviets privately that if such weapons show up in Nicaragua they will be ``taken out,'' one way or another. The Soviets have so far respected US wishes in this matter.
However, the carefully timed unveiling of the Miranda story was probably successful. The House had been balking at providing any more funds for the contras. It is now widely assumed that they will allow Mr. Reagan at least another round of ``nonlethal'' support, the amount still to be determined.
It is reported that Mr. Gorbachev had proposed during the summit to end Soviet military support for the Sandinistas if, by implication, Mr. Reagan would cut off aid to the ``contras.'' Mr. Reagan did not pick up the opening.
In the back rooms of Washington, the experts got to work on the implications of the new Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty for conventional weapons. It is assumed that the INF treaty is now likely to be followed by a further treaty on strategic weapons - the big, intercontinental missiles which have dominated the military balance ever since World War II. Are we approaching the end of the nuclear age in weapons? If so, what kind of planning should be done now about conventional weapons? Many a study group is at work on the subject.
The rising of Arab youth in the Gaza Strip is the newest but long-expected change in the Middle East. Tension has been rising in the occupied territories for over a year. Last week on Dec. 8, the match was apparently set to the powder keg by a traffic event. An Israeli Army truck collided with two buses bringing Arab workers back to the Gaza Strip from their jobs in Israel.
Four Palestinians were killed in the collision. Every morning since, the Arab youths block the streets to prevent Arabs from working for Israelis. As of press time Thursday, Army reports said 14 Arabs had died in clashes with Israeli troops since the violence began. Arab reports, however, put the number of those killed at 17, and said more than 100 had been wounded.
Most trouble in the Israeli-occupied territories up to this time has been inspired from outside. This time it was an explosion of resentment inside. Youths have been bolder than before. They coordinate stone-throwing attacks. They accept casualties.
Washington has urged Israel to be moderate in its reaction. The Israeli Cabinet is reported to be in heated argument over how to respond.