Quick summary of Middle East events of note in the past few weeks, some already mentioned here:
Breakdown of cease-fire with major terrorist strikes and retaliatory measures by Israel. (Odd side note: In the first few hours, Hamas denied responsibility and Islamic Jihad claimed it; shortly afterwards, Hamas changed their mind and claimed responsibility. English translation: They thought they were still on the cease-fire. Once it became clear that that had failed, it was much to their advantage to have been the ones to do it)
Israel decides to open the Temple Mount, including the mosque area, to everyone. (n.b. this is the heart of everything in Jerusalem – and it had a status quo of each religion controlling their own areas there)
Arafat manages to set up a no-confidence vote against Mahmoud Abbas. On the eve of this, Israel gibs some high-level Hamas leaders by blowing up a 7-story apartment building with them in it. No bystander casualties reported, but plenty of dramatic footage and several families left homeless; this pretty much seals the vote against Abbas.
Arafat installs Abu Ala as the new Prime Minister. He starts to form a cabinet, but as of today has stopped this process without explaination. (Subtext: Things have started to heat up to the point where really, Arafat needs to be in direct control again, so he’s not going to do anything to distract from Arafat’s next attempt at media spotlighting. No, the Prime Minister doesn’t actually do anything important; Arafat very carefully rigged it that way.)
Increasing violence of all sorts – several terror strikes, followed by major raids into Gaza, etc.
Today: Call-up of reserves to bolster anti-terror effort in Israel. Sharon calls an emergency cabinet meeting to deal with the matter, and it ends with a decision to “deal with” Arafat – by deportation or by less savory means – but to hold off for now. Point is still unclear.
In sync with this: Iraq is heating up, with several major bombings in the past few weeks, and shooting increasing.
Brief summary: Things are heating up rapidly against a political tinderbox. It may go off relatively quietly, but if a spark catches the resulting fire could spread rapidly over the entire Middle East – and thence around the world. We currently hold the high ground in Iraq – but as woody77 recently pointed out in a completely different context, that’s not where you want to be when a wildfire starts.
This isn’t quite the warning bell for the Apocalypse, but it’s a sign to be paying close attention to world politics in the near future – troubles abroad could make it here much faster than usual.