Just Another Day in the Middle East

In a stunning reversal of an earlier announcement, jailed militant Palestinian Marwan Barghouti announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah’s official candidate, remains the favorite (and, unfortunately for his prospects, Israel’s favorite), but the jailed Barghouti could complicate things in an already insanely complicated situation as the Palestinians seek an orderly transition to the post-Arafat kleptocracy…, er, order.
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon dismissed his coalition partner, (Justice Minister) Tommy Lapid’s secular Shinui Party (the big winner in early 2003’s election), and has announced that he will approach Shimon Peres and the Labour Party for a national unity government; the proposed coalition would also include ultra-religious parties Shas and United Torah. The cause was a failure to pass the national budget, which, if not passed by March 31st, will result in mandatory early elections. Peres, a former prime minister who has, on occasion, served as a minister in national unity governments with Likud, has ostensibly said this is a done deal.
And we announced (whisper, whisper) at least another 1,500 additional American troops to Iraq and (cough, cough) “extending the tours” or another 10,000 or so… think of an assignment to Iraq as job security; some generals have recently been talking in terms of a massive American presence for at least a decade or so…
It’s a mad, mad Middle East. Hope you like it America: it’s ours now.