Fast Forward in the East


U.S. coverage of Iranian president Muhammad Khatami's visit to Beirut last week was pretty thin. But as reason contributing editor Michael Young observed Friday, Khatami, in the course of his visit: "made it clear that Iran's ties to Lebanon would mainly be funneled, henceforth, through the Lebanese government, not Hizbullah"; carried a pro-reform message to Iran's Shi'ite brethren in the Arab world ("Religion and belief should not come at the expense of freedom."); and praised the fall of Saddam to finesse Iran's relationship with the new Iraq. Khatami "knows that a majority of Iranians would welcome the removal of the conservative mullahs in Tehran and look towards Iraq as a possible source of domestic transformation."

By the way, on Tuesday, Young was among the few to note that Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a May 11 Washington Post interview, appears to have made a major concession about the basis for future Syrian-Israeli talks.

The Mideast is in an extraordinary hurry. It may not be altogether clear just where it's going, but things are moving fast enough that potentially significant events are getting lost in mainstream coverage that is confused, calamity-driven, and often useless.

Speaking of momentous Mideast events, the Young-Freund exchange on the prospects for Arab liberalism continued this weekend, addressing what liberalism might do to—and for—Arabism.