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- Markus Wiener
More About This Title LEVANT, THE
At the outset of the 21st century, perhaps the most interesting feature of the Levant (in Arabic, Bilad al-Sham), in the midst of an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Arab world, is the command of the entire coastal zone from Cilicia south to Sinai either by non-Arabs or by Arabs who are not Sunni Muslims. This reality overshadows the Levantine interior. In the central Levant the mountain has come to town with the Alawi political ascendance in Damascus in the south, Israeli military and economic power dominates the Palestinians and Jordanians. The transformation in less than a century is remarkable. The revolutionary alteration in the affairs of the Levant through the 20th century has obviously caused great tension. The character and viability of all of the new states created in Bilad al-Sham since 1920 is in continuous flux; national, ethnic, and sectarian frictions have shaped the contemporary geopolitics of the region. These frictions play themselves out in a setting characterized by limited space, rising population pressure, resource shortages, and international strategic interest. In the north, the Arabs face the Turks, who command the main water source. In the center, Lebanon and Syria have yet to settle their identities and interrelationship in a situation of regime insecurity, sectarian sensitivity, and economic crisis. In the south, the confrontation between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs lurches toward some sort of denouement. A Fractured Mosaic attempts an overall assessment of the contemporary affairs of the Levant, in the context of the history of the region since Roman times.