“We are coming back to 1974 once more, when the US was internationally demoralised and got out of south- east Asia and for the next seven to eight years we got a communist sweep into Vietnam, into Laos, into Cambodia,” he said. Lebanese officials welcomed calls for greater US efforts to pursue peace between Israel and the Arabs. But one senior Beirut official said that Lebanon should not become a pawn in negotiations with neighbouring Syria and should not “be made the reward for Syria’s good behaviour”.
There was little immediate prospect in any case of an advance on the wider Arab- Israeli conflict. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, rejected links between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq and ruled out talks with Syria. Some Iraqis themselves doubted that changes in US policy could make much difference.
“The situation is a hurricane: no one has the power to calm it, not Americans and not Iraqis,” said Hussein, a Shia teacher in Baghdad.