Samuel Huntington Says Mideast Is Key to World Peace

Urges Democracy in Iraq and a Resolution in Israel

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FLORENCE, Italy, MAY 7, 2003 ( World peace will depend to a great extent on the democratization of Iraq and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says the theorist of the “clash of civilizations.”

Speaking to the Catholic agency SIR on Tuesday, Samuel Huntington, the renowned geopolitical specialist at Harvard University, wondered what would happen in the wake of the Iraqi war.

“The United States’ objective is to arrive at a federal and democratic Iraq,” he said, “If the effort is successful, there will be better relations with the Middle East.”

“But if this does not happen, and if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved, which calls for important concessions by both sides — and I don’t know if the present Israeli government and the Palestinian leaders are willing to accept them — very probably, there will be other clashes,” he added.

The author of “The Clash of Civilizations” was in Florence today to take part in a debate on peace, which included philosophers, journalists and Bishop Rino Fisichella, rector of the Lateran University in Rome.

According to Huntington, the end of the bipolar world model gave way in the past decade to “the affirmation of a system with a great superpower at the world level, flanked by a myriad regional powers.”

“These changes are related to a growing importance of culture, and especially of cultural identities and religious awareness,” he said.

Huntington thinks it is a situation similar to that of 1800, “with intermittent conflicts of civilizations between Muslim groups and countries and Western countries, especially with the United States.”

“In the last few years, there have been small and medium clashes of civilization, fortunately, without any of them having the characteristics of a final clash,” he said.

To those who accuse him of scaremongering, Huntington replies that “it is important to identify the dangers in the world and to try to reduce them.”

“Exactly as happened in the period of the nuclear threat in the ’50s and ’60s, during which governments felt obliged to take measures, I hope that my warning on the danger of the clash of civilizations will be taken seriously, to be able to avoid it,” he said.

In this respect, Huntington said he appreciates the pronouncements made by John Paul II, who thinks this clash can be avoided: “I hope he is right.”

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