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Professor Says Middle East Battles Far From Over

A Middle East expert told an attentive audience yesterday that he did not believe the fighting in Iraq would end soon, though the number of American troops would decrease in the short term. "I don't see an immediate conclusion to the conflict," said Jean-Marc R. Oppenheim in a program at the Larchmont Public Library billed as "Iraq and Afghanistan: Are We In for the Long Haul?"

A professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and New York University's Graduate Center for the Study of Global Affairs, Oppenheim answered his main question quickly as a firm "yes."

He then proceeded to detail the history of Islam and explain that conflict in the region has gone on for centuries and it was inevitable that there would be a major dispute over Western influences on the religious-based society intent on maintaining its own rules.
"It is far too early to tell what the impact of the invasion will have on the Middle East region," he said. Iraq and Afghanistan are "two situations where we have significant interests... and we can't extricate ourselves easily."

Oppenheim described the tenets of Islam: a belief system based on acknowledging one god, praying five times a day, giving charity, making the pilgrimage to Mecca and observing the feast of Ramadan. Throughout history, there have been conflicts among Muslims over nationalization and the formation of countries. Western influence and its effect on Islamic followers has ignited new tensions, he explained.

The Sept. 11 attacks, Oppenheim explained, were "designed to provoke the U.S. into the kind of reaction which would create an open battlefield," he said, explaining that Iran has benefited from American efforts because Iraq was its enemy.

This article, written by Barbara Livingston Nackman, appeared in the October 5th publication of The Journal News.

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