We mark MERIP’s 15 years of publication by introducing a few changes in the magazine. MERIP Middle East Report is the same magazine, but now has a title that identifies its focus for potential new readers unfamiliar with our acronym. We are confident that this new name and fresh look will help broaden our audience and magnify the impact of our work.
Along with this cover change we are also increasing the number of pages in each issue by half, to 48 pages, and changing our frequency from nine to six issues per year. The result will be the same number of MERIP pages per year, but in a format that enhances our editorial flexibility. Each issue will continue to have articles, interviews and reviews around a central theme. The increased number of pages will allow us to publish additional articles and commentary on recent events outside the main theme — such as the article on the Pollard affair in this issue.
We are also celebrating our fifteenth birthday with a special dinner in Washington on Saturday, April 5. We hope that many of our friends and readers, old and new, will be able to join us for this occasion. This is an excellent time of year to visit Washington and will be a great opportunity for all of us to meet you, our readers and supporters.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers who responded so generously to our appeals for funds over the last few months of 1985. Your contributions helped make 1985 a record year. MERIP is looking forward to another 15 years. To make it, of course, we will have to renew our appeals for 1986, and we hope you will be just as generous in your responses.
Israel’s hijacking of a Libyan jet in early February comes at a time when the Reagan administration has all but declared war on Libya. The twin terrorist massacres at the Rome and Vienna airports in late December have prompted the latest US offensive, although evidence linking those attacks to Libya seems quite tenuous and apparently points at least as much to Damascus as to Tripoli. The State Department’s dossier of Libya’s terrorist activities, released in January, is thin, mainly listing Qaddafi’s attacks on Libyan dissidents living abroad. But Libya is small — only 3.5 million people. And Qaddafi is isolated politically. Or at least he was before Washington started brandishing two nuclear-armed carrier battle groups in his face. It appears that the Reagan administration would like Libya to serve as its second-term Grenada — a pushover “victory” for Reagan and Rambo. This requires an enormous exaggeration of the “Libyan threat.” Hence the September speech of the State Department’s Robert Oakley referring to “Qaddafi’s worldwide ambitions — which strongly resemble those of the USSR.” It also requires the cooperation of regional clients. At special White House meetings on January 6 and 7, Reagan ordered greater CIA covert efforts to overthrow Mu‘ammar Qaddafi and dispatched a “special envoy” to Cairo to encourage the Egyptian military establishment “to be more aggressive in confronting Libya.” Both the CIA plot plans and the incitement of Egypt date back to early 1981. Washington’s big problem is that it has not been able to identify any “Qaddafi contras.” “There are people in Libya, especially in the military, who don’t like Qaddafi,” one intelligence source told the Washington Post, “but most hate the United States.”