The world conference of Communist and Workers Parties has drawn to a close in Beirut. The decision to hold the meeting in Lebanon reflects the reality that the Middle East is still a crucial battleground for imperialist forces, writes leader of the Lebanese CP, Marie Nassif-Debs.
The Lebanese Communist Party observed last December that the crisis in Syria had reached a bottleneck - that the voices calling for change and mounting peaceful demonstrations for reform were being drowned out, replaced by growing violence and the proliferation of arms.
A year on we can see that Syria is in the midst of a civil war with an international dimension.
The country has split along sectarian lines and the bloodletting feeds on the military solution pursued by the Damascus regime on the one hand and the foreign support - money, weapons, fighters - given to armed groups which are divided among themselves and which are committing atrocities against the Syrian people on the other.
Negotiations on the country's future seem to involve all parties except the Syrians.
This internationalisation of the crisis is likely to draw it out, with all that entails in terms of death, destruction and displacement of Syrians to neighbouring countries. Around 250,000 Syrians have fled into Lebanon alone.
For us in Lebanon the sectarian divide recalls the 1975-6 "two-years' war" in our country, which led to a geographical splitting of Lebanon and direct Israeli military intervention in the south.
The priorities of the region's main powers - for Israel, a covetous desire to retain control of the Golan Heights and for Turkey both the immediate issue of controlling the Kurds and the longer-term aspiration to dominate the "Islamic east" as the Ottoman empire once did - come up against two poles of international struggle, that is the United States and its allies on one side and Russia and its allies on the other.
US imperialism, along with its military arm Nato and its allies in the European Union, seeks to resolve its deep economic crisis through reinforcing control over energy sources, which entails total control over the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Gulf.
It benefits from the reactionary Arab regimes which support it as well as from those new regimes which are a product of military and financial support offered in order to derail popular uprisings and prevent them from achieving their goals - independence and social and democratic transition.
On the other side Russia is seeking to establish a new axis in the region through Iran and Syria to regain some of the influence the Soviet Union had in the region - not to support their peoples in the struggle for liberation and change as was the case then, but to increase its share in the redivision of the world taking place today and consolidate its role as a leader of the "second pole" confronting US global dominance.
The "new Middle East" planned by imperialism is based on the sectarian Sunni-Shi'ite division as well as dividing smaller minorities such as the Alawites. It aims to fragment the Arab world into small statelets, often with a religious dimension - exactly as US capitalist theorist Zbigniew Brzezinski recommended in his book The Grand Chessboard and as Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is using to draw up that country's current foreign policy.
Through this perspective the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood movement - especially in light of their support from the so-called "Arabs of America," such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar - becomes worrying. New wars are being prepared for the region, possibly spearheaded by Israel and Turkey.
Unlike in Syria the situation in Lebanon is not on fire yet. Following the October assassination of security official Wissam al-Hassan the ambassadors of all five permanent members of the UN security council and the UN delegate in Beirut told the Lebanese government and the main regional forces that there was a consensus to prevent an armed explosion in our country.
This means a full-scale spillover of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon is unlikely to happen soon, even though there are problems on the border with some battles fought between rival Syrian rebel groups in Lebanese regions under the influence of ex-prime minister Saad al-Harriri and some Lebanese villages falling victim to Syrian government shelling.
This shaky but not-quite-explosive security situation could continue for a long time, since the US and Russia have not yet settled on the policies they'll follow in the short and medium-term future.
But the preparations for possible conflict are continuing on both sides - with military manoeuvres, armies being mobilised, submarines coming in from everywhere and the ramping up of bellicose rhetoric over regional conflicts, particularly between Israel and Iran.
The Arab world and the Middle East are boiling as a result of renewed imperialist rivalry and the general conflict among the most powerful capitalist states over who gets what in the New World Order.
In this capitalist conflict there is a factor which is still absent, though it could become a determining force.
That is the role of the international working class under the leadership of its parties.
Can this class and its allies confront the imperialist project and replace sectarian struggle with a narrative for socialist change?
It's more than a million-dollar question. Only by putting socialism at the forefront of the struggle can we save humankind from these endless wars.