Very shortly, when the dawn of another New Year breaks around the world, the Middle East will be groping in darkness without a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

As bad as the situations in Iraq and Palestine are, civil wars or near civil wars in other Arab and Muslim countries like Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon and the Sub-Saharan states complicate matters further.

The Palestinian issue is a major concern of to all Arabs, while the Iraqi issue is a challenge to Arab sovereignty. And the Iranian issue is no doubt also, by extension, a Middle East issue.

These three crises are time bombs that could erupt any moment.

In the pursuit of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a number of summits have been held and agreements have been signed, but nothing substantial has ever come of these.

With their double standards in regard to the Palestinians and Israel, the Americans and their European allies have, unfortunately, wasted many opportunities to make peace. They never criticize and even sanction the systematic violations of human rights of Israel, which expands and encroaches onto neighboring Arab land with scant regard for international law.

The people in the Middle East doubt the capacity of the neocon-dominated U.S. administration to bring about a just Middle East peace. Only an arbiter of unquestioned impartiality and fairness can nurture a peace deal between two contending parties. The Arabs no longer trust the U.S. because of its blind support for Israel and its own efforts to enforce imperialist designs on the region.

In addition, it is public knowledge these days that American and British leaders lied and misled the world when they said that the Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. It would be naive to assume that these leaders didn't foresee the inevitable consequences of a forced regime change in Iraq.

Since the day he sent U.S. occupation forces to Iraq, President George W. Bush told the world that his forces were winning and that the situation had nearly come under control. Further, the President claimed that the democratic process had been set in motion.

But reality and Bush's claims are poles apart. This has finally caught up to Mr. Bush. All of his false pretensions have collapsed and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been forced to resign.

The United States has also singularly failed to broker peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. With Bush's apparent amnesia over past declarations about founding an independent Palestinian state, Israel has been prompted to attack Lebanon and continue its policy of aggression on an unprecedented scale. Israel's prime minister has also closed all doors to peace talks with Syria.

Washington watches the unveiling of Iran's nuclear ambitions with fingers crossed. One shudders to imagine the plight of the people in the Gulf in the event of a nuclear outrage in the region.

Because of Washington's frustratingly stupid handling of events, recent developments point to a deepening of tension in the region. America's double standards and its lack of respect for international law only serve to deepen the hatred that Arab people feel toward it. If the U.S. wants to improve its image in the Arab World and win back its credibility, it will have to seriously rethink its Middle East policies.