WASHINGTON – Jordan's King Abdullah said Sunday the problems in the Middle East go beyond the war in Iraq and that much of the region soon could become engulfed in violence unless the central issues are addressed quickly.
"We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands," he said, citing conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and the decades-long strife between the Palestinians and Israelis.
"Therefore, it is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that I fear, and I see could possibly happen in 2007," he said.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Abdullah said he remained hopeful a summit he will host this week in Amman with President George W. Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will somehow lower the sectarian violence that threatens to push Iraq into all-out civil war.
"We hope there will be something dramatic. The challenges, obviously, in front of both of them are immense," the king said.
"We have to make sure that all parties in Iraq understand the dangers of the ongoing escalation. I hope Prime Minister Maliki will have some ideas ... on how he can be inclusive in bringing all the different sects inside of Iraq together. They need to do it now," he said, "because, obviously, as we're seeing, things are beginning to spiral out of control."
The king spoke of the urgent for a change in course in Iraq.
"There needs to be some very strong action taken on the ground there today," he said. "I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and revisit the problem in early 2007. There needs to be a strategy. There needs to be a plan that brings all the parties together, and bring them today and not tomorrow."
Bush plans to fly to Jordan after attending a NATO summit in Latvia. Vice President Dick Cheney made a quick trip to Saudi Arabia for talks on Saturday as part of the administration's effort to bring peace to the region.
Abdullah said it is natural that Americans, with troops fighting in Iraq, view that war as the major problem in the Middle East.
"But, for the majority of us living in this part of the world, it has always been the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab problem. I fear that if we do not use the next couple of months to really be able to push the process forward, I don't believe that there will be anything to talk about."
Unless something is done soon to lower the tension, he said, the two-state solution of Israel and an independent Palestinian state existing side by side becomes less a possibility.
"If we don't solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem then how can we ever solve the Israeli-Arab problem?" he said. "Do we resign this whole region to another decade or two of violence?"
The king said that he hoped in his discussions with Bush, the leaders can "concentrate ourselves on the core issues, which we believe are the Palestinians and the Palestinian peace process, because that is a must today, as well as the tremendous concern we've had over the past several days, [with] what's happening in Lebanon."
Lebanon's political crisis escalated last week with the assassination of an anti-Syrian politician, raising worries of more violence that could tear apart the country apart along its fragile sectarian lines.