Middle East Issues Impact Region 8

July 14, 2006 - Posted at 4:39 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- As Hezbollah leaders in Beirut ready for an 'open war' with Israel, President Bush and members of the United Nations Security Council are bracing for the rising tide of violence.

It's a war that's happening far from Region 8, but the impact can be felt here at home.  With fuel prices predicted to hit $4 a gallon this fall, consumers are taking notice.

"We've had to cut down from two cars to one, because that's all that we can afford," said driver Clarece Scales of Jonesboro.

With prices at the pump rising...conflict in the Middle East has become a front and center issue.

"Yes, I'm very concerned because what ever is going on over there affects us here," said Scales, "I have a nephew going over there in July, in the last of this month.  So we always keep them in our prayers."

"Right now it really doesn't concern me because the war is over there. But if it was to come over here, then that would be a whole different story," said Tommy Jordan of Jonesboro, "But no matter what we do, gas prices are going to go up."

But ASU Political Scientist Dr. Ross Marlay doesn't believe the escalating violence hits home.

"Most Americans could not find Lebanon on a map, I'm sorry to say," said Dr. Marlay, "We're heavily involved in the whole region.  We've got 140,000 troops in Iraq and we are stretched very thin.  If there were to be a wider war, we don't have the troops there.  Not enough to intervene with any real force."

For some, not knowing makes things easier.

"Since I found out a couple of months ago that my friend is going over there I try not to watch on television because it worries me.  So I don't know if that's a good reason," said Jonesboro resident Queen Hill, "When I'm in church and hear about the lives that have been lost, I just try not to keep up with it."

"I think that if they want to have war with them over there, they need to have war and bomb them and come on back and not worry about them and rebuilding and all that stuff," said Jordan.

"It will be resolved sooner or later, but it's a question of whether it will be resolved diplomatically or militarily.  I think Israel will not try to occupy Beirut.  That would be biting off more than they could chew," said Dr. Marlay.

Tensions in the Mideast are driving oil prices higher.  Oil climbed to a new closing record for the second day in a row.  The August contract for crude futures gained $0.33 cents to $77.03 a barrel in New York trading.