THE EDITOR'S DESK

Over the past two decades our resident Middle East expert, Christopher Dickey, interviewed Yasir Arafat more times than he can remember. And each time, the Palestinian leader's frustrating, circular answers reminded Chris of why his own people called him Mr. Yes-No. In 1987, Arafat was living in Iraq, in one of Saddam Hussein's villas, and received Chris over a breakfast of cornflakes covered with tea and honey. Asked how his Fatah fighters had returned to southern Lebanon five years after being expelled by Israel, Arafat repeatedly insisted: "We never left!" In 1994, Arafat was chugging Metamucil as he met with Chris and Lally Weymouth in Tunis, and Lally's pointed questions provoked a monosyllabic rant. By the late '90s, when Chris attended a birthday celebration in London, Arafat was all but drooling from a trembling jaw, yet his aides and doctors steadfastly denied rumors that he had Parkinson's disease.

Arafat was just as maddening as a leader. He used terror to force peace talks with Israel, then let fear of peace drive him back to terror. He personified Palestinians' dream of statehood, but spurned perhaps the best offer they will ever get for a state in the final months of the Clinton administration. And as Dickey, Michael Hirsh, Dan Ephron and Joshua Hammer report in our cover package, even in death he will cast a long and complicated shadow over the prospects for the region. His passing opens the way for more pragmatic leaders but could also unleash more radical forces and a fight to show who can be as tough as Arafat. And it will test the will of Europeans to pressure Palestinians and Americans to lean on Israelis in the name of a peace process that was easy for everyone to support rhetorically as long as Mr. Yes-No was alive to thwart it.

It's certainly hard to argue anymore that the road to Middle East peace will lead through Baghdad. In Iraq, the goal of peaceful elections in January still seemed a long way off as U.S. forces stormed the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, with Babak Dehghanpisheh along to cover it. In Detroit and Tokyo, meanwhile, carmakers were finally starting to take the demand for greater energy independence and fuel efficiency seriously by building powerful hybrid cars that consumers will want to drive, according to Keith Naughton in our latest Next Frontiers package. And from Redwood City, Calif., Karen Breslau reports on the guilty verdict in the Scott Peterson murder trial--an outcome that reassured many observers weary of war and partisan politics that there is some simple justice in the world.