Washington’s major foreign policy goals remain winning the global war on terrorism and ending tyranny abroad. President Bush has recently given several speeches outlining specific steps toward achieving those goals - encouraging democracy in the Middle East, completing the mission in Iraq, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.
Nathan Guttman, Washington bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post, said that among Israelis, several aspects of President Bush’s speeches strike a responsive chord. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Guttman said Israelis are pleased by his unequivocal call for Hamas to recognize Israel and lay down their arms as a condition for future negotiations.
They also liked President Bush’s firm opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran. Mr. Guttman noted that the military options for dealing with Iran are limited, so Israel is pleased that the diplomatic track has begun to move since the recent decision by the International Atomic Energy agency to refer Iran to the Security Council.
But Omar Karmi, Ramallah correspondent for the Jordan Times, said that, while Arabs welcome America’s calls for more open societies, many view U.S. policy in the region with skepticism. He noted that the only truly “democratic” elections in a Western sense of the word were in the Palestinian Territories, where there were no restrictions on “who ran or who voted,” unlike in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. However, the recent Palestinian elections brought Hamas to power, posing a serious dilemma for Washington. While Hamas is a political entity and social service organization in the Palestinian context, the United States, the European Union, and Israel regard Hamas as a terrorist group because it calls for the destruction of Israel and refuses to renounce violence.
According to Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, many European governments embrace American diplomatic strategy in the Middle East – especially Germany’s new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. And Mr. Rueb noted that Germany’s reaction to the victory of Hamas was quite similar to that of Washington – that although the electoral process has to be respected, renouncing violence is a prerequisite for operating within democratic politics. He said there is a new spirit of cooperation among the allies on both sides of the Atlantic, especially on the Middle East. Part of that cooperation involves a growing concern about Iran’s nuclear capacity.
In an effort to bolster the diplomatic path with Iran, talks between Russia and Iran will begin next week on Russia’s proposal to enrich uranium for nuclear energy on its soil. And, in a bid to step up pressure on the Iranian regime, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Congress for an increase of US $75 million in emergency funding including expanding radio and television broadcasts into Iran and promoting internal opposition to the rule of the clerics.
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