News / Middle East

Former US Ambassador Optimistic About Arab Democracy

Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Djerejian
Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Djerejian
Greg Flakus

A U.S. expert on the Middle East and public policy says the United States and other countries need to be engaged in the region to bring about peaceful changes. As fighting continues in Libya, Former Ambassador Edward Djerejian sees challenges ahead for the National Transitional Council as it seeks to create a new government there.

“I am not pessimistic, but there is a big question mark, because the task is so formidable,” he said.

Djerejian served as U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Israel. Now, he directs the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and keeps a close eye on events in the Middle East and North Africa.

He said the United States and other countries seeking change in Libya should be cautious, but engaged.

“We shouldn't rush to support one group over another group. We should be careful on how external foreign assistance funds are channeled and for what purposes. We should be encouraging; we cannot dictate. We should not try to manage the transformation, this is for the Libyan people to do, but where we see positive forces for change, we should support them,” he said.

Djerejian said Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has disappointed those who had viewed him as a reformer when he took office in 2000.

“That the international community was hoping that this young president would do the right thing, so he was given quite a bit of leeway and yet he did not perform. In a contrary manner, he actually went in the other direction,” said Djerejian.

One of the key outside players in Syria is Iran, which has supported Assad. Djerejian said Iranian interests are threatened by the revolt in Syria.

“The Iranians are obviously very worried that if this regime collapses, they will lose this geopolitical position they have in the Levant and on Israel's borders,” he said.

Djerejian said religious differences will limit Iran's role in Syria. Iran is a Shi'ite Muslim country and Syria is more than 70 percent Sunni. He said the Iranians will not be able to dominate political change in Syria if Assad, who is a member of the Alawite minority, leaves.

As chairman of an advisory group on public diplomacy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Djerejian said he saw how people in the Muslim world admired the United States in many ways. But, he said, many were bothered by perceived U.S. favoritism toward Israel and U.S. support of dictators in Arab nations. He said the U.S. response to the events of the past year may help change that.

“I think that with the Arab awakening and the fall of various dictatorships and U.S. support of the forces of change, hopefully positive change, I think that this issue of our being hypocritical in supporting dictatorial regimes will diminish,” he said.

But Djerejian says the United States must take a much more dynamic approach toward Mideast peace if there is to be long-term stability in the region.

“If one is thinking about true, sustainable national security in the region and for Israel's security, let's get on with making an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That will defuse many of the problems surrounding Israel and I think would enhance Israel's prospects for being integrated into the Middle East in a peaceful manner,” he said.

Djerejian said the time is right for an agreement since the Palestinian leadership appears to be moderate and willing to negotiate, and many Israelis, seeing the growing Palestinian population, realize that it would be in their best interests to forge an agreement now.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid