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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid