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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More