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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid