News / Middle East

Turmoil in Arab World Opening New Opportunities for the West?

Multimedia

Audio
Susan Yackee

With all the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, it is a curious time for Western diplomacy. For some insights, VOA’s Susan Yackee turned to John Esposito, Director of the Prince Alwaleed ben Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. We asked him how the relationship between the Islamic world and the West is changing.

Esposito: The potential for the West and the Islamic world both to be moving in a positive direction, that is, for many Muslims in many of the countries where we have seen these popular uprisings, it can mean a life in a society that is far more open, democratic and in which people really have a say over their lives.

Listen to the interview with John Esposito:

For the West, it will mean, potentially, dealing with more independent allies but, after all, we do that with a lot of other countries. Whether it’s the U.S. dealing with France, which can be very independent, or with China or India. But I think that this is going to be part of what can emerge, namely that rulers are going to be able to operate like rulers in others countries – the way we do, they will operate in terms of national interests, and at times that will mean that they will be independent in terms of the decisions that they will make.

John Esposito
John Esposito


Yackee: Do we need to let the dust settle in the Middle East and North Africa before locking in on an effort of diplomacy?

Esposito: No. I certainly think that we need to let the dust settle before we can make the kinds of predictions that many people would like to make. But in terms of our diplomacy, this is a time to move. We have been supporting autocratic regimes in the region, and that has been a major source - the policies of those regimes and our support for them – for anti-Americanism. We now have an opportunity to, in most of these countries, position ourselves vis-à-vis our own principles, and that is – that we affirm peoples’ rights to self-determination and human rights.

Yackee: Will this be something that President Obama will do?

Esposito: I certainly hope that he will. I think that he has been positioning himself to do that and, as events have unfolded, the Administration can move away from what initially looked like an equivocating position – trying to walk on both sides of the street, and now to begin to move more constructively in support of these situations, and obviously, as governments come into place, to have American aid be primarily in [the areas] of economic and educational development, rather than as it has been in a number of those countries in the past, for military and security.

Yackee: What about military intervention on the part of the West?

Esposito: I don’t think that we should be doing that. I think that there are some arguments to be made symbolically and also maybe in reality that there may be occasions where we could be enforcing no-fly zones, but we certainly should not be thinking about putting troops on the ground.

Yackee: Once the dust does settle in the Middle East and North Africa, should the U.S. have a unique diplomatic plan for each nation or just have a general principle that applies to all?

Esposito: I think our principle has to be both. On the one hand, the general principle should be – and we have said this before – we support the notion of self-determination, popular sovereignty, human rights, etc. That is a generic thing. But then I think you have to deal with each country. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa can be as diverse as the differences between the U.S. and any of a fair number of European countries at the end of the day.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid