News / Middle East

US Mulls New Diplomacy in Troubled Middle East

The plenary session of the US- Islamic World Forum discusses Geo-Strategic Issues in the Middle East and focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict
The plenary session of the US- Islamic World Forum discusses Geo-Strategic Issues in the Middle East and focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict
Mohamed Elshinnawi

U.S.-based experts on the Middle East are closely watching the popular uprisings in parts of the Arab world and discussing how Washington can best respond to the turmoil. U.S. policymakers are trying to support democracy, but also worry about mounting instability in the region.

For decades, Washington has considered the Middle East a region of vital U.S. interest, in part because it sits atop the world’s largest reserves of oil and natural gas. And for the U.S. to maintain its strategic influence in the region, regional experts say Washington has often relied on friendly Arab governments that suppressed the democratic aspirations of their people.

But now, with popular uprisings sweeping through the area, U.S. policymakers are looking at other ways Washington can stay relevant in the region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made that point at a recent meeting of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Washington.

"Wherever we can, we will accelerate our work to develop stronger bonds with the people themselves - with civil society, business leaders, religious communities, women and minorities.  We are re-thinking the way we do business on the ground, with citizens themselves helping set the priorities," she said.

One-size doesn't fit all


Even so, Clinton went on to say that the U.S. response to Arab democracy movements would vary from country to country, according to conditions on the ground and U.S. strategic interests.

Watch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum:

Former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk was at the forum as well and agreed with that approach.

"When the people of Egypt revolted against the pharaoh [former president Hosni Mubarak], we, I think, made the right decision in terms of getting to the right side of history in supporting peoples’ aspirations for the values the U.S. supports," he said.

But according to Indyk, that approach might not be appropriate for a country like Saudi Arabia.

"For Saudi Arabia, it is a lot more complicated because instability in Saudi Arabia can drive the price of oil through the roof and can dramatically affect the global economic recovery and our own economic recovery," he said.

New understandings necessary

Indyk says Washington now needs to reach new understandings with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations so they can move forward toward political and constitutional reforms while avoiding the revolutionary uprisings like the ones that rocked Egypt and Tunisia.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski says one way Washington can improve its standing and influence in the region is by leading a renewed effort to reach peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  But he warns that such an effort could backfire if it failed to show results.

"If the U.S. persists in verbal initiatives which are very promising and a complete lack of subsequent strategic implementation of the verbal initiatives, we are going to be in big trouble in the region and that is a fact of life," said Brzezinski.

But for Brzezinski and other regional experts, the main thrust of U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East should be toward strengthening the region’s pro-democracy movements.  

One of those experts is Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland. Telhami says a public opinion poll sponsored this month by the university’s Program on International Policy Attitudes indicates a solid majority of Americans - 57 percent - favor U.S. support for increased democracy in the Arab world.

"The largest segment of Americans think that the demonstrations in the Arab world are not, in the first place, about Islamists," said Telhami. "They are about ordinary people seeking freedom and democracy. And that belief leads them to be somewhat optimistic and somewhat supportive of Arab democracy, and so when you ask them should the U.S. support the emerging democracies even if their governments are less friendly to the U.S., you have a majority say yes."

As Telhami and the other Middle East experts emphasized, if Washington can align itself with the people of the region instead of repressive governments, it can strengthen the resistance to radicalism and terrorism.

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

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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke 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 Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

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