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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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