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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
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 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 Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

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