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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs