Sunday, April 03, 2011

Revolution in the Middle East: America yet to recover from shock and awe

The recent developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Arab world have bamboozled the American think tank. They are yet to recover from shock and awe.  It is palpable from an interview given by Zbigniew K. Brzezinski to Amar Bakshi of CNN

Zbigniew K. Brzezinski served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter from 1977-1981. In this role, he was intimately involved in brokering the Camp David Accords and wrestling with Iran's transition from a U.S. ally to an anti-Western Islamic republic. Brzezinski is currently a professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He was the one who first drew the post cold war chess board and considered to be influential in diplomatic circles.

You might notice his sense of shock and awe over the developments in the Middle East. The grand old diplomat wants to create rivalry between Turkey and Iran.
Amar C Bakshi spoke with Brzezinski to get his take on events unfolding in the Middle East and the consequences for Egypt, Israel, Iran and the United States.

Amar C. Bakshi: Do you support the intervention in Libya?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: I support the intervention in Libya because I have the strong sense that if we did not [intervene], our credibility in the entire region - which is already very much at stake - would be shattered and Gadhafi would emerge as the leader and symbol of Arab radicalism.

Do you see what’s unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa as a grand reconfiguration of the region? And, if so, how would that affect U.S. concerns?
It is a reconfiguration, but it may not be quite what people here expect. I’m not all that confident the net result is going to be the surfacing and then the flowering of this series of democratic states.

Also, I emphasize in my own work for many years now the fact that a political awakening tends to be a rather extremist in its initial phases, irrespective of the vocabulary that it uses.

My expectation, therefore, is that what we’ll get in the Middle East is indeed a series of regimes more responsive to popular attitudes. But these popular attitudes are, in many respects, quite critical of American foreign policy - and especially so in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. As a consequence, I think, we’ll have a more difficult time in dealing with that problem, and we may end up paying a higher price for not dealing with it seriously.

What are the chances that if the Muslim Brotherhood became an influential voice in Egypt, for example, the Camp David treaty would be revoked?
I don’t think that it would be revoked outright. But I think the kind of passive acquiescence that we have seen in recent times on the part of the Egyptians is going to be a thing of the past. I think we underestimate the extent to which Arab public opinion on the popular level is truly preoccupied - and in some respects even impassioned - regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

There are some very good public opinion polls by Shibley Telhami, a professor at Maryland, which clearly indicated that issue is at the base of a lot of anti-American or anti-Western Arab sentiments. We also know ... that [Osama] bin Laden repeatedly and I emphasize, repeatedly - has mentioned it as his principal-motivating impulse in his quest to damage America.

Is there a possibility that Israel could benefit from the upheavals sweeping the region, or is this likely to be against their interests?
I think [Israel] might benefit in the short-term, but largely on the basis of shortsighted expediency. Namely, it may provide them with a seemingly good argument that this is not an opportune moment for negotiations, which require mutual concessions.

But in the longer run, I think that will further preclude the possibility of Israel becoming a viable, creative and influential participant in a more accommodated and peaceful Middle East. I think the longer-range implications of that for Israel’s future are ominous.

Is Iran benefiting from all of this?

What should U.S. policy be towards Syria and the Syrian opposition?
It seems to me we have to encourage some concessions towards democracy, but we also have to be conscious of the fact that not everywhere is our voice decisive. And if we’re not careful, we might unintentionally increase Iran’s influence. If we are prudent and careful, we might increase Turkey’s influence, and I think that will be all to the good.

Does this demonstrate declining U.S. influence abroad? Is our leverage in the region less than it has been years ago?
I think we’re facing, in fact, a significant decline of American influence in the region and perhaps the beginning of the process which, in the future, will be viewed by the peoples in the region as the second decisive phase in the decolonization of the region in the wake of first, World War I, and then even more so World War II.

From CNN. More Here

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