Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

MEI's Annual Conference Calls for Rewriting Middle East Agenda

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

MEI's Annual Conference Calls for Rewriting Middle East Agenda

Article excerpt

THE MIDDLE EAST Institute held its 63rd annual conference on Nov. 10 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, hosting a series of panels and speakers who discussed possible revisions to the U.S. agenda for the Middle East.

State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns opened the conference with a thoughtful speech on the lessons he's learned as a diplomat in the Middle East. "I've learned that a little humility goes a long way in the exercise of American power and purpose in the Middle East," he said. "We come by that humility honestly, through many trials and many errors. Winston Churchill, a life-long admirer of America, once said that the thing he liked most about Americans was that they always did the right thing in the end...they just liked to exhaust all the alternatives first....

"If there's one issue that should keep us humble," Burns continued, "it is the elusive quest for Arab-Israeli peace. While not a magic solution to all the many ills of the region, no other issue cuts closer to the core of what drives emotions throughout much of the Middle East."

Burns concluded by saying he genuinely believes that with sustained and creative American leadership, a willingness from leaders in and outside the region to take responsibility alongside us, and long-term investment in building economic and political hope across the Middle East, the future holds real and enduring promise.

The conference then turned to a series of panels to explore the specific dilemmas in the region, beginning with the "Iranian Nuclear Challenge." On the future of U.S.-Iranian relations, Karim Sadjadpour, associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, "It is going to be very difficult to reach a nuclear accommodation with a regime which believes it needs us as an enemy." Referring repeatedly to how massive the opposition to the current Iranian administration has grown since the June presidential elections, he cautioned, "It is going to be a challenge to try to reach that modus vivendi with the government without betraying the will of the many people in Iran who are opposed to the government."

Former CIA director and prominent neocon James Woolsey concluded the panel's analysis by suggesting a possible dialogue with Iran, while maintaining its enemy status. …

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