The Bush administration will use a series of international
meetings to launch its plan for political and economic reform in the
Middle East - and by so doing try to repair relations with
traditional allies that were bruised in the run-up to the Iraq war.
At June summits with the European Union and NATO, as well as a G-
8 meeting that the United States will host in Florida, the US will
lay out a vision that seeks to build on democratic and economic-
development advances in the region. The US will also recruit
recently estranged allies as France and Germany to join in.
The initiative's aims are twofold: to demonstrate, despite the
unanticipated complications in Iraq, what the administration said
would be the transformative impact of ridding the region of a
threatening dictatorship; and to answer critics who say the war only
distracted the US from addressing the deeper terrorism-breeding
problems of the Middle East.
The proposal is being touted to Washington's Western allies as
addressing the needs of a "wider" or "greater" Middle East, and thus
to include the broader Muslim world, including Iran and South Asia.
But even some experts who praise parts of the plan note that it
will be going forth without the "Exhibit A" that Iraq was supposed
to provide under the prewar vision of some Bush administration
"Initially, Iraq was going to be the poster child for proper
Middle East governance, but that's not the way things have played
out," says Jon Alterman, a Middle East specialist who recently left
the State Department policy planning staff for the Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
But in an unexpected way, the initiative appears all the more
urgent, since Iraq remains another example of the kind of Middle
East instability the plan seeks to address. "In many ways, this is
security driven," Mr. Alterman says.
Rather than starting with a grandiose plan that might be
construed as more interference from a power that is poorly viewed in
the region at the moment, the US seeks to build on reforms already
advancing in some countries in the hopes of triggering additional
Words from the State Dept.
The idea is to "look in the region where there are people seeking
reform, [where] there are people trying to establish the rule of law
[and] change their economies ... and then to see what programs and
capabilities from the outside can be used to support that," State
Department spokesman Richard Boucher said recently.
Administration officials are trumpeting the US free-trade
agreement with Jordan, judicial reforms in Bahrain, and family-law
reforms in Morocco that boost the rights of women as the kinds of
locally grown developments they will seek to encourage. …