Is Madeleine Albright All Right?

By I, Nijad | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 1997 | Go to article overview

Is Madeleine Albright All Right?


I, Nijad, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Is Madeleine Albright All Right?

Now that Madeleine K. Albright has been confirmed as secretary of state, I want to comment on remarks in the Arab world about her. I feel strongly that it is not prudent to alienate the secretary of state of the world's most powerful nation before even getting a sense of how she will direct U.S. policy in the Middle East. Unfortunately, there were cases of semi-official Arab newspapers and at least one Arab leader who bemoaned President Clinton's selection.

I have asked some of her former colleagues about Secretary Albright's probable attitude toward the Arab world. The common thread of their answers is that Dr. Albright has no "track record" on the Middle East. Most of her scholarly and professional interests have focused on Central and Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R./Russia. She will probably rely heavily on Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross and whomever becomes assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. I am told that Secretary Albright's personality will be the best indicator of her approach to the Middle East. She is very assertive and is unlikely to tolerate obstructionism in the peace process. In private conversations with Middle East leaders, we can probably expect her to be more pointed than Warren Christopher. This is very important, because the Clinton administration's style is to avoid public confrontation.

Why is much of the Arab world viewing Dr. Albright's nomination with such trepidation? Three issues seemed to cause concern while she was U.S. permanent representative: her unyielding stance on the United Nations oil-for-food deal with Iraq, her castigation of the U.N. for the report on the Israeli shelling of the U.N. compound in Qana, Lebanon last April, and her efforts to prevent Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian, from seeking a second term as United Nations secretary-general.

The Arab world should realize that, unlike the secretary of state, the permanent representative to the United Nations does not formulate foreign policy, but merely advises on strategy at the United Nations. …

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