Iran, Syria and a New Middle East: U.S. Policy and Implications for Europe
On March 20, the Berlin chapter of GMF’s Young Transatlantic Network hosted Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow and director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, for a discussion on current U.S. Middle East policy, and European-U.S. cooperation towards the various crises in the region. The event was held in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, and the discussion was moderated by Jessica Bither, program coordinator at GMF in Berlin.
Dr. Wittes offered a contextual overview for the current state of the Middle East as well as U.S. foreign policy towards the region under President Obama’s second administration, arguing that in both regards we are at a significant moment in policy making. In the broader Middle East, multiple crises are coming to a head, and the repercussions of the changes in Arab society are ongoing. The United States is facing the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan while also approaching energy independence, against the backdrop of a public who is increasingly weary of war and intervention—all developments that mark a significant shift for U.S. foreign policy in general, and in the Middle East in particular. Though stability in the region has returned to be a primary goal for both the U.S. and Europe, the difference to the years before the Arab spring is a greater lack of consensus on what exactly will lead to short- and long-term stability in the myriad of crisis and political changes in the different countries.
The discussion also focused on the prospects for the deal of limiting Iran’s nuclear program, Russian involvement and influence regarding Iran and the region at large, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry’s motivation to facilitate renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. In a concluding comment Dr. Wittes also expressed long term optimism about the Arab region, and emphasized the opportunity the transatlantic partners have in reaching out and help the younger generation of that region achieve their aspirations.