June 21, 2011

Lugar Tells New U.S. Middle East Envoys to Promote Reform while Protecting American Security

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following statement at a hearing for the nominations of the new American Ambassadors to Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Kazakhstan:

Americans were moved by the power and speed of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and by the resolve of Egyptians to change the course of their history.   We celebrated the calls for greater political participation, the protection of basic human rights, and a more inclusive economy.  We were heartened that protests in Tunisia and Egypt had such an impact in many parts of the Middle East.

At the same time, it is clear that decisive improvements in governance in the Middle East will not be simple or automatic.  The past few months have demonstrated that the countries of the region are all on very different paths and timelines.   We should not over-generalize about what is occurring in Middle Eastern societies or expect changing attitudes to solve American national security problems in the region.  We should recognize that the genuine opportunities in the long run for the advancement of democratic values and the broadening of prosperity are accompanied by short term risks and dangerous uncertainties.

We are witnessing civil war in Libya and ongoing suppression of popular upheaval in Syria.  In Yemen, we have seen a highly fractured society that appears to lack national institutions or a common identity around which to coalesce.   In Bahrain, we have seen sectarian tensions and violence against peaceful protestors.  The challenge for our nominees is to protect and advance American interests in the midst of this rapidly changing and diverse landscape.

It is essential that we redouble our efforts to engage in the Middle East.  We must be creative in using the full scope of American power and influence to support a more peaceful future for the region.  This is important to our own fundamental national security, the global economy, and the security of our close ally, Israel.

Recognizing the diversity of the region does not mean shying away from promoting real reform and more inclusive government – even if that process looks different in Egypt than it does in the United Arab Emirates.   We have been encouraging more representative and tolerant governance throughout the region for many years.  As Americans, we should honor those in the region who are speaking out in defense of values that we hold dear.

I believe that a key part of this process must be the encouragement of more transparent and inclusive economies that are more securely tied to the global market.  We need to build more meaningful trade and investment relationships in the region.  Our nominees also should leverage the leadership of American universities, cultural institutions, and civil society to generate deeper and more sustainable linkages.

Protests started in Tunisia, but it seems clear that the test of this process will be in Egypt.   We have a shared interest with the people of Egypt to build a more secure and prosperous future.  This will not be a short process.   But I believe Americans now expect a different relationship with this and future Egyptian governments.  We respect what was born in Tahrir Square and want to see it flourish into a partnership that goes beyond the top-levels of our governments.

It is vital that the transition in Egypt not be hijacked by extremist groups who would undermine the fundamental civil liberties at the heart of the revolution and threaten U.S. and allied interests in the region.  In addition, during this moment of turmoil, the desire for more inclusive government must not be manipulated by those seeking to deflect attention from their own failures, including the regimes in Iran and Syria.

# # #

Press Contact

Mark Helmke • 202-224-5918 mark_helmke@lugar.senate.gov www.facebook.com/senatorlugar www.twitter.com/senatorlugar