The Middle East Peace Process
An historic transformation has taken place in the political landscape of the Middle East: peace agreements are taking hold, requiring concerted implementation efforts. The United States—as an architect and sponsor of the peace process—has a clear national interest in seeing the process deepen and widen to include all Israel’s neighbors. We will continue our steady, determined leadership—standing with those who take risks for peace, standing against those who would destroy it, lending our good offices where we can make a difference and helping bring the concrete benefits of peace to people’s daily lives. Future progress will require movement in the following areas:
• continued Israeli-Palestinian engagement on remaining issues in the Interim Agreement, and negotiation of permanent status issues;
• resuming Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese negotiations with the objective of achieving peace treaties; and
• normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel. Southwest Asia
In Southwest Asia, the United States remains focused on deterring threats to regional stability, countering threats posed by WMD and protecting the security of our regional partners, particularly from Iraq and Iran. We will continue to encourage members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to work closely on collective defense and security arrangements, help individual GCC states meet their appropriate defense requirements and maintain our bilateral defense agreements.
We will maintain an appropriate military presence in Southwest Asia using a combination of ground, air and naval forces. As a result of the confrontation with Iraq in late 1997 and early 1998 over to Iraqi interference with UN inspection teams, we increased our continuous military presence in the Gulf to back our on-going efforts to bring Iraq into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. Our forces in the Gulf are backed by our ability to rapidly reinforce the region in time of crisis, which we demonstrated convincingly in late 1997 and early 1998. We remain committed to enforcing the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, which are essential for implementing the UN resolutions and preventing Saddam from taking large scale military action against Kuwait or the Kurd and Shia minorities in Iraq.
We would like to see Iraq’s reintegration into the international community; however, we have made clear that Iraq must comply with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Saddam Hussein must cease the cynical manipulation of UN humanitarian programs and cooperate with Security Council Resolution 1153, which authorizes increased humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq. Iraq must also move from its posture of deny, delay and obscure to a posture of cooperation and compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions designed to rid Iraq of WMD and their delivery systems. Iraq must also comply with the memorandum of understanding reached with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in February 1998. Our policy is directed not against the people of Iraq but against the aggressive behavior of the government. Until that behavior changes, our goal is containing the threat Saddam Hussein poses to Iraq’s neighbors, the free flow of Gulf oil and broader U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Our policy toward Iran is aimed at changing the behavior of the Iranian government in several key areas, including its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, its support for terrorism and groups that violently oppose the peace process, its attempts to undermine friendly governments in the region, and its development of offensive military capabilities that threaten our GCC partners and the flow of oil.
There are signs of change in Iranian policies. In December 1997, Iranian officials welcomed Chairman Arafat to the Islamic Summit in Tehran and said that, although they did not agree with the peace process, they would not seek to impose their views and would accept what the Palestinians could accept. In January 1998, President Khatemi publicly denounced terrorism and condemned the killing of innocent Israelis. Iran’s record in the war against drugs has greatly improved and it has received high marks from the UN for its treatment of more than two million Iraqi and Afghan refugees. Iran is participating in diplomatic efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and is making a welcome effort to improve relations with its neighbors in the Gulf.
We view these developments with interest, both with regard to the possibility of Iran assuming its rightful place in the world community and the chance for better bilateral ties. We also welcome statements by President Khatemi that suggest a possibility of dialogue with the United States, and are taking concrete steps in that direction. This month, we implemented a new, more streamlined procedure for issuing visas to Iranians who travel to the United States frequently. We also revised our Consular Travel Warning for Iran so that it better reflects current attitudes in Iran towards American visitors. We have supported cultural and academic exchanges, and facilitated travel to the United States by many Iranians.
However, these positive signs must be balanced against the reality that Iran’s support for terrorism has not yet ceased, serious violations of human rights persist, its efforts to develop long range missiles, including the 1,300 kilometer-range Shahab-3 it flight tested in July 1998, and its efforts to acquire WMD continue. The United States will continue to oppose any country selling or transferring to Iran materials and technologies that could be used to develop long-range missiles or weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, we oppose Iranian efforts to sponsor terror.
We are ready to explore further ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings with Iran. We will strengthen our cooperation with allies to encourage positive changes in Iranian behavior. If a dialogue can be initiated and sustained in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides, then the United States would be willing to develop with the Islamic Republic a road map leading to normal relations.
South Asia has experienced an important expansion of democracy and economic reform. Our strategy is designed to help the peoples of that region enjoy the fruits of democracy and greater stability by helping resolve long-standing conflict and implementing confidence-building measures. Regional stability and improved bilateral ties are also important for U.S. economic interests in a region that contains a fifth of the world’s population and one of its most important emerging markets. We seek to establish relationships with India and Pakistan that are defined in terms of their own individual merits and reflect the full weight and range of U.S. strategic, political and economic interests in each country. In addition, we seek to work closely with regional countries to stem the flow of illegal drugs from South Asia, most notably from Afghanistan.
The United States has long urged India and Pakistan to take steps to reduce the risk of conflict and to bring their nuclear and missile programs into conformity with international standards. The Indian and Pakistani nuclear test explosions were unjustified and threaten to spark a dangerous nuclear arms race in Asia. As a result of those tests and in accordance with our laws the United States imposed sanctions against India and Pakistan. The sanctions include termination of assistance except for humanitarian assistance for food or other agricultural commodities;