The Middle East Peace Process
A historic transformation is taking place in the political landscape of the Middle East. Peace agreements are taking hold, requiring concerted implementation efforts, and new agreements are being negotiated, which hold out the hope of ending the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The United States – a key architect and sponsor of the peace process – has a clear national interest in seeing the process deepen and widen. 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.
A significant breakthrough in the Middle East Peace Process took place in December 1999 when Prime Minister Barak and President Assad agreed to resume the Israel-Syrian peace negotiations where they left off. These negotiations will be high level, intensive, and conducted with the aim of reaching an agreement as soon as possible in order to bring a just and lasting peace between Israel and Syria. With the resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks, we will continue working to begin negotiations between Israel and Lebanon.
On the Palestinian front, Israelis and Palestinians are turning to the core issues that have defined their conflict for the past fifty years, seeking to build a lasting peace based on partnership and cooperation. They have agreed to seek to reach a permanent status agreement by September 2000 and the United States will do everything within its power to help them achieve that goal. At the same time, both sides will continue to implement the remaining issues in the Interim Agreement, the Wye River Memorandum, and the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement. Our goal remains the normalization of relations between Israel and all Arab states. Through the multilateral working groups on security, refugees, water and the environment, we are seeking to promote regional cooperation to address transboundary environmental issues that affect all parties.
The United States has an interest in the stability and prosperity of North Africa, a region that is undergoing important changes. In particular, we are seeking to strengthen our relations with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and to encourage political and economic reform. Libya continues to be a country of concern for the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Although the government of Libya has taken an important positive step away from its support of terrorism by surrendering the Lockerbie suspects, our policy toward Libya is designed to encourage Libya to completely cease its support of terrorism and block its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
In Southwest Asia, the United States remains focused on deterring threats to regional stability and energy security, countering threats posed by WMD, and protecting the security of our regional partners, particularly from the threats posed by 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 defense requirements, and maintain our bilateral defense relationships.
We will maintain an appropriate military presence in Southwest Asia using a combination of ground, air and naval forces. We maintain a continuous military presence in the Gulf to enhance regional stability and support 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 have demonstrated convincingly. We remain committed to enforcing the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, which are essential for implementing the UN Security Council resolutions and preventing Saddam Hussein from taking large-scale military action against Kuwait or the Kurd and Shia minorities in Iraq.
Our policy toward Iraq is comprised of three central elements: containment and economic sanctions, to prevent Saddam from again threatening the stability of the vital Gulf region; relief for the Iraqi people from humanitarian suffering via the UN oil-for-food program; and support to those Iraqis seeking to replace Saddam’s regime with a government that can live at peace with its neighbors and its people. Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 successfully degraded the threat posed by Iraqi WMD in the wake of Baghdad’s decision to cease cooperation with UN weapons inspectors.
In December 1999, the United Nations Security Council passed UNSCR 1284, a new omnibus resolution on Iraq. The United States supports Resolution 1284 because it buttresses the containment of Iraq. This resolution reflects the consensus view of the Security Council that Iraq has still not met its obligations to the international community and, in particular, has failed to disband fully its proscribed WMD programs. The resolution expands the humanitarian aspects of the oil-for-food program to ensure the well-being of the Iraqi people. It provides for a robust new disarmament program that would finish the work begun by UNSCOM. It would allow for a suspension of the economic sanctions in return for Iraqi fulfillment of key disarmament tasks, and would lock in the Security Council’s control over Iraqi finances to ensure that Saddam Hussein is never again able to disburse Iraq’s resources as he would like.
We have consistently maintained that the Iraqi regime can only have sanctions lifted when it has met its obligations to the international community. Saddam’s actions over the past decade make clear that his regime will not comply with its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions designed to rid Iraq of WMD and their delivery systems. Because of that and because the Iraqi people will never be free under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, we actively support those who seek to bring a new democratic government to power in Baghdad. We recognize that this may be a slow and difficult process, but we believe it is the only solution to the problem of Saddam’s regime.
Our policy toward Iran is aimed at changing the practices of the Iranian government in several key areas, including its efforts to obtain WMD and long-range missiles, its support for terrorism and groups that violently oppose the Middle East 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. We view signs of change in Iranian policies 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 welcome statements by President Khatemi that advocate a people-to-people dialogue with the United States.
These positive signs must be balanced against the reality that Iran’s support for terrorism has not yet ceased and serious violations of human rights persist. Iran is continuing its efforts to acquire WMD and develop long range missiles (including the 1,300 kilometer-range Shahab-3 it flight-tested in July 1998). The United States will continue to oppose Iranian efforts to sponsor terror and to oppose transfers from any country to Iran of materials and technologies that could be used to develop long-range missiles or WMD.