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Anti-Gaddafi fighters drive in the desert south of Sirte

As the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East and North Africa, a number of countries, both those affected by it and those which were only onlookers of the changes it brought, are seeking a way forward. Aside from their own uncertain futures and a seemingly open-ended conflict in Syria, relations with Israel loom large in the region.

VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke about the post-Arab Spring era, its triumphs and pitfalls, with Marina Ottaway, Senior Associate for the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The long-time analyst of political systems is now focused on the political transformations in the MENA region.

Below are some highlights of Ottaway’s remarks. Please check the sound file on the bottom of this post for a fuller version of the interview.

Marina Ottaway

Relations with Israel

The only reaching out [on the part of Israel] that would be welcomed by countries in the region is a solution to the Palestinian issue. I think as long as the issue of the West Bank and Gaza has not been settled, the Arab countries are not going to change their attitude toward Israel.

The peace that exists between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Egypt is a very cold peace. It was that way even in the days of Mubarak, before the Arab Spring started. No other countries are going to sign peace agreements with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue has not been tackled.

Countries at crossroads

The dynamic [in the MENA region] is changing while the dust is still rising in the sense that the decision that countries have to make is a big challenge now. There was a first round in relation to Libya, and now in relation to Syria. Particularly countries that have experienced their own Arab Spring or who want that renewal are watching in horror what is unfolding in Syria, where the government is literally at war with its own citizens.

Syria intervention

Turkey is in a particularly difficult position because it has a common border and is under pressure to do something. It wants to do something, but it does not want to be the only country to intervene in Syria. An international intervention is difficult because it would be extremely bloody.

The U.S. is not going to send in troops or even air cover in an election year. That much is clear. Countries that are pushing more for intervention do not want to [intervene] without Europe and the United States as part of the equation.

Listen to more of Marina Ottaway’s insights (5:52):

Susan Yackee

Susan Yackee is anchor of VOA's International Edition radio show. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.

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