Indyk: ‘Europeans Will Have a Role in Everything America Does Under Obama’

Clinton administration ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, a top adviser to Barack Obama, is interviewed by Germany’s Spiegel Online: ‘We Americans Have a Wonderful but Frightening Innocence’.

SPIEGEL: Is he a second Bill Clinton, who tried to mediate between the conflict parties in the Middle East — but ultimately failed?

Indyk: Bill Clinton was a very empathic president which helped him to become popular in the Arab world and Israel at the same time. He managed to communicate to the Arab people that he felt their pain. In this regard, Obama is very similar to Clinton.

SPIEGEL: Peace in this region of the world still seems very far away, however. Many in the West are tired of these conflicts. America too?

Indyk: There are three reasons why the United States cannot walk away. That part of the world generates the oil that fuels the industries of the West and increasingly China and India as well. America has commitments to the survival and well-being of the Jewish state on one side and the security of our Arab allies on the other.

SPIEGEL: To what extent can Obama change course at all?

Indyk: We Americans have this wonderful but frightening innocence, a belief that we have a mission to transform troubled parts of the world. Even more troubling is that we not only think it is our responsibility but that we can actually remake the Middle East in our own image as a peaceful, democratic place. It is that instinct which George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shared in the Middle East, even though they pursued the objective of transformation in two very different ways — one by peace-making, one by war making. But they shared that basic naïvety and they both failed. Now we have to be less naïve and more humble. I am sure Obama has understood that.

Indyk doesn’t like the word “concessions,” but…

SPIEGEL: And what is the price Obama will need to pay?

Indyk: If the Middle East should be a priority — and I am convinced it will be — the US needs to be more considerate of the interests of potential allies.

SPIEGEL: You mean: concessions.

Indyk: I don’t like the word concessions. But we need to understand something George W. Bush never grasped: We can’t have it both ways. Obama quickly needs to sit down with the Russian leadership and try to get a better understanding of their interests. If we want Russian support in the Middle East, we need to reconsider our current strategy on NATO expansion or the missile shield in Eastern Europe. We can’t have Russian cooperation on a strategy to prevent Iran’s nuclear program and the missile shield at the same time.

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