Amr Hamzawy appears on NPR's "The Conversation" to discuss the current crisis in the Middle East.
Given the last two weeks in the Middle East — client entities like Hizbollah provoking a conflict, the Saudis and Egyptians speaking without power from the sidelines, Western uncertainty about the role of Syria and Iran — is it possible to draw a new map of the Middle East?
This is a dangerous moment for the Middle East, because the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon could easily escalate to involve the broader region. Any strategy to address the present crisis must deal with the realities of the Middle East as they are now, not try to leapfrog over them by seeking to impose a grand new vision. Such a vision would be bound to fail as it did in the case of Iraq.
Over the last few decades most, if not all, Arab-Israeli crises have occurred when the United States has been either unable or unwilling to play an aggressive role as a mediator; and most have only abated after the United States has finally thrown itself into the middle of them.
The regime of Bashar al-Asad is under pressure from Syrian citizens who want a different political system and from the United States, which wants Syria to change its regional policy. As a result, it is impossible to separate completely a domestic process of political reform from the external pressures.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a one-day workshop at Carnegie to explore the potential and the limits of engaging groups and movements with an Islamist platform and ideology.
The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections has given rise to much soul searching in Washington about who lost Palestine. The main problem, however, is not U.S. policy but the underlying conditions in the last few months that have led to the victory of Hamas and to the impressive showing by both Shia and Sunni religious parties elsewhere in the region.
The main obstacle to reform is the lack of any coherent central authority in Lebanon that has institutionalized decision-making mechanisms. The manner in which power is divided among the various sects results in de facto mini-states responsible for all the needs of their constituents, which leads to political and administrative paralysis.
The Lebanese political system, designed to ensure representation for a diverse population, makes it very difficult for one group to gain enough seats in parliament to govern effectively. Therefore, although Syria's withdrawal has restored Lebanon's sovereignty, it has also left a power vacuum that threatens the stability of the country.
Talking to the Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream Islamist organizations should be a central, ongoing task for American diplomats in the Middle East. It would do more to restore the tarnished image of the United States in the Arab world than any public diplomacy initiative launched so far.