Day 1 at Manama: view from the floorPosted: 09/12/2012
Every year, the IISS invites nominees from the next generation of strategists to attend the Manama Dialogue as part of its ‘Young Strategists Programme’. Here, one of this year’s Young Strategists – Alexander Vysotsky, Senior Secretary in the Office of the Mayor of Moscow – reflects on his highlight from Saturday in Manama:
‘I’m in the process of preparing a PhD thesis on Democratisation as an element of the US policy in the Middle East in 2001-2008, so I was especially looking forward to Saturday’s Plenary Session on “The US and the Region”.’
Taking part in the session were Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, former presidential candidate John McCain and Charles ‘Dutch’ Ruppersberger, who is the senior Democrat member of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
William Burns presented an overview of US policy towards the region’s main problems, including security issues, political openness and democratic transition.
On Syria, he underlined the importance of the UN-Arab League mission led by Lakhdar Brahimi and of implementing a settlement based on the Geneva principles outlined in June by the Syrian Action Group. He also condemned Iran for its support of the Assad regime.
On the current constitutional crisis in Egypt, Burns called for an inclusive political dialogue and stressed that no significant progress could be achieved in Egyptian domestic affairs without real economic revival.
Senator John McCain welcomed the presence of two members of the US Congress on the panel. He wryly reflected on public opinion of legislators: ‘The approval rate of Congress in the United States is now down to about 10%. … And I still have not met anyone in that 10%. If I did, I’d like to ask them what the hell it is they approve of.’
More seriously, he spoke about the difficulties that arise for both Democrats and Republicans in trying to explain to American public the necessity of deeper engagement in global affairs during a time of economic retrenchment.
Speaking last, Representative Ruppersberger pointed out that, despite the so-called ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific, the US is not leaving the Middle East and will remain in close touch with ‘strategic, long-term partners’.
Ruppersberger: Russia can help on Syria, Iran – more from Alexander on the Q&A section of the US Plenary Session