Sec. Madeleine K. Albright
Former US Secretary of State and Co-Chair,
Atlantic Council Middle East Strategy Task Force
Mr. Stephen J. Hadley
Former US National Security Advisor and Co-Chair,
Atlantic Council Middle East Strategy Task Force
Mr. Ayman Mohyeldin
Foreign Correspondent, NBC News
Mr. Frederick Kempe
President and CEO
Frederick Kempe: Welcome, everyone, to this vitally important event. I’m Fred Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council. What you’ll hear today is a culmination, you could say, of a year and a half’s work, but it’s really much more than that given the experience of our two co-chairs and the vast experience of the community that they reached out to for advice and counsel during this process. This paper – this work – took no short cuts. There are no cheap tricks. It’s a serious analysis of a region whose challenges are inescapable and whose solutions are very difficult to find. I hope you’ll find fresh and even somewhat optimistic looks at what can and must be done. At this time, I’d like to remind you all to silence your cell phones. And for those here in the audience and those joining us via the webcast, you can join the Twitter conversation with #ACMEST.
I am so deeply honored to be here with Secretary Madeleine Albright and Steve Hadley, former National Security Advisor, to launch their provocative, insightful, doable, sensible, new strategy for the Middle East which they have developed with many in the region, in Europe, and here in the United States. Let me also take a moment to thank the founding donor of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Bahaa Hariri, for his general support of this initiative, and Atlantic Council board director Rafic Bizri for his guidance and input throughout the process. The Middle East Strategy Task Force that our two chairs have so generously co-chaired for over a year and half has been a unique effort to both better understand the problems in the Middle East and sketch out what the region itself, in conjunction with partners such as the United States, can do to put out the fires and adopt a new vision and get us to a much better place. It’s a courageous report and it was a courageous effort. I think during this time, I had the honor to spend a great deal of time with the co-chairs and the amazing Atlantic Council team that worked with them, and they often said that this was one of the hardest tasks they’ve ever taken on. Given the jobs they’ve had, that says quite a bit. And no doubt, it will be one of the hardest tasks that president-elect Trump and his administration will have to tackle. To execute this project, the Middle East Strategy Task Force has brought together a broad array of regional stakeholders and international experts. It has held nine public events and over forty private roundtables in addition to conducting a number of consultations in Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem, and Ramallah. In other words, the ideas you will hear about today were shaped by hundreds of conversations with experts, people from the region, and officials. In this way, we believe this report is fundamentally different from other reports out there that aim to delineate a new U.S. strategy for the region. This is about a new strategy for the region with the U.S. and its partners in the region and Europe and partners around the world. It’s just a very different way of looking at that.
The other thing that makes this approach different is that it takes a more comprehensive, longer-term approach to the region encompassing themes beyond just immediate security issues.
We hope that it will be a road map and color the way that this new administration will think about approaching the region. We know it will color the way that the Atlantic Council takes on Middle East issues in the future. We see it as very much a road map for our own work. So now, let me now formally introduce our Co-Chairs and moderator and then we will hear from the Co-Chairs directly about this report and get into a discussion with them about their findings and recommendations. After we hear from the Co-Chairs, we will play a brief video that explains some of their findings and recommendations. Before we end today’s event, we will also show one more video: the winning short video from our contest that called for stories of hope from the Middle East. I think that’s one of the most striking things that we found as we went around the region – there’s just much more hope to tap out there and much more opportunity than a lot of people think. The first place video, by Syrian brothers Ahmad and Amjad Wardeh, does just that. I think you’ll all be very impressed by this video. Steve Grand, the executive director of the Task Force here at the Council, will tell us more about this contest and video later on.
Now, Sec. Madeleine Albright needs no introduction, but I will do it anyway. She was named the first female Secretary of State in 1997 and became at that time the highest ranking woman in the history of the US government. She also served as US Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997. She is currently the chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and an honorary Atlantic Council board director. She has played an incredible and long-going leadership role at the National Democratic Institute. As an author myself, I commend you all to read Prague Winter, which is one of the most brilliant memoirs I’ve ever read. She is an inspiration to many in this room and beyond.
Steve Hadley served as National Security Advisor from 2005 to 2009 and is Founding Partner of RiceHadleyGates. He also serves as the executive vice chairman of the Atlantic Council board of directors. He oversees at the board level everything we do on strategy. He is also an inspiration to many of us here at the Atlantic Council and beyond. But beyond being a personal inspiration, they also stand for something else that the Atlantic Council stands for. That is, working together across partisan lines to find consensus to tackle the most difficult issues of our time. It’s the only way we think things can get done in a tough-minded, pragmatic, results-oriented fashion where sides come together in the interests of the United States and working closely with its friends and allies around the world. We do that across all eleven of our programs and centers, but I don’t think there’s ever been a report that we have put out that has done this so dramatically on such a tough issue.
Today we also have with us Ayman Mohyeldin from NBC and MSNBC to moderate the discussion with Secretary Albright and Steve Hadley. Ayman has covered the Iraq War, the 2011 Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, and numerous other stories in the region and we are glad to have him here to steer the conversation.
So let me now give the floor to our Middle East Strategy Task Force Co-Chairs so they can give a brief presentation of their findings. And I think Steve’s going to be first. Nope, Secretary Albright’s going to be first. Thank you.
Madeleine Albright: Thank you very, very much Fred. Good afternoon to everybody – I’m delighted that you’re all here. I would really like to say thank you to so many people in a non-preempt kind of expected way because people really have worked incredibly hard on…I’m so sorry I’m so short. By the way, I do think I have to say this, it has been just twenty years since I was named and during the period of great mentioning, it was said that a woman could never be Secretary of State because Arab leaders would not deal with a woman. And what did happen was the Arab ambassadors at the UN said, “We’ve had no problems dealing with Ambassador Albright, we would not with Secretary Albright.” So, at this anniversary moment, the fact that I’m dealing with a report with a very good friend, Steve Hadley, dealing with the Arab world, is kind of an interesting coincidence.
Let me just say, it has been a real pleasure to be able to do this report at the Atlantic Council and with the support of so many different people and to have the chance to spend time with members of the diplomatic community and all of our senior advisers that put so much time into it and the Hariri Center, that really has been incredible. And the “Freds” – Fred Hof and Fred Kempe – really fantastic. Thank you very much for all the support. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with people like Steve Grand and Jessica Ashooh, who really were so fantastic in all in your work. This is not just something one has to say, it’s absolutely true in terms of the support.
I have to say that the bipartisan aspect of this has been very important, but doing this with Steve Hadley has been a special honor. He is somebody that I respect greatly and I think that we have made a good team. So Steve, thank you very much.
Most of you in this audience are by now familiar with the Middle East Strategy Task Force, as we lovingly call it, MEST (with a “T” on the end). So I will spend less time discussing the process and more time diving into the substance of our conclusions and recommendations. But I do think that Steve and I have really approached this effort with a great deal of humility. And as Fred Kempe said, we can both attest that this is the most difficult problem we have come across in our careers. Because this is not just a crisis in the Middle East. It is a crisis of the Middle East that is affecting the entire globe. Whether it is the massive refugee flows into Europe or the social media-inspired terrorist attacks in the West or the way in which the region’s civil wars have transformed into proxy conflicts, we are all affected by the toxic brew of challenges centered in the Middle East. The simple fact is that America has vital interests at stake in the region – including keeping our citizens safe from terrorism, protecting our economy, empowering our allies, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
So, where we come out is that the United States cannot walk away from the Middle East, but we also cannot expect easy answers or quick fixes. What is needed is a durable strategy for the region that reflects the world as it is today. And that is what Steve and I set out to develop throughout this whole project. When we launched this effort, we deliberately sought to quote “step back” from the cycle of fire drills and crisis response that dominates the discussion in Washington. We wanted to take a deeper look at what was happening and, this I underline, listen to the voices from the Middle East. That is why we traveled extensively in the region and we consulted experts from the region, but also sought perspectives from all levels of society – from refugees and students and business leaders and monarchs.
What we found was that many positive things are happening in the Middle East. I’m going to repeat that – we found that many positive things are happening in the Middle East, despite some of the dire headlines. Across the region, civic activists are working to make their local communities stronger and more resilient. Entrepreneurs are building small and medium-sized businesses rather than relying on the government to be the employer of first resort. And some leaders are beginning to recognize that the region’s greatest resource is not its oil, but its people. What we found in our discussions was a sense of competence and determination, despite all the challenges. Over and over again, we heard people say: “We are ready, we are shaping a vision, let us lead.”
But we also heard them say, repeatedly, that they can’t do it alone. There is a genuine desire for outside engagement and a need for outside support, but on different terms from those in the past. The days when outside powers could dictate the affairs of the Middle East are over. We recognize – and indeed, we welcome – that reality. And that is why our report calls for a New Strategic Approach emphasizing partnership. Under this New Approach, the people and governments of the region will need to take the lead in defining a positive vision for the region’s future and trying to realize it. But the international community has an interest in their success and should do what we can to help them achieve their vision.
So to that end, our report envisions a Two-Pronged action agenda with roles for both regional and outside actors. The First Prong focuses on ending the human suffering and winding down the civil wars, which we see as a critical precondition for any progress being achieved on security matters across the region. So we are endorsing the fact that we have to deal from the outside with some of these critical issues.
The civil wars are opening the door for Daesh and al Qaeda, they are fueling sectarian violence, causing civilian deaths and refugee flows, and increasing the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So they need to be resolved if we are to defeat the terrorist groups, tamp down sectarianism, and end the humanitarian suffering. The region has to participate in ending these wars, but our examination of the issues convinced us that outside powers have an essential role to play in brokering an end to these conflicts. There’s simply no way around that fact.
And in a moment, Steve will discuss specific recommendations on the steps the United States and Europe, working with the region and other external powers, can take to achieve sustainable political settlements. But we recognize that such settlements will not, by themselves, address the root causes of the civil wars, which were largely failures in governance.
For that reason, the Second Prong of our strategy is vitally important. It puts the burden on regional actors, with support from external powers, to unlock the region’s rich but largely untapped human capital. This is the only way to solve the region’s challenges over the long-term, but it requires governments to make investments in their citizens and to enable and empower them to bring positive change. We recognize that some leaders in the region may be skeptical about this approach, and for that reason we think it will be important for outside powers to create incentives for reform. If the United States and other outside powers are to make the investment in brokering settlements to the region’s conflicts, they are entitled to expect the governments in the region to take steps to address the underlying societal grievances that helped lead to the violence in the first place.
The report recommends that we codify these mutual expectations into a Compact for the Middle East. Under this Compact, the states that adopt reforms would gain greater diplomatic, economic, and technical support. Steve will describe some of the specific reforms we believe are necessary, but before I turn this over to him I want to address some in the audience who might think we are being overly-optimistic or unrealistic in our approach.
We understand that many Americans regard the Middle East as a mess. They see that America has been heavily engaged there for fifteen years and do not think there is much to show for it. But what our study really showed us is that there is more to the region than the headlines suggest. There are young people, including women, that are educated and empowered, who are starting businesses and trying to lead their communities to address local issues. There are governments such as Tunisia, Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which are moving in a new and more positive direction.
In other words, there is something to work with. There are what we call “green shoots” of progress that need our support, and countries that need our sustained engagement. And that is what this Task Force’s recommendations are all about.
With that, I would now like to invite my partner and good friend, Steve Hadley, to come to the podium. He will further flesh out some of the key elements of the strategy, and then we will have an opportunity to have a discussion. Thank you very much.
Steven Hadley: Thank you, Madeleine, very much for your remarks. Thank you for your friendship and for your leadership throughout this effort. It would not have happened without you.
Madeleine has described the key components of the report. We begin with a New Strategic Approach emphasizing partnership, with outside powers acting in support of efforts led by and from the region. This complementary division of effort represents a New Compact between regional and outside powers: the more countries in the region take steps to improve their governance and the lives of their people, the more support they can expect from the United States and international partners. As Madeleine mentioned, we propose a Two-Pronged action agenda to implement this new Compact.
What I want to do, as Madeleine suggested, is lay out the elements of this Two-Pronged agenda so that you can see how we might be able to wind down the violence in the region, and how we might at the same time begin now to invest in a more positive future for the region.
With respect to winding down the civil wars, it is our view that the countries of the Middle East do not yet have the wherewithal to resolve these conflicts on their own. The United States, working with regional powers and other external actors including Europe, Russia, and China, must help the region arrange and then enforce sustainable political settlements to the conflicts.
Iraq is the first opportunity. As Daesh is stripped of its caliphate and expelled from its territory, the people of Iraq have the opportunity to create more legitimate and effective governance. They can insist on a more inclusive national government that empowers and resources provincial and local authorities so that Iraq’s various communities can take more responsibility for their own governance, security, and welfare. The United States can help by encouraging, what we call, this New Model of National Governance and enlisting neighboring states and external powers in support of it.
To start to wind down the civil war in Syria will require convincing all parties to the conflict that it is militarily unwinnable. This will require expanding and accelerating US-led military operations against Daesh and al-Qaeda. Both Madeleine and I believe it would be a mistake to make common cause with the Syrian government, which is led by a barbarous dictator backed by Iran. Instead, we must increase humanitarian protection for the civilians that Assad is targeting and give greater support to those moderate opposition groups who will form the backbone of Syria’s future. In addition to stemming refugee flows, forestalling terrorist attacks, and improving overall regional stability, a just resolution to the Syrian conflict would help deter and contain Iran’s efforts to disrupt and destabilize its neighbors.
We also need concerted efforts to resolve the wars in Yemen and Libya. In Libya, history dictates a leading role for our European partners. Still, American leadership will be required to help galvanize a currently divided Europe and rally external players—including several in the Middle East—to provide unified support to the Government of National Accord, rather than to various regional factions.
In Yemen, outside actors must help Saudi Arabia to prioritize a political resolution to the conflict. At the same time, Houthi military operations near and across the Saudi border must stop. Like Syria, Yemen has become a humanitarian catastrophe requiring the mitigation efforts of outsiders and regional players alike. And counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda’s branch there must continue.
To sustain progress as the civil wars are wound down, the region needs a regional framework for bringing together all of its states in building confidence, resolving disputes, and developing a set of principles that can guide the future stability of the region. The initiative for this needs to come from the Middle East, but it will need support from outside powers.
As hard as it is to envision a resolution to these wars, it is still only part of the solution to what ails the Middle East. For at the same time and with equal urgency, the countries of the Middle East must seek to unlock their most valuable resource – their people.
This is what we refer to as Prong Two of the strategy. It means restructuring educational systems to give the next generation the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to help build 21st century economies and to resist terrorist and sectarian propaganda. It means “Big Bang” regulatory reforms to create an ecosystem in which trade, investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation can thrive. It means governments creating more space for citizens to come together to resolve their own problems and to build better societies. And it means an updated social contract with governments acting more effectively, inclusively, and justly in empowering their citizens to realize their full potential and to win their loyalty.
To sustain these efforts, we believe the Middle East needs a Regional Development Fund for Reconstruction and Reform – a set of funds, really, to provide financial support and technical assistance for building new physical and social infrastructure and to support all elements of society from national governments down to the individual citizens. The region needs to take the lead in creating and financing these funds, but it is in the interest of the United States and the rest of the international community to match their efforts.
So, based on what we have heard from the region, that is what we believe is required – and it is a daunting agenda: a new strategic approach based on partnership with the region in the lead, a compact and division of labor between regional and outside powers, a two-pronged action agenda to complement and to implement this compact, a new model of national governance, “big bang” regulatory reform, an updated social contract, a regional framework for security and stability, and a Regional Development Fund for Reconstruction and Reform.
If you take all this together and boil it down, fundamentally, it is a bet on the people of the region and a strategy to empower them. We know it is far from a sure winner, but we think it is the only way forward. What we are asking of Middle East leaders is daunting, and therefore external actors must be unsparing in their encouragement and support. But the choice is clear: create a foundation for a new order of enhanced political legitimacy or succumb to unending crisis, instability, and terrorism. Either empower citizens or watch power devolve into the hands of criminals and terrorists. States that do not find a way to give a role to their citizens will force those citizens into the street or into the arms of the terrorists. This is an outcome that would satisfy no one, including the incoming U.S. administration.
Obviously, the President-elect and his team will need to grapple early on with what to do about the Middle East. The approach Madeleine and I are suggesting here is not inconsistent with what President-elect Trump has said about the Middle East. It prioritizes destroying Daesh and al-Qaeda, as he has. It does not require a massive military intervention with large numbers of ground forces. At the same time, it will help check Iran’s hegemonic activity. And it recognizes that U.S. allies in the region must do more for themselves.
For nearly a century, stability in the Middle East has been understood to be the responsibility of outside powers, whether it was the British Empire or the United States of America. Those days are over – not because of the U.S. presidential election, but because the region now has the will and the capacity to take the lead in providing for its own future. The Middle East still needs American help, but there is more cause for hope than most in Washington realize, and that is what we have tried to capture in our report and in our recommendations.
And now, we’d like to play a short video that highlights some of the Task Force’s key findings that Madeleine and I have just shared. You can find this video on mest.atlanticcouncil.org.
So, thank you again. We’re delighted that you’re all here and we look forward to our discussion with you after the video.
*** Youth in the Middle East: Liability or Opportunity video plays ***
Ayman Mohyeldin: [mic is turned off] … who has spent the better part of the last fifteen years covering some of these conflicts and revolutions that are unfolding in the Middle East. If any of you are wondering about my beard, I’m not going overseas anytime soon. In fact, it’s the last day of November and I’ve been participating in some cancer research, so raising this beard for some good fun, if there were any doubts in here. I’d like to invite Madame Secretary and Stephen Hadley back on the stage so we can begin this discussion.
It was really interesting to hear so many of these issues that you’ve outlined, particularly the first prong of these issues with the conflict zones that are unfolding or the warzones that are unfolding in Syria and Libya and Yemen and other countries – Somalia and Sudan, we could even touch upon those. The good news is that we’re going to try to address some of these issues in about thirty minutes so that’s going to be a daunting task. I wanted to start off by asking, as somebody who has traveled in the region and heard many of these points that you guys addressed in this report, you’re describing this as a new strategic approach and I’d like to ask you, what makes it new? What is new about this report that we have not seen come out of Washington before in terms of how to deal with the Middle East and the Middle East itself?
Albright: Well, first of all, thank you very much for doing this, and again, thank you all for being here. I think that what is new is the fact that we have recognized more clearly, I think, than has done before, is that this cannot be ordered from the outside. That this really is dependent on local initiatives and supporting those local initiatives. It’s kind of interesting that we have understood the importance of ending the civil wars and then also looking at what the economy and the development issues are and the governance issues. So, we have brought all those questions together and then have looked at how they interact with each other. I also do think that what is out there, this needs to be stated over and over again, this is very, I think, something that is very ambitious. It’s not going to happen overnight. So, I think that the thing that we’ve said, not only that we’ve approached this with humility, but understand that this is not one of those things – Americans are the most generous people in the world with the shortest attention span – so the bottom line is that we have to understand that this is with the locals, with a regional approach, the outsiders can help, we have to approach this with humility and understanding and know that it’s going to take a long time. I think that’s what makes it different, instead of fire drills.
Mohyeldin: Stephen, one of the points that you were talking about was that the US has been engaged so much in the Middle East for the better part of the last hundred years. There are some who say that the US should cut its ties – retreat a little bit – from the Middle East. “It’s a mess, it’s not something we can fix, it’s not something we can solve. We have built up our counterterrorism operations, we’ve been able to secure ourselves a little bit more.” What’s at stake for the United States to be so engaged in the Middle East? Why is it so important to remain a participant there?
Hadley: Well, as Madeleine talked about, everybody says, “Well, the Middle East is about the oil.” Of course, we’ve never gone to war in the Middle East over oil. It has been about terrorism, it has been about threats to our allies, it has been about worries about the economic impact of the region as a whole, if it descends into chaos. It’s about avoiding proliferation that could destabilize. Look, for those people who think the Middle East is not strategic and that Syria is not strategic: who would’ve thought that refugee flows from Syria would propel Brexit, radicalize European politics, and threaten the future of the EU and a decades-long commitment of the United States and Europe to build a Europe whole, free, and at peace. I don’t know of anything that’s more strategic than that. So, we have a strategic interest in the Middle East.
We have tried over the last eight years to do a more “step-back” approach – nobody wanted less to be involved in the Middle East than President Obama, for good reasons. That’s what he ran on, that’s what he was elected on. And he has been dragged back into the Middle East. We’ve got over 6,000 troops in Iraq, we’ve got tens – if not hundreds – in Syria. So this is a problem that isn’t going away, that has strategic interests for the United States, we’ve tried stepping back and it hasn’t worked. What we’ve tried to say is that there is a different, smarter way of engaging with the Middle East that does not require a Marshall Plan or a 2003 Iraq invasion, that can support the efforts from the region and is consistent with both our interests and what we think the American people and this new administration is willing to support. It’s a virtuous coincidence that what is actually required under this new approach is probably the limit but what the American people and the new administration can sustain.
I need to say one other thing: I hope you all read this report, but there are five working group reports that were prepared in preparation for this final report. They’re on the website of the Atlantic Council and they are a terrific read. Some of the chairmen are here: Ken Pollack is here, we stole a lot of the ideas from his report. Mike Morrell is here – Mike Morrell is the source of the “new compact” idea that came from one of our senior advisor works. So, I would recommend the other five working group papers for you – they are terrific.
Mohyeldin: One of the criticisms that has come out of the region, especially when you speak to young people as I have over the years, is that the big challenge is reforming or moderating some of the governments that we’re dealing with. I don’t have to tell everyone here in the room about some of the criticisms from human rights organizations and others. You’re talking about a “new compact” – what does that “new compact” look like between the citizens of the Arab world and the governments of the Arab world?
Albright: I think what is interesting – and again, what we saw when we were there – people talk about the youth bulge, “We don’t want a bulge.” So, it’s a surge. It is something positive. And what I think was really visible when we were there were the various governments did, in fact, see the value of their youth. What I found fascinating, for instance, in Saudi Arabia, the deputy crown prince has set up a foundation. We met with a lot of the young people there who are not just budding entrepreneurs but some of them have really already undertaken things. They see themselves as part of the solution. What was also interesting in Saudi Arabia was the minister of education, who was somebody who had criticized the educational system, was then made minister of education and really brought the idea to us in terms of having another kind of system.
I think the hardest part really has been here: we, all of us from the West, have patronized the Middle East. It is time to stop talking about it in that particular way and understand the strength of the changes coming from there – and governments, for the most part, would like to figure out how to engage their populations. That does not mean that, from the outside – not just the US, but other partners – don’t need to keep pointing out, “You could do this better, we could help you more and you can help yourselves more if you approach things from a different angle and not tell your people what to do, but really seek their input and be a part of it.” It’s definitely there, and social media has been both positive and negative there, but the positive aspect is that it has allowed the young people to have a more active voice.
Mohyeldin: Stephen, do you think that these reforms – some of these points that Madame Secretary is highlighting in Saudi Arabia, the economic development plan – are more than cosmetic lip service? How deep-rooted do you think some of the intentions are of the governments to try to genuinely reform their societies – make them more democratic, more pluralistic?
Hadley: It depends. And in some sense, it’s early days. We talk about an updated social contract – that really means these governments using their people, empowering their people to be allies and participants in developing the future of their countries. That’s what we’re talking about. The UAE seems to really get that and seems to be farther along than any other country in the region in reforms that will enable that kind of process. Saudi Arabia seems to be starting that process with Vision 2030 and the transformation implementation plan that they have developed. You certainly see it in Tunisia, which really is moving in a democratic direction, largely on the strength and with the midwifery, if you will, of civil society. So, we think it’s starting, but it’s not every place and it has, obviously, a ways to go.
Mohyeldin: Has it stalled in some places, in some countries?
Hadley: It’s not happening in some places. You know, we’ve talked to most of these leaders, and you know I think what people will say is, “How can you get an authoritarian, military leader… I’m not mentioning any names…How can you get an authoritarian, military leader to do something that seems so antithetical – to empower their people?” And I think the answer is that, in some sense, if they do not, they will not achieve what they seek, which is long-term stability and prosperity. There was an Economist article just out yesterday on an update of the UN Arab Development Report, which makes this very point. Unemployment in youth, disempowerment of youth, trapped in societies that don’t give them an opportunity, unable to travel – it’s a time bomb. And we really believe that these countries are going to have to understand and will over time understand they have to empower their people or they will push them into the streets and they will push them into the arms of the terrorists.
Mohyeldin: Madame Secretary, you made in your remarks – you used the expression, “incentivize some of the governments for reforms.” Do you think there should be punishment for these governments if they do not heed the warnings of their people or push through some of the reforms or some of the issues that the international community has set as standards for good governance?
Albright: Well, um, I teach a course on the national security toolbox – and we all have the same tools, whatever country. The bottom line is how to use them in some kind of syncopated way. The bottom line is if you’re never involved with a country, then you can’t take anything away. And therefore, I think there are ways that there can be – or through the international system – the International Monetary Fund or a variety or putting on a certain set of conditions. I do think that one should incentivize them, but also realize – and not just the United States, the community and this development bank that we’re talking about will, in fact, and should have the capability of – I hate to use any loaded words, but – “rewarding” those that actually are doing something. I also think it is a huge mistake not to say what we think, all of us. Steve very clearly said that Assad is somebody whose barbarous ways of behaving makes it very difficult to deal, in fact, when we know that a political settlement is important, but if all of a sudden, we think that it’s alright, then we undermine our own set of principles that then would incentivize, in so many ways, these people – the young people. And, by the way, we have also said that refugees are not just a burden, they can also be a very important resource for the societies in which they live. So, I think we have to tell it like it is, but at the same time, be supportive of those within the system that are willing to change.
Hadley: When we went to our trip in the region, we talked to some of the leaders of these countries and we said, “Look, we are going to say that you can’t crack down your way to stability and social peace. That you’ve got to open the door for your people, and we are also going to say that those countries that adopt those policies should be rewarded by the international community with financial assistance, technical support, and the like. Not because we’re punishing those countries that don’t, but because those countries that don’t will, quite frankly, be a bad investment. And we want to invest in those things that we are convinced are really the path to a more stable, secure, and prosperous Middle East. This is not about punishment, it is to reward and enable the kind of behavior that we think is going to lead to a more stable Middle East.
Mohyeldin: If we can, a little bit – not re-litigating the past, but as officials who have served in the US government, what mistakes has the US made in its policies in the region?
Albright: By the way, one of the things that we decided is that we would not blame each other for the past. I’ve had a harder time with that.
Mohyeldin: It’s hard to talk about the Middle East without American involvement, mistakes that have been made in the past, but what can we take from this report for us back here, for policymakers coming into the new administration and what have you, and what can we learn about what we can do?
Albright: Basically – I’m not trying to avoid answering this, but I worked for a president who read a lot, and who assigned books to us. So, one that President Clinton assigned to me was called The Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin. And the past is what has definitely haunted the whole area. The short version of the book is that the modern Middle East was created by the British and French bureaucracies lying to each other. And from then on, different ways that we were telling them what to do. I think that’s part of the mistakes that have gone on, and what we’ve been trying to figure out – and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about this – is how we can be supportive without being bossy. You know, without telling them all the time, “You’re doing it wrong, you’re doing this wrong.” We’ve learned – I think we have actually learned a lot from the mistakes by not understanding fully what is going on in the countries and thinking that we can march in and solve everything or pick the leaders. We can help them design their regulatory system, but we can’t say, “Do it the way the Americans do.” And I really do think the past has been very long and filled with mistakes – certainly before World War I but from World War I on, and we are all paying for the mistakes that have been made over those hundred years.
Mohyeldin: Steve, I’ll give you a chance as well.
Hadley: Well, I think the strategy laid out in the report reflects what we’ve learned. First thing we did was spend a lot of time trying to hear what the Middle East was saying so that we had some ground truth of what the expectations were of the region. I think what we found is that there’s a lot more to work with than we thought, and that’s the message we have for Washington. There’s a lot more going on than is present in the Washington debate, and it gives us something to work with, but it also allows us to, I think – something we’ve also learned from the past – the local countries and peoples need to own it, it has to be their vision, and it’s going to stand or fall on what they do to rebuild their own countries. We cannot – you know, nation-building is flawed in this sense. You cannot build another nation. The people and institutions in that nation are going to have to build it themselves. That’s what we’ve learned. And the question is, can we have a strategy that enables and empowers that effort so that people the people of the region can build those institutions.
Mohyeldin: I have to say, this is almost like the first time I’ve heard somebody in Washington say they want to “bet” on the people of the Middle East. That, in itself, is somewhat of a paradigm shift for Washington, DC.
Mohyeldin: I’m curious to get your thoughts based on this report, based on your findings – what happens when the will of the Arab people comes in contrast with the United States on issues of security, on issues of military involvement? That was an issue that was also in the report – enabling US military operations as a cornerstone of American foreign policy. What happens at that point – when there is that intersection of contrasting interests?
Albright: I do think that it will happen. And it happens with some of our best friends in Europe that we have spent a lot of time with. I think, then, the issue is how you use diplomatic means to have those discussions. And let me just say this – I have now been in so many meetings where somebody who thinks they’re really smart patronizes people in the Middle East. You know, calls them “camel drivers,” or whatever. I mean, I think basically, what is very important is to understand we are dealing with sovereign nations that do have different interests. Diplomacy, a great deal of the time, is putting yourself into the shoes of the other person and trying to recognize what their national interests are. And the bottom line is, I think, that as we went through this, I think we saw more and more aspects of common national interest. Basically, I think we’ve heard this a number of times – I have, in all my life – we can’t just say, “Some people are never ready for democracy. Some people don’t know how to govern themselves.” We’re all the same. And I think when people have the tools to do it, then we need to recognize it, but we also need to recognize we will have disagreements. But it can’t be zero-sum, it has to be where we can recognize what they’re doing. Steve explained what our US national interests are – it obviously does have to do with fighting terrorism and trying to be respectful of each other and education and not having crises all the time. I think if we put ourselves into the shoes of the people in those countries, they will have the same national interest.
Hadley: And I think in the short-run, what we hear from the region is very much what is in America’s interest. Nobody likes Daesh, or ISIS, in the region, and they want them out and they want this caliphate done away with. That’s an area of commonality. No one likes these civil wars and the wreckage they are imposing on their societies. We’ve got to get them. Well, that’s in our interest as well. They need more productive economies. Well, the Middle East can contribute to our economic growth and the economic growth of the globe as a whole. And finally, the aspirations we hear about what people in the region say they need for stability – there’s some polling data in the report that [shows] even those in the most sectarian countries like Syria and Iraq say the number one problem is the lack of inclusive governance in which all participate. Well, that’s very much consistent with American principles of how you build an inclusive and sustainable social order. So, if you look at the agenda in the Middle East now, we’re all pulling in the same direction. And down the road, there will be differences, and we will resolve those differences in the same way we resolve the differences we have with our closest allies. But fundamentally, what the region is saying they want is very much consistent with what is in American interests.
Mohyeldin: Okay, I’m going to open up to questions on the floor in just a minute. Just one or two more quick questions and then we’ll open it up to the floor for the rest of the discussion. I’d like to ask about two important issues in the Middle East: Iran – do you feel that the trends that you saw in this report are also applicable to Iran in terms of some of the comments that you got from young people in the region – in terms of what role Iran can play, in terms of its governance, and what not?
Albright: We may differ on this, but my sense, really, is that if you study the Iranian population, the population is very oriented towards change and education and being part of the world. They clearly have a governance issue – they have divisions there. I think we have to understand that. I do think that, from my perspective, the Iran nuclear deal is a very big deal because, in fact, it talks about common interests – it’s based on shared national interests in some way and I think that’s why we need to pursue it without, in fact, leaving out completely Iranian behavior in other places. But everything that I’ve heard about the Iranian population is, in fact, that they are forward-looking. We have a tendency to miss signals. In 1998, when Khatami was elected – I spent a lot of time on this – they missed signals that we were sending, we missed signals from them. So we need a better dialogue.
Hadley: I just would say that if the kind of change we’re talking about really takes root in places like the UAE and Tunisia and Saudi Arabia and Jordan and elsewhere, and ultimately begins to take root in Egypt, the Iranian people will be watching. And I think that kind of progress will give hope to the Iranian people that in their future, at some point, they will have an opportunity to take more responsibility for the future of their country. In some sense, it will keep hope alive in Iran.
Mohyeldin: And, final question to both of you on the Israel-Palestinian front: obviously, it’s always been a cornerstone of US engagement in the region, but also one of the biggest grievances that continues – that it has not been resolved yet – among Arab youth particularly. Did you get a sense that it remains a central issue for young Arabs across the region, or has the Arab world shifted beyond that particular conflict being resolved?
Albright: Interestingly enough, we did not spend a lot of time discussing that, but what is clear, having spent some time on this, is that basically, there are those who believe the Israeli-Palestinian issue is central to everything that’s ever gone wrong in the Middle East. That is not true, nor is it seen that way. It has to be resolved for its own purposes, but I think that it was not central. Clearly, in some of our discussions, I just know that people say, “Well, it’s all the fault of what’s happening in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.” That was clear that it was not – that it has to be resolved for its own purposes.
Can I just say, I don’t want you all to think that we have gone, kind of, “idealistically crazy,” and that everything will be fine. If you read this, you see that we have been very clear about the difficulties of this. We understand the importance of what is going on in the region; we know that we can’t walk away from it. It is against US national interest to walk away from it. So the question is, how do you segment it enough to be able to be problem-solvers on it? And I think what we have done – I hope that people see it this way – is a road map to get there. Now we have to make sure that the road map is taken out of the glove compartment and that there really is a look as to how it can be solved.
Hadley: Can I just say one thing – some of you who know me, you may be surprised that I would support the findings in this report. I’ve spent my whole life in government doing top-down stuff, you know, geopolitics and all the rest. And one of the things I’ve learned since I’ve left government – a lot of it from the US Institute of Peace, where I chair the board, a lot of it in connection with this – is the power of the bottom-up and the power of the people to be participants in their own future. And I was sort of dragged kicking and screaming to conclude that this really is the way forward for the region. It’s got to be top-down and bottom-up, and that’s what we tried. And as we say at USIP – from the inside-out. And that’s what we’ve tried to capture in this report.
Mohyeldin: I was actually going to ask you the final question, but you already answered it, which was, based on what you’ve learned in this report, what would you go back and tell your former self as National Security Advisor.
Hadley: “You made a lot of mistakes.”
Albright: I didn’t say that.
Hadley: I did.
Mohyeldin: Alright, well we’ll go ahead and open it up for questions. We’ll start from the front and work our way back. Go ahead, right here ma’am. If you can also tell us who you’re with, please, as well, that would be great.
Barbara Slavin: I will, thank you. I’m Barbara Slavin, from here at the Atlantic Council, where I chair a program on Iran, so good to hear your comments and always good to see both of you.
The question is about public diplomacy and, in particular, things like the international visitors program – the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that the United States has been famous for. How important is that? In general, what would you tell the next administration about giving visas to people to come from countries where, perhaps, we’ve had some differences in the past, like Iran? Should they allow their security concerns to overcome programs that have proven that they build goodwill for the United States? Thank you.
Hadley: I’ll take that. Look, after 9/11, for all kinds of understandable reasons, we really clamped down on people coming to the United States from the Arab World. And I think other people know this better, but I think the number of students coming from Saudi Arabia went down into the low thousands. And one of the things we concluded was: there is a way to balance your security leads and still have an open door to young people to come to this country. And I think there are now over 200,000 Saudis studying in this country. Well, the fact that you now, I think, have such support among Saudi youth for Vision 2030 is in part because of the experience we gave these young people when they came, studied in the United States, and then went home. And they are going to be the foot soldiers of bringing to fruition Vision 2030. So the message, I think, we would both send to this new administration is: there already is a lot of screening, if it needs to be toughened up for security reasons, that’s fine, but it is hugely in the interest of the United States to be investing in these youth and have these youth come over, participate in our society, be educated, and ultimately go home, because they will be agents of the kind of change that ultimately will bring the stability and security that is in our interest to have emerge in the Middle East.
Albright: Can I just add to that – I think that we have to be really careful not to participate in the fear factor. What just happened at Ohio State is very worrying, and the way that it is being interpreted is exceptionally worrying, and we have to understand that people in the region actually hear what people in the United States say. I am a professor – it makes a big difference when we have students [from] the region in the classes. And also, when Americans go to the various places. That is what the basis of all this is, and we cannot allow ourselves to be dominated by the fear factor. The vetting process is very long and very good and so I think that is where we just have to remember that there is an echo chamber to everything that is tweeted.
Mohyeldin: Yeah, we have to have confidence in our institutions and in our authorities.
Kim Ghattas: Good afternoon, Kim Ghattas with the BBC. Thank you very much for this report and this event. It’s heartening to hear Madame Secretary – what you just said about the Middle East, or the United States having often patronized the Middle East. I think it’s an overdue recognition that we, in the region, do have a part to play in advancing our own future. It does, however, seem to come at a rather inopportune time – at a time when in the United States, we have a president-elect who, from what we can see so far – although we don’t know much yet about the details of his policy towards the region, but from what we can see – will probably favor strongmen in the region. I’m not sure whether he will be open to the idea of empowering people in the region and that will have consequences for the abilities of people in the region to push for reform. So I’m curious to hear both of your views on whether you think President Trump will be open to this report and how and if you are already pushing that message with him and people around him.
Hadley: We don’t know. I think we have to give the president-elect some time to get his feet on the ground, to get his team in place, and to decide what his initiatives are going to be. We tried to point out in this report ways in which what we’re recommending is very consistent with some of the things he said. In terms of empowering people, we’re going to have to see. But one of the things, I think – two things I would say: presidents have preconceptions, but events matter and events drive them and events are teachers, sometimes, of hard lessons. So he will have some preconceptions and then he will put them into practice and events will tell. And, as I say, I think events will have the effect of driving him in certain directions.
Second thing is: the United States can do a lot – certainly for the top-down – resolving the civil wars, I think our role is going to be essential. We can do a lot to support the “prong two” – the second set of things we talked about. But the future of those really are going to be in the hands of the region. And, you know, you say it can have an impact, but this is a two-way street and the region has said they want to step up and take leadership and I would say, “Do it.” Do it, we will hope that the United States – the new administration – will support you, but don’t wait. You’ve got to take your future in your own hands.
One last anecdote, if I can say: a lot of people – one person who heard some of our views – came up to me and said, “Well, if you talk to the Saudis or the folks in UAE about whether they’re willing to surrender power to their people, at the end of the day, it’s all this window dressing.” We had one meeting with a minister who said, “Look, look at the demographics. Look at the youth. Look at what they are demanding. We have started a process and we understand that the destination of that process is that our people will have more of a hand in resolving our future.” The demographics are going to drive us there. That’s why I say facts are going to drive policies in some of these areas.
Albright: Can I also say, I think that what is important is the government is not the only actor in all of this.
Albright: The private sector can play a very large role, the educational institutions and also no longer doing Track 1 as I used to – I’m very much into Track 2, 3, 4, and 5. And there are any number of other ways to have these relationships and I think that is something that people should feel encouraged about.
Mohyeldin: Right here – this gentleman here. We’ll take a few more questions on this side and then I’ll come to this side of the room as well. Go ahead.
Odeh Aburdene: Odeh Aburdene, the Capital Trust Group. The major issue, as I see it, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs. As the population increases, that issue becomes more and more difficult. The region has a lot of capital, a lot of liquidity, yet the region has not created jobs. I just came back from China. In 1978, the per capita income in China was $155/year. Today, it’s above $7,000. In the Middle East, it’s the reverse. You talk about, “It’s not only for the government to inject itself and reform,” but if you look at the private sector in the final analysis, the private sector is dependent on these governments. Therefore, we need to create new entrepreneurs and to be an entrepreneur, you need to go beyond the culture of frailty, you have to go into the culture of taking risks. The banks in the Middle East are loaded with cash, but if you want to go and start a venture capital –
Mohyeldin: Sir, thank you very much, we want to get to some of the questions. Your point is very well taken, thank you very much. John Gannon, go ahead.
John Gannon: Thank you very much, it’s very nice to see you finally. I come from Georgetown University, I am formerly in the intelligence community. And going back – Madame Albright, you would know – in the 90s – and Steve also – there was hope, I thought, in the region, at that time. So when I look back, I’m doing it optimistically. I think in the period of the 90s and the Oslo Accords, right to ’98, when the negotiations collapsed, I thought we saw a lot of hope in the region being expressed by the people and, to some degree, by the governments. My sense is that we were also dealing with incentives – we weren’t trying to impose solutions (some could argue we were), but there were incentives there, certainly for the Palestinians and the Israelis to cooperate. But I think what we discovered was that governance really was the major issue that we were dealing with in that region. The demographics were quite similar at the time – we were talking about a youth bulge. And in the year 2000, when the CIA did a global trends study, we were talking about repressive Arab governments that were denying women education, denying their people participation in their economies, the youth bulge raising expectations of unemployment that governments couldn’t fulfill. So we talked about the crisis that was at hand and these governments didn’t respond, but at the end of the day, what we discovered is that the kind of exhortation about the need to do things differently runs into the harsh politics on the ground.
So I’m very interested to read fully the report that you’ve put together, but I’m wondering what – if you’re looking at a track 1, 2, 3, or 4 – in the track 1, where do you think the potential for the early successes that we haven’t been able to enjoy in getting the governments, particularly of these Arab states, to pay more attention to the aspirations of their people?
Albright: Well, I think the hardest part is to try to get across that governments actually will be better off if they empower their people – that the people are not the enemy and that they are the resource. And some of the governments and the leaders that we talked to got it, I think, and the question is it’s not the people versus the government. I do think that the issues here are some of education, but also of – first of all, I am Chairman of the National Democratic Institute, and this I can tell you – you cannot impose democracy. That is an oxymoron. What you have to do is to be able to try to figure out what is happening there and strengthen various parts of the civil society. I’ve found fascinating, in various places, where we met with civil society people, and not have them be seen as the enemy of the government. And those governments that are succeeding are those that, in fact, are able to see the strength of their people. Also, believe it or not, they do look to some of the Western governments for examples. So when we go and say, “It’s really important to build coalitions,” they say, “Yeah, like you guys?” So the bottom line is, I think that we can also give some better examples of how to move forward.
Hadley: John, you’re right. I ran across a letter that John Kennedy wrote to the Saudi King at the time saying, “We will support you on your security, but you need to do some governance reform.” So this has been a narrative. What’s different is that governments in the region and people in the region are focusing on governance and failures of governance as what led to Daesh and al-Qaeda. And therefore, the conclusion that you’ve got to remedy the governance if you’re going to be rid of Daesh and al-Qaeda over the long-term. That’s what’s new – the people get it. Jobs, jobs – right. Read Chris Schroeder’s chair report of his working group. Basically, that is right. We talk about Big Bang regulatory reform to open space for entrepreneurs and innovation. Those kinds of reforms also open space for small and medium enterprise to form. And, of course, that’s what really provides jobs in these economies. So, the regulatory reform is critical to get at the underlying problem of jobs.
Mohyeldin: Let’s come to this side of the room. Abdulrahim Fukara you had a question? Just behind you, and then I’ll come to you right afterwards, sir.
Abdulrahim Fukara [Al Jazeera]: First of all, between your excess facial hair and my lack of follicle hair, we can get to some balanced hair. A question about, specifically, what you said about Syria, Mr. Hadley. The repercussions on Europe, as you describe them, the extent of Russia’s involvement in Syria – why should people in the region listen to what you’ve just said and say, “Yeah, what they’re saying is still relevant”?
Hadley: Well, people can listen or not, as they see fit. I think what we heard from the region was, “We need your help if we’re going to get these conflicts resolved.” And one of the things that was done in Ken Pollack’s study – it’s very interesting data on how do these civil wars end. And a number of them end because outside powers have come in, either on one side to win or to deadlock the conflict so that the participants realize that the cost is going up and they don’t have a route to their preferred outcome and therefore, they decide to try to bring the violence down. And if we’re right about our formula, and if it works, I think the sense we have from the region is people would support it.
Mohyeldin: This lady right here.
Fay Moghtader: Thank you, Atlantic Council. I’m Fay Moghtader, I’m a member of the Atlantic Council. Madame Secretary, it’s an honor to have you in here. You mentioned earlier about the Iranian youth. I just want to let you know that as an Iranian-American, we have tried for the past three years to facilitate a conference between University of Berkeley and the Iranian University Sharif and we’re going to have one coming up in Barcelona December 8 through 10. And this is just to empower the entrepreneurs in Iran. Again, when you mentioned the fact that there is more than 65 percent Iranian youth in Iran – pro-West, specifically America, much more so than many of our allies in the region. If the newly-elected president decided to impose more sanctions on Iran and derail the agreement, I think the very particular population that they will be hurt will be the Iranian youth. So what do you think about that? Thank you.
Albright: Well, I think that I have – first of all, I’ve made clear that I think that the agreement is a good one and worth pursuing. I think that we have to be careful in terms of just punishing without knowing, I mean, from what I have read, the IAEA, as it notifies the Security Council, points out a couple of problems on heavy water and on the reactors. They mitigate that, they take care of it. I think we have to – it is an agreement that has a lot of eyes on, and by just loading up to put on sanctions, for me, as far as I’m concerned, is not useful. The question is, frankly, the following – and I go back to my toolbox – is whether if Congress threatens to, whether that’s, kind of, a spurring on, a Damocles sword, but doesn’t impose them. But I do think that we should be looking at the behavior and decide that it is a good step forward, specifically on the nuclear issues, but also as a way of opening up.
And I just want to say one thing – in ’98, when we were going through our ways of trying to deal with the Iranian government – I often tell this, but it is worth telling the story – we did not know who was who. And I was having a meeting with Kharazi, who had been the Deputy, uh, Perm Rep when I was. We get into the room and I look at him and I think, Well, he doesn’t look exactly the way he did before, but neither do I. And so I said, “Isn’t it great when the UN ambassador becomes the foreign minister?” Nothing. Then I say, “Isn’t it terrific if you’ve actually been here and you know where everything is?” Nothing. So I turn to our bench of Iranian experts and I said, “Is that Kharazi?” And they said, “We don’t know.” And that is a sign that we, just having the contact is something that’s important. And, by the way, it wasn’t Kharazi and it was not –
Mohyeldin: That explains so much!
Albright: Until Kofi [Annan] came in and said, “It’s the Deputy Foreign Minister.” But just a sign – we have to understand who we’re talking to. And those discussions, in that field, I think have been helpful.
Mohyeldin: We have time for one last question – we’ll take this gentleman right here. … Can you just wait one second for the microphone? Go ahead sir.
Hossein Seifzadeh: This is Hossein Seifzadeh, I was a professor at the University of Tehran. They purged me because I followed you and you supported our liberalism in Iran. I’m scared a little bit [of] what you said and what Dennis Ross said and what many places have said – that I think there is a liberalism into it –
Hadley: Could you hold the mic closer to your mouth?
Seifzadeh: Okay, I believe in your idealistic philosophy, which is very pragmatic but is idealist. I believe when Kennedy came, he started, you see, the White Revolution in Iran. I was eleven years old. I was imprisoned when I was fourteen years old. Kennedy’s revolution created a kind of guerilla war – radicalism – and made Khomeini extremist. When Carter came to power, Carter started to, let’s say, democratize Iran. But he liberalized Iran, and so many got imprisoned. And then I was the only person at the University of Tehran talking about liberalism, democracy, and unfortunately I was purged and I was interrogated many times. Why? I think Iran – which is the most developed country, there is philosophy. Even in Turkey, there is not philosophy – I’ve gone to twenty-two countries. There is no civil society. The public’s fear is imprisoned by the government. How do you want to do – I have been to twenty-two countries of the Middle East, I’ve talked to them. In Saudi Arabia, when I go for pilgrimage, they hit me, “Go for prayer! Go for prayer! Go for prayer!”
Seifzadeh: And say you are [inaudible], you see. But you think that now Iran and the United States – as an Iranian-American, I say – they are, let’s say, have tacit bargaining to fight against Daesh, against Al-Qaeda against al-Nusra, al-Hijra, all of them. But now you say that we have to contain Iran, and so who pays the money for [inaudible], al-Nusra, Al-Tatweer, al-Qaeda, al-Taliban, all of them. Who pays?
Mohyeldin: Thank you very much.
Hadley: Let me just say, this report is really not focused on, “How do you promote change in Iran?” It is addressing another set of issues and there are people in the audience more expert on that. I would just say, on the Iran point, this: I was not a big, enthusiastic supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, but I think that even critics of the regime, of the deal, are concluding that tearing it up is not the right course for the United States. Making sure Iran stays in the agreement – Madeleine and I both agree about that. But Iran’s nefarious action in the region – what they are doing in Iraq and Syria and Yemen – has to be addressed. It has to be addressed. There are dumb ways to do it, there are smart ways to do it – I hope we will do it in a smart way – but it is going to have to be addressed.
I would also just – I think, sometimes, pursuing our ideals and standing up for our ideals is the height of realism if you really want to move towards a stable, secure, and prosperous future. So we don’t apologize for the idealistic piece of this, because we think, in the current situation of the Middle East, it’s the height of realism.
Mohyeldin: Madame Secretary, I’ll give you the last word.
Albright: Let me just say that I’m very happy to see everybody here. We were asked a question at some point as to how this would be transmitted to the new administration. I don’t think I’m the one to walk in there, but the bottom line is that I do think that what is important is to spread the word. We are going to be spending a lot of time on this. We are looking for follow-on projects, specifically. We think that what we need to do is to be part of – what this democracy’s about is creating the infrastructure for various of these ideas to be taken forward. And I repeat what we said at the beginning – this is going to take a long time and it is important to the people of America. Remembering what our principles are and making very clear what we believe in while we’re also pushing for some – I agree with [Hadley] about our principles [being] the most realistic approach to this. And so we are, you know Steve and I are in this for quite a long time and truly have developed a fabulous friendship. And I do think that having a bipartisan or nonpartisan approach to this, where we take it more and more to various layers of the public and to go to the Hill and spend time with journalists and to really explain that there’s not any – this is not “pie in the sky,” this is very realistic, it is a road map, and it needs the help of the people in this room, and as we spread it, since I do think that the next administration – like all American administrations – actually does listen to public opinion. So thank you all very much for being here.
Mohyeldin: We’re just going to ask everybody just to stay seated for a few more minutes. I’m going to ask Mr. Steve Grand to come up, we have one video presentation. Madame Secretary and Steven Hadley, thank you both very much. Thank you.
Stephen Grand: We wanted to close with a short video clip. As you’ve heard, we tried to highlight in the report some of the many positive things that are often missed happening in the Middle East by Western observers. With that in mind, we organized a video contest – this is, after all, the age of social media. We organized a video contest and encouraged individuals and organizations in the Middle East to submit short YouTube clips about things they found inspiring. You can find some of the best submissions featured on our website, which is mest.atlanticcouncil.org. We wanted to play for you now the prize-winning video, which was produced by two Syrian brothers, Ahmed and Amjad Wardeh.
*** A Goal for Syria video plays ***
Grand: We apologize for the visuals on that. For those who were not able to see the subtitles of that, I would encourage you to go to the website, mest.atlanticcouncil.org to see it in its entirety. Before we conclude, we would encourage you to take a copy of the report, if you have not done so already. And as the co-chairs suggested, please spread the word. Finally, I would ask you to join me in thanking first, our moderator for today, Ayman Mohyeldin, and second, our two fabulous co-chairs, Secretary Albright and Steve Hadley. They have both given us hours and hours of their time over the last eighteen months to produce today’s report and to bring us all together for this event. So thank you to them as well. Thank you again, everyone, for coming.