U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Ten Years after the Gulf War

April 17, 2003

Conference Overview

This report draws on a conference held at the Carnegie Council headquarters on February 15, 2001. The conference, co-sponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, was attended by Israelis, Arabs, Europeans, and Americans. Some were scholars. Others were policy practitioners. Still others were religious leaders. All were working to bring about sustainable peace in the Middle Eastern region. In the months since the conference was held, much has changed, both in the Middle East and around the world. It is the Council's hope that this report will offer helpful ways to think about more recent events.

Ten years ago, the United States ended the Gulf War without removing Saddam Hussein from power. At the same time, then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker convinced the Arabs and Israelis to enter into a sustained negotiation process concerning the future of the Middle Eastern region. Conference participants were asked to evaluate the past ten years of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Specifically, they were asked to address:

  • What motivations drive U.S. policy in the region?

  • What ideas and interests shape U.S. foreign policy?

  • Can those interests and ideas be assessed within a normative framework?

  • Also, what are the consequences of this engagement? Has the United States contributed to the creation of a prosperous, peaceful, and stable Middle East? Or have its policies led to greater instability, lack of economic growth, and continued violence?

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