Ten Questions for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Middle East

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs tomorrow to testify on U.S. policy in the Middle East. This hearing presents an important opportunity for greater clarity on the Bush administration’s strategy for Iraq, Iran, and the role of tough, clear-minded diplomacy in strengthening U.S. security and regional stability as the administration enters its last 15 months.

This period is as critical as any has been, and the United States must take a more active role in advancing Middle East progress, as the Center has argued in its Middle East Bulletin and Strategic Reset plan.

Here are 10 key questions lawmakers should ask Secretary Rice, along with links to articles in the Middle East Bulletin with resources that help provide answers to some of these questions:

1. End goals. What are our overall strategic objectives in the Middle East? By the end of your term in office, what are the best and most realistic outcomes the United States hopes to achieve in the region?

2. Arab-Israeli conflict and the upcoming Annapolis summit. Why is it in U.S., Israeli, Palestinian, and broader Arab interests to ensure success at the upcoming Annapolis summit?

How is the Bush administration defining success, and what are we doing to ensure that we—and the parties—meet our objectives for it?

How does working to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict help the U.S. increase options and leverage with respect to the region as a whole, and more specifically, regional dynamics vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran?

For more information, see:

3. Diplomatic Tools in Consideration. Please detail the full range of diplomatic tools available and being considered, implemented, or rejected for the following situations. Building a regional framework within which we might increase our leverage for bringing about political reconciliation inside Iraq. Exploring every possible option with respect to changing Iran’s behavior to halt/reverse its nuclear weapons program development. And exploiting every possible option with respect to changing Syria’s behavior toward Lebanon and halt/reverse its support for Hezbollah.

For more information on Iraq, please see:

  • A Regional Solution,” by Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Original Commentary for the Middle East Bulletin, September 5, 2007
  • The U.N.’s Role in Iraq,” by Carlos Pascual and Brian Cullin, Middle East Bulletin, September 5, 2007 

For more information on Iran, please see:

4. Turkey. How is the United States working with this strategically central ally to deal with the major challenges in the Middle East? What role can the AKP, as an Islamist party running a democracy in the region, serve in the region? What can the United States do to help Turkey deal with the PKK?

How likely is a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq? How would such an incursion affect dynamics within Iraq and the region, as well as our broader regional policy? What steps are we taking to prevent such an occurrence?   

For more information, see:

5. Iraqi refugee crisis. How are we using our diplomatic tools to solve or ease the severe Iraqi refugee crisis, especially in neighboring states like Syria and Jordan?

What are our options for dealing with a further increase in Iraqi refugees, as seems likely?

For more information, see:

  • Stretching the Limits,” by Kristele Younes, Advocate, Refugees International, Original Commentary for the Middle East Bulletin, September 14, 2007

6. Addressing the challenges posed by Lebanon. What is our policy for overcoming the longstanding political deadlock in Lebanon? How can U.S. engagement with Syria be used to encourage Lebanon’s democracy?

Describe the military assistance program to the Lebanese armed forces. How does this program fit into our broader political efforts in Lebanon?

For more information, see:

  • “Lebanon for Lebanon’s Sake,” By Rep. David Price (D-NC), Chairman of the House Democracy Assistance Commission and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, original Commentary for Middle East Bulletin, June 29, 2007

7. Role of Egypt. What is Egypt’s role in the region?

Has it been strengthened or weakened in the last five years? Please discuss the internal political situation in Egypt, with reference to democratic reform, the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the role of heir apparent Gamal Mubarak.

For more information, see:

8. Role of Saudi Arabia. What role does the U.S. envision for Saudi Arabia in the region?

What is the administration’s view on Saudi cooperation with Iran in attempting to broker political settlements in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories?

For more information, see:

9. Support for Jordan. Assess Jordan’s geopolitical situation. How does the U.S. plan to relieve the pressure on Jordan emanating from Iraq and the Palestinian territories?

For more information, see:

10. The status of the freedom agenda. How can the United States more effectively advance democracy in the region, especially within states aligned with U.S. interests? What are key steps to working with pragmatic allies toward building and strengthening reform institutions and agendas?

Mara Rudman and Brian Katulis are senior fellows who work on Middle East Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress.