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Speaker goes behind headlines on U.S., Middle East relationships

Photo By: COURTESY Of Stanford School of Communications
Photo Courtesy Of Stanford School Of Communications

Janine Zacharia, current Carlos Kelley McClatchy Visiting Lecturer at Stanford University, shared her experiences as an international journalist in the Middle East with The Morning Forum Lecture Series audience May 21.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the Washington Post December 2009 through April 2011, Zacharia discussed the role of the United States in Israel, Egypt and Syria offering an enlightening, if pessimistic, outlook.

The U.S. has intervened extensively in the Middle East in the 10 years beginning with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she said. Most European countries want the United States to continue to take the lead, but economic conditions and its diminishing resources may dampen U.S. involvement. What will be the benchmark for future U.S. intervention, she asked.

Zacharia discussed an example of the complexity of this problem by citing the uprising in Egypt in January 2011 that led to the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

According to Zacharia, the United States was caught off guard, believing its own intelligence data that President Mubarak was strong and could withstand the uprising. Israel urged the United States to call for the continuance of Mubarak’s regime. The U.S. did so, but Mubarak was out of power within a month, replaced by Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Zacharia said Egypt’s economy is bleak in the wake of the revolution. The new leaders are not sophisticated in economics, she said.

The uprising, known as the Arab Spring, has spread to other Middle East countries, including Syria. The Syrian government has already killed 70,000 people in an attempt to put down the revolution, Zacharia noted.

The difficult decision for the U.S., she said, is whether to intervene by sending troops, humanitarian aid or arms to rebels who may be supporters of Al Qaeda? To date, the Obama administration has not taken a public position.

When asked her opinion of the appropriate role for the U.S., Zacharia said, “I would like to see a coherent plan. The U.S. has to be a leader in the Middle East.”

The Morning Forum of Los Altos is a members-only lecture series held at Los Altos Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave. For membership details and more information, visit www.morningforum.org.

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