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Research Report

Mind the Gap:: The United States Europe and the Middle East

Dalia Dassa Kaye
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2004
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 49

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 5-7)

    The Middle East is arguably the epicenter of all major global strategic questions of the day. Americans and Europeans alike view the instability emanating from the Middle East as the most critical security challenge of the 21st century.¹ The focus on Middle East issues at the major international meetings in June 2004 (the G-8, NATO and US-EU summits) underscored the importance of this region and its centrality to transatlantic relations. Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to explore key Middle East case studies to provide lessons for larger questions of transatlantic relations after 9/11 and the Iraq war.² The...

  4. (pp. 9-15)

    Beginning with the 1956 Suez War, influence in the Middle East began to shift from Europe to the United States. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the British withdrawal from Aden in 1971, the United States assumed the primary leadership role in the region, from the Middle East peace process to Gulf security. Europe’s colonial legacy and weakness in the US-Soviet superpower rivalry limited Europe’s role in the region to that of supporting US policy, although certain European states (particularly France) continued to play a lead role in some areas, such as North Africa.⁴

    Although the Americans and Europeans diverged...

  5. (pp. 17-23)

    Why do the US and Europe disagree so often on critical foreign and security policies in the Middle East? The answer is not just a matter of contrasting power positions, different domestic constituencies or the policies of a particular US administration. The differences exist because of the fundamentally different way each side views the world based on historical experience. Such experience forms contrasting narratives that shape respective perceptions, approaches and solutions to policy problems.26

    The most well known explanation for transatlantic divergence comes from Robert Kagan.27 Kagan argues that America and Europe are parting ways largely because of differences in...

  6. (pp. 25-30)

    The Europeans have traditionally played a limited role in the Middle East peace process (MEPP), with the US largely taking the lead. Until the 1991 Madrid peace conference, Europe played virtually no role at all beyond declaratory statements (most notably, the 1980 Venice Declaration).38 The absence of a unified European voice and the Israeli perception of a European pro-Arab bias combined to shut the Europeans out of peace processing and solidified the dominant role of the United States, as evidenced in its brokering of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1979.

    With the Madrid and Oslo processes in the 1990s, the...

  7. (pp. 31-37)

    Before 9/11 and the Iraq war, WMD proliferation was not a central transatlantic focus, despite ongoing concern about Iraq’s activities in the 1990s and efforts to create a regional arms control regime in the early 1990s in the multilateral peace track. However, given the US administration’s focus on WMD as a central rationale for its invasion of Iraq and for its strategy of preemption as outlined in the US National Security Strategy in the fall of 2002, WMD proliferation quickly became a core issue on the transatlantic agenda. The American view that WMD in the hands of international terrorists posed...

  8. (pp. 39-52)

    In the June 2004 G-8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia, the United States unveiled — after months of diplomacy in Europe and the Middle East — its ‘Broader Middle East Initiative’ (formerly referred to as the Greater Middle East (GME) Initiative and officially renamed the ‘Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa’), a plan to support political, economic and social reform in the region. The European response to the initiative has been cautious. Despite the common perception among Europeans that they have been in the business of democracy promotion...

  9. (pp. 53-53)

    None of the major problems in the Middle East today — terrorism, proliferation, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, regional reform — can be solved by one power alone. Neither the United States nor Europe, working each on its own, can foster a stable, democratic, and prosperous Middle East. Building cooperation on areas identified in this paper will not entirely narrow the transatlantic divide nor avoid future crises, but it can contribute to a more pragmatic and hopefully constructive approach toward a region that is likely to affect global stability — and the personal security of millions — for some time to...

  10. (pp. 55-55)