Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), speaking at the Brookings Institution today, outlined an ambitious agenda for political, economic, and educational reform in the Middle East. His proposal called for the establishment of the Greater Middle East 21st Century Trust that would pool money from G-8 countries and rich countries in the Middle East.
Lugar's plan is an effort to engage countries in the Middle East in eradicating global terrorism and replacing what Lugar called the region's "pervasive repression, intolerance and stagnation" with "freedom, democracy and prosperity."
Under Lugar's plan, the G-8 and donor countries in the Middle East would set broad goals based in part on high-priority needs identified by Arab scholars. Specific programs would be proposed by the recipient countries themselves, and accepted or rejected by the Trust based on the standards it sets.
"We must be prepared to use our considerable leverage with allies inside and outside the region to promote truly democratic reforms and political freedom, not simply maintain the status quo," Lugar said.
The Trust is modeled after existing programs such as the Millennium Challenge Account, the G-8 Africa Action Plan, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which Lugar said "represent a new form of social compact between governments and donors that does not superimpose a plan from donors but, instead, works with the recipient countries to plan and set priorities." He hopes his plan will be presented at the G-8's June Summit in Sea Island, Georgia.
Lugar, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believes that the partnership will not only revitalize and reform the region, but also improve relations between the United States and Arab countries.
"The Trust would not only increase development funding to the region," Lugar said, "but would also provide an opportunity for the G-8 countries to work alongside countries in the Greater Middle East toward common goals, instead of arguing over old disputes." Lugar hopes that reforms would include the development of industries besides oil, expanded rights for women, less state control over economies, and more research in science, technology, and engineering.
Lugar said he had presented his proposal to White House officials several days ago and hoped the Bush administration would embrace his plan as part of an overall agenda for global peace and prosperity.
The Trust's success, Lugar conceded, requires the stability and security in the region, and he called on NATO to play a greater role in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He proposed a program called "Cooperation for Peace," modeled on NATO's highly successful Partnership for Peace in Central and Eastern Europe. The program would "promote strong military-to-military relations with Greater Middle East countries."
The "quartet" currently overseeing the Middle East peace process—the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations—should be made a "sextet," Lugar said, with the addition of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This "would give the Palestinians more confidence in any proposal that comes forth, and give all countries in the region a grater stake in both the specifics of new peace proposal and in the efforts to follow through on their implementation." The nations in the region "cannot continue to expect the U.S. to address these issues on their behalf, and then complain that the U.S. is not doing it right."
Lugar was optimistic that his plan will uplift a troubled region. "We can extend our idealism to create broad opportunities for millions of people to enjoy more promising lives for themselves and their children," Lugar said. "Let us answer the call of those in the Middle East and work with them."