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Experts Say Next President Must Appoint Mideast Envoy

A 34-member group of Middle East foreign policy experts urged on Monday that the next president of the United States make one of his first priorities the appointment of a special envoy to the Middle East.

The envoy would promote the peace process and press for an end to the escalating arms race in the region.

The Presidential Study Group on U.S. Policy in the Middle East warned that the danger of a new war in the region is increasing because of the arms race and the end of the Iran-Iraq War.

The study group is co-chaired by former Vice President Walter Mondale and Lawrence Eagleburger, former undersecretary of state for political affairs.

They spoke at a news conference at which the report, prepared under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was released. The group, which includes representatives of the various presidential contenders in the spring primary campaign, has been working on the study since last October.

Mondale said the Middle East envoy must be seen as having the confidence of both the president and the secretary of state. He said the next president cannot “rush into anything without a road map and a sense of direction,” which he indicated it would be the task of the special envoy to provide.

“At the same time, the president can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen, because those things can be very dangerous and damaging to anyone,” Mondale said.

Gov. Michael Dukakis, in a Sept. 7 speech to B’nai B’rith International, pledged to appoint a special envoy.

Eagleburger, a Republican, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he believes Vice President George Bush would take a “hard look” at the proposal.

The former undersecretary said he believes factors increasing the threat of a new war in the Middle East include Syria’s continued insistence that the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be resolved by force and its acquisition of new offensive weapons.

He said Syria had recently acquired intermediate-range surface-to-surface missiles from China and SU-24 fighter aircraft from the Soviet Union. Moreover it has developed what he called “an indigenous chemical warfare capability.”

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