McDonough: Arab Spring ‘works’ for U.S., allies

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is invested in nurturing the "Arab Spring," said Denis McDonough, the deputy national security adviser.

"While the change in the Middle East is working against Iran, it is our belief that it can and will work for the United States," McDonough told a Washington Institute for Near East Policy retreat. "A more democratic region will ultimately be more stable for us and our friends."

McDonough named four countries that the administration perceived as advancing toward democracy: Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has expressed skepticism about the benefits of the democratization movement, particularly in Egypt, because of the concomitant rise of Islamic parties.

The Obama administration has engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other actors in Egypt following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago. McDonough said such parties were unlikely to impose dictatorships.

"Any government today is going to press towards greater transparency," he said. "As a result of more powers to individuals, more powers to Egyptians, even if someone wants to be dictatorial its going to be difficult."

McDonough said the administration was making clear to the Egyptians that preserving the peace treaty with Israel was critical to maintaining the relationship with the United States, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual assistance.

McDonough also said that the Obama and Netanyahu governments coordinated closely on strategies to isolate Iran, and reiterated the administration’s commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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