President Bush Discusses Importance of Freedom in the Middle East
"A great new era is unfolding before us. This new era is founded on the equality of all people before God. This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed -- and deliver equal justice under the law. And this new era offers hope for the millions across the Middle East who yearn for a future of peace and progress and opportunity."
Fact Sheet: Progress in the Middle East: Freedom, Prosperity, and Hope
President Bush Outlines Where We Have Been, Where We Are Today, And Where The Region Can Go In The Years Ahead
Today, President Bush attended the Saban Forum to discuss American policy in
the Middle East the past, the present, and his vision for the future.
The President believes that no region is more fundamental to the security of America
or the peace of the world than the Middle East: a free, peaceful Middle East will
represent a source of promise, a home of opportunity, and a vital contributor
to the prosperity of the world. Despite some frustrations and disappointments,
the Middle East in 2008 is freer, more hopeful, and more promising than in 2001,
with Israelis and Palestinians on the path to a two-state solution, 25 million
Iraqis free from a brutal dictatorship, and many other examples of a brighter
future to come.
In 2001, in the Holy Land, the collapse of the Camp David II peace talks
had given way to the second Intifada, killing more than 500 Israelis and Palestinians,
and neither side could envision a return to negotiations or the realistic possibility
of a two-state solution. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had begun his third decade
as dictator. The Arab Human Development Report revealed high unemployment, poor
education, high mortality rates for mothers, and almost no investment in technology.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States realized that we were in
a struggle with fanatics pledged to our destruction. We saw that repression
and despair on the other side of the world could bring suffering and death
to our own streets. With these new realities in mind, America reshaped our
approach to the Middle East.
Supporting Allies, Isolating Adversaries, And Extending Freedom
In response to the 9/11 attacks, President Bush fundamentally reshaped our
approach to the Middle East, based on three principles. We will defend our
friends, our interests, and our people against any hostile attempt to dominate
the Middle East whether by terror, blackmail, or the pursuit of weapons
of mass destruction.
President Bush took the offensive against the terrorists overseas, to
break up extremist networks and deny them safe havens. President Bush
strengthened partnerships with each nation that joined in the fight against
terror. The United States deepened our security cooperation with allies like
Jordan, Egypt, and our friends in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia became a determined
partner in the fight against terror killing or capturing hundreds of
al Qaeda operatives. We expanded counterterrorism cooperation with partners
in North Africa. In addition, we have left no doubt that we would stand by
our closest ally in the Middle East the state of Israel.
The President made clear that hostile regimes must end their support
for terror and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or face
the concerted opposition of the world. This is the approach the President
took with Iraq, Libya, and Iran.
While President Bush has made clear that Saddam Hussein was not connected
to the 9/11 attacks, his decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be
viewed in isolation from the attacks. It was clear to President Bush,
members of both political parties, and many leaders around the world that
after 9/11, we could not risk allowing a sworn enemy of America to have
weapons of mass destruction, as intelligence agencies around the world
believed Saddam did. The Administration went to the United Nations, which
unanimously passed Resolution 1441 calling on Saddam Hussein to disclose
and disarm, and offered Saddam Hussein a final chance to comply with the
demands of the world. When he refused, the President acted with a coalition
of nations to protect the American people and liberated 25 million Iraqis.
The President confronted Libya over its WMD program. Within days
of Saddam's capture, Libya's leader, Colonel Qaddafi, announced that Libya
had halted its WMD program and would turn over to the United States or
destroy its centrifuges, longest-range missiles, and other deadly equipment.
Libya's nuclear weapons equipment is now locked away in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Moreover, the Administration persuaded Libya to renounce terrorism and
accept responsibility for prior acts of terror, and normalized relations
with Libya as a result of its actions.
Working with international partners, we have imposed tough sanctions
and supported multiple UN resolutions against Iran for its failure to
suspend enrichment. We have offered Iran diplomatic and economic incentives
to suspend enrichment, and we have promised to support a peaceful civilian
nuclear power program. While Iran has not accepted these offers, we have
made our bottom line clear: For the safety of our people and the peace
of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons.
President Bush identified lack of freedom as the principal cause of
threats coming from the Middle East. The War on Terror is an ideological
struggle. To advance security and moral interests, America is working to advance
freedom and democracy as the great alternative to repression and terror. The
President is pressing nations across the region including our friends
to respect fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech, worship,
association, and assembly. The President is supporting the rise of vibrant
civil societies and the promotion of freedom through new efforts, including
the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the Broader Middle East and North
The President is advancing a broader vision of liberty that includes
economic prosperity, quality health care and education, and women's rights.
This Administration has negotiated new free trade agreements in the region,
supported Saudi Arabia's accession to the World Trade Organization, and
proposed a new Middle East Free Trade Area. We are training Middle Eastern
school teachers, translating children's books into Arabic, and helping young
people get visas to study in the United States. Millennium Challenge agreements
signed with Jordan and Morocco grant U.S. assistance in return for anti-corruption
measures, free market policies that promote economic freedom, policies to
govern justly and democratically, and investments in health and education.
We are encouraging Middle Eastern women to get involved in politics, start
their own businesses, and take charge of their health through wise practices
like breast cancer screening.
President Bush Is The First American President To Call For A Palestinian
To advance these principles, President Bush has launched a sustained initiative
to help bring peace to the Holy Land. The President has a vision of Palestine
and Israel, living side-by-side in peace and security. Building support for
the two-state solution has been one of the President's highest priorities. But
the President made clear that no Palestinian state could be born of terror,
and he backed Prime Minister Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. The United States
has included Arab leaders, because their support will be essential for a lasting
Last fall, President Bush hosted a historic summit at Annapolis to bring
everyone together to start substantial negotiations. While they have not
yet produced an agreement, important progress has been made, and there is
now greater international consensus than at any point in recent memory. Israelis,
Palestinians, and Arabs all recognize that the creation of a peaceful, democratic
Palestinian state is in their interest. Through the Annapolis process, they
have started down a path that will end with the two-state solution finally
Since The President Took Office, The Middle East Has Become More Free, Hopeful,
While challenges remain in the Middle East, the changes over the past eight
years herald the beginning of something historic and new. Iraq has gone
from an enemy of the United States to an ally. For the first time in three decades,
the people of Lebanon are free from Syria's military occupation. Places like
the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are emerging as centers of commerce and
models of modernity. The regime in Iran is facing greater pressure from the
international community than ever before. Terrorist organizations like al Qaeda
have failed in their attempts to take over nations and are increasingly facing
Political and economic reforms are advancing across the Middle East.
Several Arab nations have held free elections in recent years. Women have
run for office in several nations and been named to important government positions
in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Trade and foreign
investment have expanded. Several nations have opened private universities,
and Internet use has risen sharply. Expectations about government responsiveness
are rising. People are defying the condescending view that the culture of
the Middle East is unfit for freedom.