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by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Text: us middle east mccain/20130606 _us_middleeast_mccain_transcript
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor

In a recent speech at the Brookings Institution, Senator John McCain reviewed the growing sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and urged the Obama administration to take the lead in supporting the moderate forces striving for freedom in the region.

He reflected on his numerous trips to the region and his discussions with leaders of the moderate forces vying for political power in Syria, Iraq, and other countries. The conflict in Syria is, he said, at the heart of the matter. Assad’s government, backed by Iran, Russia, and Shia militants, is winning the struggle against opposition forces. He noted that 80,000 Syrians are dead and one-fourth of the population is homeless as a result of the conflict. Syrian refugees are flooding into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, straining the resources and potentially the stability of those regimes.

Throughout the region, McCain noted, Al-Qaeda affiliated extremist groups seek to fill political vacuums. “The space for moderate politics is collapsing,” he warned, “as the Middle East descends into extremism and conflict.” The region, he said, is undergoing a period of upheaval not seen since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

He reminded his audience that the U.S. has enduring interests in the region that transcend oil and energy sources. The United States cannot safely “pivot away” from the region. The U.S. should provide whatever assistance it can—short of military troops— to support moderate forces in the region.

McCain’ concluded that the Arab Spring, without American leadership, may produce a Middle East more unstable and more hostile to American interests.End.

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