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Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call with Richard N. Haass

The New Middle East

Author: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
April 11, 2007
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IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call Series. As many of you know, our goal is to provide a nonpartisan forum for discussion on issues at the nexus of religion and foreign policy. We are pleased to have Council President Richard Haass with us today to lead the discussion on the changing face of the Middle East and its implications for the region and the world. And as you know, Dr. Haass, the Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative is his brainchild. This is one of four constituencies that we are reaching out to and our goal is to make the Council a resource for all of you and to broaden the discussion on the role of foreign policy and the intersection of religion.

So you all have Dr. Haass' bio. I will not go on at great length, but prior to this he was director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of State and he was the principal adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell. We have circulated two of his recent articles in Foreign Affairs and the Wall Street Journal that talk about the Middle East. So Richard, thanks for being with us today and thank you for your vision to kick off this initiative. I'll turn over to you to talk about, give us an overview of what's going on in the Middle East and what you think the implications are for U.S. foreign policy and then we can open it up for an exchange.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Thank you Irina and thanks all of you for your interest in this subject and in this program. I will not filibuster, I will keep it short because there's so much talent on the line that I'd rather hear from you all than hear from me. Let me say a few things to kick things off and then again we'll open it up.

When I look at the world, which is kind of what I do for a living, when I look at the Middle East, it is my sense that it is one of the two regions that will, for better or worse, shape the future, at least for the next few decades, along with Asia. But that's where the similarity ends. I actually think the challenge of Asia is more opportunity; you've got all this great power dynamism, you've got China, Japan, India, what have you, and the challenge there for people in the business, if you will, is to make sure that this, all these rising and jockeying powers and nothing gets out of hand. That Asia in the twenty-first century doesn't become in any way, Europe of the twentieth century. And I think there's a pretty good chance that things will work out.

That's not the subject of today, but I simply offer that up by way of contrast with the Middle East, which is not a part of the world that has great powers, but more important the dynamism of the region is more negative than positive. And when I look at the Middle East I see it as a part of the world with tremendous actual and potential influence, but alas I see it as more negative than positive. The energy dependence, it's more something that potentially is a source of financial or strategic vulnerability for the outside world, the money front that we pay for energy. In many cases, funds, activities, or governments, that's to be generous, are anything but attractive or constructive. It's a part of the world that an awful lot of the world's terrorists live in. Where terrorism, to some extent, emanates from, or is practiced on a daily level. It's a part of the world where one has any number of conflicts going on and I'll speak about them. It's become the arena of the world where the proliferation problem is most pronounced. And it is a part of the world in which many of the people are simply not enjoying many, if any, of the fruits of modernity. That if one reads, for example, the Arab Human Development Report Series out of the United Nations, the UNDP, out of the Development Program, it really does make for depressing reading. When one is looking at statistical indices of life expectancy, literacy, women's, the access of girls and women to aspects of modern life and so forth, it just, it makes for, I find gloomy reading.

Let me just highlight, or spend a minute on what I think are three of four of the principle issues and then I will stop. The most obvious and most pronounced one these days is Iraq. We just had the marking of four years or so since Saddam Hussein was ousted, since the war began. I wish I could be optimistic about how things are evolving. I can't be. I don't think that the surge policy, so defined by the administration, will be decisive largely because I believe that the principle challenge to stability and security in Iraq these days comes from sectarianism and I don't believe that the surge can fix that or cure that. I think, to put it bluntly, that until most Iraqis get up in the morning and see themselves more as Iraqis than as Kurds, Shia, or Sunnis, it's going to be very hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again in a positive way.

That said, I must also say I don't harbor a lot of enthusiasm for those who would set a date specific by which U.S. forces should leave. I think that risks being counterproductive, both in Iraq, because I do think it would lead to a bad situation getting worse, and I do think that it would increase regional involvement in the situation there, not in helpful ways. And I think it would raise some big questions around the world about American staying power and reliability. My own approach, and I emphasize the word is approach, I don't use the word solution because I don't believe a solution exists; I don't believe the word success is a realistic word to use. I don't believe Iraq is going to become a model for the region's transformation anytime soon, shall we say. My own approach is to gradually shift in the direction of fewer U.S. troops, less presence in Baghdad, less involvement in day-to-day operations. More emphasis on training to some extent, advising, and essentially to buy time for the Iraqis to move in a direction of a national, rather than a secular approach if they so choose. In the process we'd dramatically reduce American casualties, and again I'd rather avoid a situation where the United States is seen as the cause of Iraq's failure, if in fact Iraq does end up failing, which is at least one way things could continue to evolve. But I think our options there are essentially to make a, is to limit our losses. I simply don't think we have the option of again turning things around anytime soon.

What might be the most strategically challenging question for the next couple of years in the region is Iran. The area I would highlight most is Iran's enriched, uranium enrichment program and I think there are simply fundamental questions about the world's tolerance for this and Iran's determination to pursue it. And I think at the end of the day there's only a few options. I don't think, by the way, that regime change is one of them. I don't think we can bring it about and in any case, I don't think strategically we can count on it as a way of solving this problem for us.

So I think that as a result there are only three options. One is to simply allow this to happen, to live with it. If I may again exercise understatement, I don't find that an attractive option. The idea of having the revolutionary guard in Iran controlling nuclear material and nuclear weapons ought to give one pause, to say the least. Military operations, we can talk about it, but again I don't find that terribly attractive. It's impossible to destroy what you don't know about. You can't always destroy what you do know about. I think we maybe buy a little bit of time in disrupting the uranium program, I don't think we'd eliminate it. I don't think in any way we would prevent its reconstruction I think that would happen, but in ways we couldn't reach, which is in some ways the North Korea experience. I also think Iran has multiple ways of responding or retaliating to an American or Israeli, or any other use of force.

What I would recommend is some version of what we're doing but with an important change. So I would continue to mount economic pressure through sanctions that are targeted. I would not rule out the use of military force, but I would put forward a much more developed comprehensive negotiating position and I would do that without preconditions. My own view in diplomacy is preconditions tend not to be, for the most part, a good idea. What matters in a negotiation is where you come out, not where you go in. Again I would, so I would not insist that Iran give up certain options. To begin with I would simply negotiate my way in that, hopefully in that direction.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which is in some ways the one that where everyone is most familiar with, we're about to mark, I would not use the word celebrate, but we're about to mark essentially four decades of the Middle East being defined by the consequences of the 1967 war. And in some ways relations between Israelis and Palestinians are worse than they've been in a long time and the complications for peacemaking are greater than they have been for some time. For any negotiation to work and recently we've had a good experience, which is Northern Ireland, something I was involved with for three years, but for any negotiation of this sort to work you need a basic formula and you need a process that the parties are willing to participate in. But most important, you need leadership on the various sides of a dispute that's willing and able. Both willing and able to enter into a deal, make some compromises, sell those compromises to their respective constituencies, discipline those who would, who would reject them. Unfortunately I don't think, on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute we have such leadership now. We do not have leadership that is both able and willing to do those tasks.

In that environment, pushing them together, I don't believe is going to work in this sort of twice monthly talks that we're now, the United States is promoting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It's not obvious that that will actually buy you much. What I would recommend and I recommended it in the Wall Street Journal as you know, is the United States beginning to spell out where we're heading. Again, not because I want to invite people to Camp David next weekend, but I want to set in motion political debates on both the Israeli and Palestinian side, where I think, which have a chance of bringing about leadership that could be willing to, and able to make the necessary compromises.

I think on the Palestinian side in particular it's important to show most Palestinians that there is a pay off that rejects violence that could result in an attractive and viable Palestinian state. This would give the, you know, the president of the Palestinian authorities something to work with. It would give him and others ways to challenge Hamas. And maybe at some point, as is often the case in history, there is a showdown between various groups of Palestinians; those who would be willing to accept such an outcome and those who want more. Well if that's the case, so be it. Again history suggests that that sometimes happens. It's also possible that splits would emerge in Hamas; those sorts of things have been known to happen historically.

But again, I think it's important that we and the Israelis demonstrate that there is real, a real option, if you will, a real reward for diplomacy and a willingness to live in peace with Israel to eschew the idea of terrorism and armed violence. And if I were the United States I would begin to put this forward, which is something we've been reluctant to do, but I think it's time that we overcame that reluctance. Again, this would gradually, I believe, at least have a chance of creating a context in which negotiations could succeed.

I don't want to take too much more time, so I won't talk in depth about Syria or Lebanon right now, but I'm glad to answer questions about each. I'll just simply make one last point, which is the reform point. That to me, underneath all this, both part of it, but also separate from it, from classic problems of conflict resolution and the rest is the matter of the state of Arab societies. And as I said at the beginning it is not an attractive picture and that affects things at the human level, the social levels, again, education questions, health questions, women's rights, religious freedom and so forth, all those kinds of issues, but also this fundamental question of political stability and political legitimacy that have not begun to be answered. And when I look at the region it's hard to come away and feel confident, either about the situation in Egypt where there's very little going on that is attractive or positive politically and increasingly opposition is coalescing around the mosque and around the Muslim Brotherhood. Or in places like Saudi Arabia where, again, the reform shall we say, is limited and if there's a real alternative to the current way of things it's going to be less a liberal tolerant alternative than it will be an even more intolerant conservative religious-oriented type orientation.

And what this suggests to me, is again it, what's missing in this part of the world is a gradual, not a quick, but a gradual opening economically, socially, politically. The answer's not elections in the near term for most of these societies, but again it's creation of economic opportunities from rule of law and distribution of wealth, doing something about corruption, that in many cases is associated with regimes or royal families, particularly in places like Saudi Arabia, and the opening up of politics in a large population society like Egypt. And in Egypt you've got the potential to do something like that, particularly since the economy is now growing at a fairly robust rate; greater than 5 percent. But economic improvement alone will not be enough. There also has to be some parallel political opening and alas we're seeing just the opposite and my concern is that this bodes badly for the country that houses something like one out of every three people in the Arab world.

So I apologize for going on so long; I apologize for not being more uplifting, but then again it is the Middle East and there one has it. So Irina, let me stop and let's open it up.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Terrific.

OPERATOR: Okay, at this time we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question please press the star key followed by the one key on your touch-tone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received.

QUESTIONER A: Thank you very much Richard. I'm directly involved, as I think all of us participants in the call with you are in this area, religion. And you did make reference, a number of points. The question that I have is the potential role of recognizing the religious sector as a large, of course in no sense homogenous one, but a sector that needs to be more constructively engaged. Certainly that's within countries, I've had a lot of experience with Iraqi religious leaders personally, but also regionally. And there's a surprising, it seems, absence of connectivity between foreign policy at the governmental level and the possibilities of engaging somewhat more systematically of the religious sectors on a parallel track. So some of us are directly involved in that work. We see it as a valuable, of course, it has its own limits, but I think the question I'm posing is the need for greater soft linkages between different tracks.

RICHARD N. HAASS: I guess my response, that I think there is place here and I think probably the greatest contribution religious voices could make is trying, I think, (inaudible) obviously more than anything else, would be trying to create some currents or habits of toleration and liberalism in the classic sense of the word within the Muslim communities. I'm less interested, that's not the right word, but I'm less concerned right now as I am with interreligious or interfaith dialogues. I don't think that's the issue for the most part.

QUESTIONER A: Right.

RICHARD N. HAASS: I think the real question, again, is particularly in the Muslim world, what can be done to promote greater tolerance, greater willingness to coexist, either with people of other religions, but more important, people of their own religion who maybe have slightly different orientations. And also hopefully that religious leaders would back, to the extent possible, social reforms, educational reforms, and so forth, rather than see them as something to be pushed back. But I would think that religious voices, particularly in this country could be a useful source of support for this kind of a change. But at the end of the day, I really think things will only change fundamentally in this part of the world, take one example on terrorism and use of force is one Muslim religious leaders and Arab political leaders denounce it and delegitimize it. Basically start saying, whatever your cause, it doesn't justify these means. And it seems to me people who come at this debate from religious points of view, who have talked about establishing norms of social conduct, might be well positioned to help here.

QUESTIONER A: If I can, I appreciate your answer very much, your thoughts on that. But when we look at Hamas or Hezbollah and you notice how deeply engaged they are in providing to the respective societies and it seems to me there's a failure to engage religion or give religious aspiration alternative opportunity. What I mean is that, you know, they have blended, if you will, needing very deep real social needs with their own particular ideologies.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Sure.

QUESTIONER A: The inability to date to engage the religious communities more systematically in building up the common good and also fostering principles that you were espousing in terms of tolerance and rejection of aberrations of their own religious tradition, I think is a missed opportunity in the region. To my knowledge, and I've worked in, you know, a good number of the states, there aren't major efforts to further that along. And even convening Iraqi religious leaders, we do it on, you know, rubber bands and paper clips and perhaps our own government knows about it. I was there, Mr. Bremer, we built an interreligious council in Iraq, but very little engagement with it. It was in my experience a missed opportunity, even if one has to be modest about what might be achieved in the long run.

So anyway, these are...

RICHARD N. HAASS: I agree with you. I think that in a mosque on Friday there's often the most powerful political message heard all week.

QUESTIONER A: Yeah.

RICHARD N. HAASS: And particularly in those societies where governments are somewhat discredited and people have tuned out, the mosque then becomes...

QUESTIONER A: Right.

RICHARD N. HAASS: The principle place. So I think that to the extent we'll hear, where as religious leaders might not interact with political leaders here or the likes of me, to the extent they would be willing to meet with fellow religious leaders and I think that would be great. Because again, in many cases that's the only real entry point into political life in those societies.

QUESTIONER A: That's right. Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Thanks. Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTIONER B: Richard thanks for taking the time for this conversation this afternoon.

I think the situation in the Middle East is somewhat unusual in foreign policy terms because the views of many Americans are more informed by their theological understanding than their political, and in fact has resulted in some fairly unusual political bed fellows in terms of American views of the Middle East.

I guess my question is, whether this matters much, the theological rated-ness of this issue from the point of view of most Americans. Does that play any role or a significant role in, either encumbering American foreign policy in the region or limiting our range of options?

RICHARD N. HAASS: I think you're probably right analytically. In terms of that for some percentage of Americans, I have no percent, sense of the number, whether they're Jewish or Christian in particular, also Muslim, their views in the Middle East are heavily colored by religious concerns and their own readings of this or that holy book or what have you.

That said, when it comes to Middle East policy indeed a lot of foreign policy in general, and I've now worked in four administrations, I'm always struck by how much latitude presidents have, particularly when it comes to those aspects of foreign policy that are not based in congressional authorizations and appropriations. So coming back to something like the Israeli-Palestinian issue or the Israeli-Syrian issue of tomorrow, President Bush wanted to ask for a half hour or an hour of time on all the networks and wanted to outline a different U.S. position, well nothing was different, but wanted to articulate a much more granular U.S. position on final status issues on everything from territorial vision to how to limit the Palestinian right of return, to questions of holy places, Jerusalem, what have you. He wanted to do all that. And then wanted to dispatch his secretary of state and have her camp out and promote this, or what have you, he can do it.

And you know, he's shown his willingness to do other things that aren't necessarily governed by opinion polls and he can do this. Or if he wanted tomorrow to say I see a strategic opening between Syria and Iran and I'm going to try and drive a wedge between them, and I'm prepared to engage the Syrians and try to see if we can't get them to shut down the offices of Hamas and Hezbollah, would dramatically limit them, dramatically limit the entry across its border into Iraq of people who are essentially terrorists. And in exchange, you know, a three way process, for which Israel would be involved on the Golan Heights and Syria would be willing to make peace with Israel, so forth and so on, if he wants to do that, he can.

So, diplomacy by in large favors the executive branch tremendously. So a President's got to decide what he believes in, he's got to decide what sort of political risk, he might be pro cost, he might be prepared to run. But coming back to your basic position, I don't doubt that. A lot of people hold strongly-held views towards these issues that are influenced by religion, but I really don't think it precludes a president from doing pretty much what he wants to do on these issues. I think that's a little bit more influence on Congress, but I think our presidents have got a lot of latitude.

QUESTIONER B: Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Thanks. Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTIONER C: My point is actually more of a point rather than a question. My concern is as many of the issues that Dr. Haass raises are obviously extremely important to not just the Middle East, but to the world's stability, but if there's so much emphasis on what the Muslim world is doing wrong and what the Muslims themselves, you know what responsibility they have to basically, to do certain things that perceived that they're not doing, my concern is it will further alienate the Muslim world. And particularly Muslims who have voiced where there have been democratic elections, they've, you know, put in power people who are very much not ones that we may want to see in power because they are seen as being willing to stand up to the West and I think, so I'm very concerned at this perception, or maybe even attitude of, well before we can even really deal with how we can get along, or deal with these issues, Muslims have to do X, Y, Z. And my point is that they are doing that, we Muslims are doing these things and in fact that kind of thinking is actually not very helpful at all in helping resolve some of these very important issues.

RICHARD N. HAASS: I guess I'd say two things. One is elections should never to me take place in a vacuum and elections should only take place in a largely democratic environment, particularly when they're elections leading to significant political power. So I'd want to make sure that there's real access to media and there's real checks and balances, in terms of institutions and so forth, so that those who are elected are constrained in what it is they can do. But absent that, I think elections can appear to bestow legitimacy without necessarily doing that. And I think, what I'm hoping is that the U.S. government and others have learned that early elections in the process of the political reform, absent checks and balances and absent other independent actors in a society, that elections can actually be a counterproductive exercise.

In terms of your more general point, all I'm trying to say is that there's certain arguments that people outside of political community, or outside a faith can make and there are others that those inside can make it much stronger and much more persuasively and effectively. And I don't think the two have to necessarily be sequential. So I'm not saying that nothing can happen until, for example, debate within Islam about the use of force reaches a certain point. I think that debate needs to happen and I think we need to see the emergence of Muslim leaders and Arab leaders who will delegitimize terror. That's something that needs to happen, but at the same time I believe other things need to happen, whether it involves Israelis and Palestinians or Israelis and Syrians, or in Iraq or vis a vis Iran. But I think one needs to conduct a foreign policy on multiple tracks simultaneously and there's also multiple actors. There's some things that the U.S. government can only do, there's other things that faith-based organizations can do, or NGOs can do, or educational institutions, or institutions like mine, the Council can best do. So I wasn't trying to suggest a narrow division of labor or a narrow sequentialism, but I do think there are certain arguments that can certainly best be made, and in some cases only be made by people who are within a community rather than those who are not.

QUESTIONER C: If I can just quickly follow up, I think some of these arguments are being, in fact many of them are being made by Muslim leaders. Unfortunately when there's a perception that it's, you know, kind of blamed a victim or the idea of there's X responsibility, it further alienates those leaders from the larger community when they don't see actual progress on Middle East issues or they see a war on terror, which they perceive as a war on Muslims. And so I think that's something that has to be considered in conjunction with recognizing leaders and statements that are already being made.

RICHARD N. HAASS: I hear you. And that's why, again, when I talk about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I think it's important that people flesh out the contours of a Palestinian state and open up a real process for getting there, and essentially therefore add credence and credibility to the notion that there is a serious (inaudible) pay off alternative to using violence.

One of the most interesting conversations I had in Northern Ireland at one point was with one of the people who was most associated with the IRA. And at one point I asked him why he'd essentially changed his ways and he mentioned two things. One is he realized they could not bomb their way to their goals, but second of all he said when he finally became persuaded that there was a political track that would not give them all of what they wanted, but would give them enough of what they wanted that he could basically embrace it and survive politically and physically. And I thought that that was an interesting point. So I simply, and I think those kinds of ideas have relevance for situations such as between Israelis and Palestinians.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTIONER D: Yes, hello. There may be some people on the call who participated in a trip led by the Mennonites to Iran recently and I'm wondering if Richard you might comment on that and other efforts to, I think this is ecumenical delegation and I was curious if you've known about it or had any thoughts about it.

RICHARD N. HAASS: About the trip?

QUESTIONER D: Yeah.

RICHARD N. HAASS: I don't know anything about it, so I apologize. So you might want to broaden it out. I just don't, I'm, as usual, in the dark here.

QUESTIONER D: Yeah, it was, I believe, and if there's somebody on the call who can elaborate, but I understand it was ecumenical delegation led by the Mennonites to meet with the president and other religious leaders there as a gesture of an attempt on the part of civil society and religious leaders to connect with a form of dialogue that wasn't happening with our governments. But, so if there's somebody else on the call who wishes to elaborate more on this, go ahead. And if not, next question I guess.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Let me say one thing. I mean I think things like that are good and there's been lots of various track two like dialogues with the Iranians, but I also think the last couple of weeks, the whole experience with the British sailors has been sobering to some extent because it showed the autonomy to a large extent of the revolutionary guards within Iran. What they did was clearly, I thought, outrageous and from what I could see there was no basis for what they did. Only at the end when it appears that the supreme political leader, Mr. Khamenei intervened did we see a change in the Iranian policy. But to me it was quite a sobering glimpse into Iran, that in some ways you're not dealing with the traditional government, you're dealing with all governments and factions, I understand that. But this is a degree of autonomy within a government of an institution and a set of individuals with quite at times radical ideology. And it was quite, to me, sobering about what it again represented. And to me it added more urgency, not less to the whole question of how one tries to head off an Iranian nuclear program before it gets too far, before it gets too far advanced. So I think it's, again, track two religious exchanges in there are valuable, but I think there's a degree of urgency with Iran, given their nuclear program that in some ways will require a government to government dimension just to deal with this one immediate issue, because if this one immediate issue goes badly. Imagine a situation where we do end up using force against Iran and then the Iranians retaliate in various ways, it could have consequences, not just for U.S. relations with Iran, and not just for Iranian domestic politics, but for the entire region and indeed the world, that would be profound in both the sense of being deep and long lasting. So all I'm trying to say is there's a degree, I think of urgency here that is uncharacteristic.

QUESTIONER D: Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Terrific. We have time for one last question, if there are any.

OPERATOR: Just a reminder if you would like to ask a question please press star one.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Okay. I think we have come to the closing of our time. Richard, it would be great if you could just close with what you see of how our religion and foreign policy initiatives and the value and why you started this initiative here.

OPERATOR: We do have one more question, Ms. Faskianos, if you'd like to take it.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Okay.

OPERATOR: Okay.

QUESTIONER E: Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Great.

QUESTIONER E: Thank you. Dr. Haass, one, you were at State Department in January '01, I'm sorry '02?

RICHARD N. HAASS: Um hmm.

QUESTIONER E: I spoke at the (inaudible) Open Forum and received a kind letter from you, so thank you. But more importantly, the topic of my speech was the rising voice of moderate Muslims. And my thesis there, and I think it still holds and this relates to the question before, Muslims are speaking out, especially Muslims in the West. Perhaps the ones in the Middle East, it's going to take some digging because the nature of the governments there are dictatorial and we're not going to be able to hear those voices as much as we'd like to. But Muslims, definitely in the West, have spoken out against terrorism, against the ideology of death and destruction and it's a matter of engagement that I think is needed between the, groups like CFR and Muslim public policy groups, between the U.S. government and Muslim religious leaders to amplify that voice in a way that will isolate the voices of radicalism even further.

But my sense is, and I think [the earlier questioner] was sharing that, was because of the political alienation and sort of the inquisition, of political inquisition against Muslims these voices have been muted and it's as if people are deaf to the Muslim voices from moderation and against extremism to the detriment of U.S. policy interests. How can we engage together to have those voices heard in the way that you articulated that would be a strong voice against extremism worldwide?

RICHARD N. HAASS: Well I agree with your premise, let me just make that clear. I think there are the moderate voices out there, but I don't think they have the resources behind them that alternative voices have that are far less moderate, to say the least. This is something, I've got lots of ideas, I don't know if any of them are good, but what I, let me just say here that something I would like to do in the not-too-distant future is convene a meeting and possibly have it be an ongoing group that would deal with exactly this question because I think it is a task for religious leaders, I think it's a task for organizations like the Council, I think American foundations have a large role to potentially play, Carnegie I know, under Vartan Gregorian is very interested in your question. American businesses could play a large role, they had a large role in influencing, say the evolution of South African society or again Northern Ireland. What role might they be able to play here?

So this is something that I am very interested in. I got involved with it first when I was at the State Department, so let me just make the commitment that we will, I want to continue that conversation in a systematic way with, and gather the people around the table who need to be around the table and I really do think it's drawn from again business, government, academia, foundations, religious communities, and so forth. And we can begin to figure out what are the best entry points, where are the best places? What kind of activities, where are the best places to place resources to try to essentially level the playing field so moderate voices have a better chance of gaining traction than currently seems to be the case. So, let me just make the commitment to return to that in a systematic way and we'll be in touch with you, you know, personally about your ideas, about how we could structure that and who we could involve.

QUESTIONER E: Thank you.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS: Terrific. Well Richard, thank you very much for today and for your commitment to this initiative. And thank you all for being with us, we really appreciate it. Please send your feedback to us at outreach@cfr.org and other topics that you'd like to cover in future calls. And we will be webcasting tomorrow in your council meeting with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the environment at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, so I hope you'll join us for that.

So thank you and thank you Richard.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Thank you all.

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