USA to revitalise South East Asian links as ASEAN suggested as model for Middle East

Coincidental to a US diplomat revealing that "revitalising relations with ASEAN" is a priority for American foreign policy's transition "from the Middle East to Asia", Cato Institute Research Fellow Leon Hadar has written in The National Interest journal that the Middle East needs a "regional economic and political superstructure" along the lines of ASEAN to secure its stability.

Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told The Australian that "one of the most important challenges for US foreign policy is to effect a transition from the immediate and vexing challenges of the Middle East to the long-term and deeply consequential issues in Asia."

This required enhancing Washington's dialogue with China, greater efforts to "articulate India as playing a greater role in Asia" and "revitalising relations with ASEAN - both ASEAN as an institution, and with its key members such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, and revitalising what used to be a very important relationship with the Philippines."

Hadar's commentary, 'The Middle East Needs an ASEAN', described the South East Asian regional group as the "preferred regional model of cooperation for the governments in the Middle East" as its members "have not been brought together by common ideology — or religion or culture, for that matter — but by the recognition of their mutual economic and political interests".

He concluded that the United States and the EU "could help form the foundations for such a regional group by leading an effort towards an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and a peaceful political transition in Syria. The facilitation of an Israel-Palestine accord and the coming to power of a Syrian government that downgrades partnership with Iran and Hezbollah and upgrades an effort to reach accommodation with Lebanon and Israel could fit into a new overall US strategy to prevent Iran from emerging as the hegemon in post-US-occupation Iraq and Middle East.

"That is the kind of strategy that could win support from Turkey and Egypt and help maintain US influence in West Asia - in the same way that the ASEAN assists the U.S. in remaining a central player in East Asia."