TFR 22 – The Middle East and the Trilateral Countries


The problems and conflicts of the Middle East, extending from the Mediterranean to the oil-rich Gulf and Arabian peninsula, may present in the 1980s the most serious challenge to the economic viability and security of the Trilateral regions and to the stability of the global balance of power. This brief study is timely, therefore, particularly as a new Administration has come to power in the United States and a number of European countries face elections of their own.

The governments and people of the Trilateral world, in considering the Middle East, have a keen perception of danger; and at times a disagreeable sense of inadequacy. Prompted by such feelings, various Trilateral governments have engaged in consultations, have devised strategies and proclaimed doctrines, and have taken a number of political, economic, military, and diplomatic initiatives, with the purpose of containing the existing conflicts, preventing greater disasters, and maintaining global peace. The Trilateral countries, all highly developed industrial democracies, share common basic interests and outlooks. Nevertheless, there has not been a common approach to the Middle East and the Gulf.

The stakes are very high indeed. Western Europe, Japan, and North America have a vital interest in stability and peace in the Middle East and the Gulf, in which: an overall Arab-Israeli settlement is achieved assuring Israeli security and survival and satisfying legitimate Arab interests and rights; a workable balance in the area is struck between modernisation and the Islamic Movement; the sputtering conflict between Iran and Iraq is resolved peacefully; the integrity of Lebanon and Iran is maintained; the internal stability and security of Saudi Arabia is enhanced; the forces of moderation and progress in the area are strengthened; continuing access to the area's oil resources is assured; Soviet opportunities for expansion are constrained; and a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union is avoided.

The promotion of such a matrix of interests will require great understanding of the complexities involved; and a diplomacy of imagination, subtlety, and sensitivity, coupled with firmness, resolve, and influence. There would be little quarrel among European, Japanese, or North American officials over the parallel, often common objectives cited above. But the interests of each Trilateral country in the Middle East are not identical, and different assessments and approaches are likely to continue. For example, while all Trilateral powers recognise Israel's existence and statehood, and share a commitment to Israel's survival and security, there are divergences on the Palestinian question both with regard to the appreciation of the interests and rights of the Palestinian people and with regard to the extent to which the accommodation of these interests and rights is essential to and can be reconciled with the long term security of Israel. While North America gets much oil from the Middle East, the dependence of Western Europe and Japan is greater. While the Trilateral reelons have a common interest in deterring U.S.S.R. expansionism, only the United States has the strategic capacity to make this a practical reality. While Western Europe seeks a role in the diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict, only the United States is at present accepted by both sides and carries the weight to bring about mutual concessions.

It is not in the interest of any of the Trilateral partners to underestimate their common objectives or any difference in approach; since to do so gives rise to unrealistic assessments, expectations and perceptions, contributes to confusion of roles, and could in the long run undermine the common interest in matters of security that binds us. Close and regular consultations between the United States, Europe, and Japan on Middle East and Gulf matters is of high priority in the years ahead with a view to developing complementary policies if possible, or at least avoiding divisions which could weaken relations between partners.


Garret FitzGerald, Leader of the Irish Fine Gael Party
Hideo Kitahara, Former Ambassador of Japan to France
Arrigo Levi, Columnist, La Stampa (Turin) and The Times (London)
Joseph Sisco, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Setting the Context: The Changing Situation in the Middle East and Gulf

A. Major Changes
B. Complex Dangers and Tasks
III. Progress in Resolving the Arab-Israeli Dispute, Including the Palestinian Question
A. Principal Approaches for the West Bank and Gaza
- Indefinite Continuation of Israeli Occupation
- Autonomy and Territorial Approaches
B. Room for Manoeuvre in the Camp David Process
C. European Soundings
D. Attitudes of Parties in the Region
- Egypt
- Saudi Arabia and Its "Moderate" Neighbours
- Jordan
- Syria
- Israel
- The Palestinians
E. European and Japanese Attitudes and Roles in Resolving the Palestinian Question
- Europe
- Japan
F. Major Differences Remain, but the Will to Negotiate Now Exists
G. Requirements for Progress
IV. Oil Dependence and Instability in the Gulf
A. Trilateral Energy Policies
B. Developments in the Middle East
- Instability in the Gulf Region
- Ties with the Gulf States
V. Strength and Negotiations: Facing the Challenge from the Soviet Union in the Middle East and the Gulf
A. Global and Local Balances
B. Strength and Negotiations
- American Military Standing in the Region
- European and Japanese Contributions
C. Overall Trilateral Policy in the Region
VI. Roles of United States, Western Europe and Japan: Need for Complementary Approaches and Close Consultations
A. Mutually Supportive Approaches in the Middle East
B. More Comprehensive Policy Co-ordination

  • Topics: Energy, Trade, Security
  • Region:  North America, Europe, Middle East, Pacific Asia
  • Publisher:  The Trilateral Commission
  • Publication Date:  © 1981
  • ISBN:  0-930503-28-7
  • Pages:  52
  • Complete Text: Click here to download