Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley says the Middle East is "in meltdown" and is criticizing the Obama administration for having no policy in place to deal with it.
"This is a Middle East in meltdown and our policies seem to be in some sense frozen," Hadley told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Monday. "And the administration talks about how they have more time. I think we're running out of time, and I'm worried about it."
Calling the unrest spreading across the region "extremely serious," the former national security adviser to President George W. Bush said the ongoing anti-American protests are just one part "of a broader situation in the region" starting with the war in Syria and the standoff with Iran over its nuclear development program.
Hadley said Syria "is increasingly becoming a forum for a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia that risks destabilizing Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and even Turkey."
"The administration does not seem to have a policy that is commensurate with the seriousness of the problem and the rapidity of events," Hadley continued.
"And at the same time . . . Iran continues to move towards a nuclear weapon, and we seem to spend more time putting pressure on Israel not to strike Iran than figuring out what we're going to do about Iran.
"So, I think it's troubling time," he added.
But Hadley insisted the United States should remain fully engaged in the region despite the setbacks by continuing "to help those governments that legitimately are trying to bring political and economic reform to their people."
Turning aside calls from some Republicans and conservatives for a cutoff of funding to Egypt, Hadley suggested that would serve no purpose other than to damage U.S. interests in the region.
He said newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi "is obviously trying to find his way."
Describing Morsi's recent denunciation of Iran's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as "a good thing," Hadley said the United States "has no alternative" other than to work with Morsi's new government.
"I think what we need to do is make clear we're prepared to work with these governments, even Muslim Brotherhood-led governments, as long as they are prepared to bring their country to economic and political reform, establish inclusive political systems where everyone is able to participate, [and] individual rights are respected," Hadley said.
But he said the Obama administration at the same time needs "to deal more aggressively with this deteriorating situation in Syria" and "with the clock that is ticking in Iran."
"So, I think what we don't do is withdraw [from the region]," as some have suggested in response to the attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates.
"What we do need is to engage, with some imaginative and more ambitious policies, because we have a lot at stake here. We have a lot of interests here, and we need to be active in protecting those interests," Hadley added.
Appearing on the same program, Republican strategist and former State Department official Liz Cheney agreed with Hadley about pursuing a more forceful and balanced policy toward the Middle East.
Like Hadley, she blamed the Obama administration for pursuing what she described as a policy of retreat in the region.
"On all fronts, basically, America is retreating, and you see what happens when America is not in a position of strength," she said, referring not only to anti-American protests, but to the deteriorating situations in Syria and Iran, and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Asked what the U.S. should do immediately in response to recent events, Cheney listed three priorities. The first, she said, is to "bring to justice" those responsible for the deaths of the Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans killed with him during the attack on sthe consulate in Benghazi. She said it should be "swift" and "severe."
Cheney said the second priority should be the immediate cancellation of "the billion dollar loan forgiveness" the U.S. had extended to the Egyptian government to punish Morsi for not doing more to stop the anti-American protests against the embassy in Cairo.
Finally, she said, the Obama administration should "make clear we are standing with the government of Israel and that we will not allow nuclear capability in Iran."
"And I would be asking for military plans right now to know what to do to stop that program," Cheney added.
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