US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said that any solution to problems in the Middle East, especially the Syrian conflict or Iran's nuclear programme should be "political, not military."
In a keynote speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Hagel said, "The most enduring and effective solutions to the challenges facing the region are political, not military."
About his country's role in the region, he said, "America's role in the Middle East is to continue to help influence and shape the course of events – using diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, intelligence, and security tools in coordination with our allies."
Hagel recognised the difficult situation in the region and said that democratic transition is the solution. "The old order in the Middle East is disappearing," he said, "and what will replace it remains unknown. There will continue to be instability in the region as this process plays out."
He suggested that Egypt, Libya and Syria will play a significant role in sorting out the problems of the region. "The best hope for long-term stability relies on countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria."
According to Hagel, the US is to continue having a significant role in the process in line with its own interests. "To assist these nations in achieving these goals, the United States will remain engaged in helping shape the new order, but we must engage wisely," he said.
"This will require a clear understanding of our national interests, our limitations and an appreciation of the complexities of this unpredictable, contradictory, yet hopeful region of the world," he added.