Peace picks March 26-31

  1. Islam in France | Monday, March 27 | 10:30-12:00pm | The Brookings Institution | Register Here | After a series of terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, security issues are among the primary concerns of French voters heading into this spring’s presidential elections. As the European country with the largest Muslim minority, the issue of Islam in France and how to tackle terrorism is particularly fraught, and it is interwoven into broader debates about immigration, nationality, identity, secularism, and social cohesion. Furthermore, with right-wing politicians across Europe eager to galvanize their electorates, they have intensified concerns, incited Islamophobia, and exploited public misunderstandings of the teachings and practices of Islam. To provide a broader portrait of Islam in France and dispel misapprehensions surrounding the fraught dynamics of mosque and state, the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne has recently released a data-driven report on Muslims living in France. On March 27, Brookings will host a panel discussion with Project Director Hakim El Karoui and Senior Counselor Dominique Moïsi of the Institut Montaigne to unpack the conventional wisdom and polemics about Muslims in France. The panelists will consider whether better policies can be implemented that address the root causes of radicalization in French society, such as socioeconomic marginalization and inequality, while increasing safety and security. Shadi Hamid of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings will also provide remarks, and Philippe Le Corre of CUSE will moderate the conversation.
  2. The Russian Military in Ukraine and Syria: Lessons for the United States | Tuesday March 28 | 4:00pm | The Atlantic Council | Register Here | The recent escalation of military activities in Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine and military power projection in Syria demonstrate massive improvements in Moscow’s military capabilities. Russia is using hybrid warfare and conventional military operations to achieve its geopolitical goals: apply massive pressure against the democratically elected government of Ukraine, keep Kyiv from European integration, and punish Ukraine for its Western and Euro-Atlantic choices. It also has created a credible threat against the Baltic states – NATO members. In Syria, Russia-led military operations successfully buttressed the Assad regime, assured Russian military presence in strategic coastal towns of Tartus and Latakiya, and established an air base in Khmeimim. The Russian military has learned to coordinate operations with several Middle Eastern allies: the Syrian Army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Apart from Moscow’s geopolitical objectives, these operations are designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of Russian-made weapons to potential foreign buyers, to test new Russian military capabilities, and to display new capacities to potential adversaries. Russia is now the main adversary of NATO in Europe and the second great power in the Levant – after the United States and its allies. The Atlantic Council will bring together a panel of experts to discuss Russia’s military power and the lessons learned from Russia’s military performance in Syria and Ukraine. The panelists are Evelyn Farkas, Senior Fellow at Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Alexander Golts, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, and Brigadier General (Ret.) Peter Zwack, Senior Russia-Eurasia Fellow at the Institute of National Strategic Studies.
  3. The Baltic States in the Trump Administration: A Conversation with Foreign Minister of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania | Tuesday, March 28 | 6:30-8:30pm | Hudson Institute | Register Here | In 1991, one year after the Baltic States regained their independence, Hudson Institute hosted the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania at its Conference on the Baltics—the first ever such event outside the Baltic region. The United States has since developed a special relationship with each country, marked by their accession to NATO and the EU in 2004. Together, these countries constitute the easternmost members of both the EU and NATO. Now, after years of calm, the security and political situation in Europe is again at a crossroads. The Russian intervention in Ukraine and the political crises of the EU pose increasing challenges to Europe. A quarter century after the Conference on the Baltic States, Hudson Institute is honored to host the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to discuss the view from Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius—and the opportunities and challenges confronting each.
  4. The Inaugural Haleh Esfandiari Forum Event with Secretary Madeleine Albright | Wednesday, March 29 | 2:00-3:00pm | The Wilson Center | Register Here | Join us for the inaugural Haleh Esfandiari Forum event. The Haleh Esfandiari Forum at the Wilson Center is a series of public events focused on women’s empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This joint initiative by the Middle East Program (MEP) and the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI) honors Haleh Esfandiari’s commitment to promoting women’s empowerment and her leadership of MEP from its inception in 1998 through 2015.
  5. Egypt and the United States Under the Trump Administration | Thursday, March 30 | 2:00-3:30pm | Project on Middle East Democracy | Register Here | President Donald Trump has signaled a desire to build even closer ties to the Egyptian government, a policy shift that poses significant potential risks for the United States due to Egypt’s deteriorating human rights conditions. Ahead of President Sisi’s upcoming visit to Washington, join us to take stock of the situation on the ground in Egypt and examine potential changes to the U.S.-Egypt relationship. The panelists include Michele Dunne, Director and Senior Fellow of the Middle East Program at Carnegie; Bahey Eldin Hassan, Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Moataz El Fegiery, Protection Coordinator of Middle East and North Africa at Front Line Defenders, and Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2014-2017.
  6. The Yemen Conflict in Perspective: Geopolitical and Humanitarian Challenges | Friday, March 31 | 9:00-2:00pm | The Middle East Institute | Register Here | Yemen is gripped by clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces, interference by regional actors, and a failure to complete the political transition following the 2011 uprisings against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. This instability has created an opening for the militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a devastating humanitarian impact. How can international engagement take into account the domestic and geopolitical forces at work, secure a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and combat the extremist threat? What are the challenges faced by humanitarian aid organizations that operate in Yemen, and how can the international community confront the coming challenge of reconstruction and repair of the damaged country? Speakers include Amb. (ret.) Wendy Chamberlin, President of the Middle East Institute; Ismail Ould Chaikh Ahmed, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen; Mohammed Abulahoum, Justice & Building Party of Yemen; E. Ahmed Awad Binmubarak, Ambassador of Yemen to the United States; The Honorable Anne Patterson, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; Nadwa al-Dawsari, Nonresident Senior Fellow at POMED; Albert Jaeger, Mission Chief for Yemen, IMF; and Nabil Shaiban, Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank.
  7. Deterring Iran After the Nuclear Deal: Report Launch and Panel Discussion | Friday, March 31 | 10:00-11:30am | Center for Strategic & International Studies | Register Here | Although the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program is working, the United States has largely been unable or unwilling to deter Iran’s incremental extension of regional power and threshold testing in the Middle East. A new report by the International Security Program at CSIS, “Deterring Iran After the Nuclear Deal,” seeks to better understand and analyze Iran’s strategy, motivations, and military and paramilitary development; explores a set of policy pathways for the United States to counter challenges from Iran; and provides a recommended Iran deterrence strategy for the Trump Administration and U.S. Congress to consider. Join us for the report launch of “Deterring Iran After the Nuclear Deal,” featuring a panel discussion on Iran’s regional activities post-JCPOA, implications for the Middle East, and policy options for the Trump administration and U.S. Congress to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior and capability development. Panelists include Gen Charles Q. Brown Jr., USAF, Deputy Commander for US Central Command; Dr. Colin Kahl, Associate Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University; Mr. Michael Singh, Lane-Swig Senior Fellow and Managing Director, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Dr. Jon Alterman, Senior Vice President and Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and Director of the Middle East Program at CSIS.
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Despite challenges, Iraq is on its way back

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the United States Institute of Peace on Monday to discuss the future of security and government in Iraq as well as the prospects of US-Iraqi relations during the Trump administration.

Al-Abadi praised the work of the Iraqi Security Forces in not only liberating Iraq from ISIS but also winning back the trust of the people. He highlighted the security forces’ accomplishments, including the return of over one million people to their homes, the military partnership with the Kurdish peshmerga, and the imminent recapture of Mosul. However, al-Abadi stressed that military force alone would not defeat threats like ISIS and a more comprehensive approach, incorporating a successful hearts and minds campaign, would be necessary.

Al-Abadi also addressed future challenges to security in the aftermath of Mosul and ISIS. He said religious minorities, who have suffered severely at the hands of ISIS, are part of Iraqi society and have the same rights as all Iraqis. But there is uncertainty over whether they will return to Iraq due to increasing delays in reconstruction efforts. He also said that the government intends on investigating and punishing ISIS crimes. Militia fighters would also be subject to the law and their demobilization and reintegration into society monitored. Elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces would not be involved in politics while continuing to carry arms, which is at odds with the political process.

Turning to government challenges, al-Abadi discussed the balance between federal and regional authority and how best to reform and improve the Iraqi political situation. He stressed the importance of keeping politicians accountable and placing citizens’ trust in strong political institutions. Calling it a new day for democracy, al-Abadi said that while change is difficult, it is essential for people to believe in the government’s ability to reconstruct liberated territories, eliminate the ISIS threat, and make politics inclusive and representative of all Iraqis.

However, developing good governance is not easy and Iraq must proceed with caution. Al-Abadi cited the need to maintain peace and not antagonize or polarize people early on, especially in plans to govern newly liberated territories such as Mosul. He was hopeful that the provincial elections, scheduled for late 2017, will return new politicians who want to move the country forward towards democracy, building bridges for cooperation rather than walls of provincial and sectarian division.

Coming directly from the White House and a conversation with President Trump, al-Abadi was satisfied with the level of support from the new administration and the prospects for a better relationship with the United States. Trump wants to be more engaged and face terrorism head-on, a move al-Abadi welcomes in the continued fight against ISIS.

As for regional and international partners, al-Abadi saw positive elements as well as areas for improvement in the fighting terrorism. The region could work more vigorously against ISIS and its recruiting efforts, an oversight that enabled the group to build its capacities in the first place. The international community has pledged support to stabilizing Mosul, and the recent visit of the Saudi foreign minister to Baghdad was welcome. Iraq is eager to deliver the aid and assistance desperately needed to rebuild the country and to stop regional conflicts.

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Trump: friend or foe?

Here are the speaking notes I used this morning for a talk at the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI):

  1. First the caveats: I supported and voted for Hillary Clinton. I’d have been glad to see her serve Barack Obama’s third term.
  2. Most Americans agreed with me by a margin of almost 3 million votes, but their voice is heard only state-by-state through the Electoral College, which favors smaller states and enables someone to win without a plurality of popular votes.
  3. The result is Donald Trump, who had never run for office but was well-known both as a television personality and as a proponent of the false claim that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore ineligible to be president.
  4. That was not the last of his fallacious claims, which now include the numbers of people at his inauguration, denials that his campaign was in touch with the Russians, and allegations that his predecessor tapped his phones.
  5. Trump has now put together an Administration best described not as conservative or even Republican but rather as radical.
  6. It has two main ideological apillars: ethnic nationalism and anti-government activism.
  7. With three important exceptions—at Homeland Security, Defense, and Veterans’ affairs—all of Trump’s cabinet appointees are explicitly dedicated to the proposition that the departments they lead should not exist, or should be vastly reduced in size and regulatory relevance.
  8. Diplomacy and international development are among the disfavored government functions. The outline of Trump’s first budget proposal supports this view: State and AID take a whopping cut of about 30%.
  9. This will be mostly welcome among the Tea Party Republicans in both houses of Congress, but the Administration is not entirely congruent with them, since it also wants to preserve the social and health safety nets for older Americans (Social Security and Medicare) and to conduct a major infrastructure program that will require at least some government funding.
  10. There are also some in Congress who will resist the cuts to the State Department and USAID, likely with some measure of success.
  11. The ethnic nationalist pillar is most highly relevant to domestic policy, as the U.S. is a multi-ethnic country with significant Black, Hispanic, Indian, and non-Christian minorities.
  12. Trump has said in public he does not understand the phrase “all men are created equal.” He pointed out to a reporter several years ago that the phrase is obviously not true. Some are brighter than others, some prettier.
  13. This failure to understand one of the basic tenets of liberal democracy—equality before the law, not in personal attributes—is fundamental to this Administration.
  14. It is not merely ethnonationalist, but specifically white supremacist, which will color (pun intended) its view of the world.
  15. The Administration intends to limit immigration of non-Christians and non-whites, support ethnic nationalists in Europe and elsewhere, and back off commitments to democracy worldwide.
  16. The white nationalism is also, in my view, fundamental to Trump’s attitude towards Russia. He sees in Vladimir Putin an ethno-nationalist soulmate.
  17. Fortunately, many Republicans in Congress have been uncomfortable with Trump’s admiration for Putin. The investigation of the Trump campaign’s many connections to the Russians has likely at least postponed if not destroyed any sell out of Ukraine or Syria.
  18. It’s hard to picture how a president would cozy up to the guy who ordered the massive hacking of Yahoo.
  19. What are the implications for Europe and for foreign policy more generally? Is Trump friend, foe or something in between?
  20. Trump’s ethno-nationalist cohort thinks of itself as “European,” by which it means white.
  21. I don’t think most of my European friends would agree, but many of you will recognize the ethno-nationalists as the brethren of the Brexit leave campaign, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, and Silvio Berlusconi, who in many ways was a precursor to the Trump phenomenon: businessman turned populist, rightwing but big spender, misogynist and racist.
  22. Supporters of those leaders will regard Trump as friend. Liberal democrats who believe in equality before the law will regard him as foe.
  23. There are other reasons for Europe to view Trump with suspicion.
  24. His insistence on bilateralism is incompatible with the EU and his doubts about the NATO Alliance should raise eyebrows, even though his Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor have boxed him into a more traditional approach on that subject.
  25. Trump’s attitude toward Russia—Putin does no wrong worth mentioning—suggests that Trump’s commitment to democracy will be negligible.
  26. His worldview is incompatible with the widening of democratic practice as well as the international institutions and norms the United States has worked hard to build up in the 70 odd years since World War II.
  27. He clearly would like fewer international restrictions and more freedom to do as America pleases, no matter what others may think.
  28. This will include military action, which is the only instrument of foreign policy Trump has committed to beefing up.
  29. He has loosened the restrictions on military action in Somalia and Yemen and tried to accelerate the taking of Raqqa from the Islamic State, without any plans for how Yemen and Raqqa will be governed if the military action is successful.
  30. Even sanctions have not appeared as an important tool in this administration, and soft power is never mentioned. Never mind the moral stature of the U.S.
  31. There is however growing evidence that hard cash is influential with Trump: his softening towards China has gone in parallel with Chinese investments in his son-in-law’s business deals.
  32. That signal won’t be lost on the Russians, the Saudis, the UAE, Qatar and maybe even some Europeans.
  33. So here is what I think: this is a white supremacist administration prepared to strengthen the American military and homeland security, but weaken the rest of its bureaucracy and get rid of as many multilateral international commitments as possible while seeking financial benefits for its friends and family.
  34. As Lenin asked, what is to be done?
  35. Within the U.S., you will have heard about the popular resistance to Trump, the institutional barriers to his unilateral exercise of presidential power, and his retreats from some of his worst ideas: moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, preventing the Chinese from accessing their military installations in the South China Sea, withdrawing from NAFTA, and befriending Putin and Kim Jong-il.
  36. He’ll back down on his immigration ban for Muslim countries as well, because the courts have seen it for what it is: an unconstitutional discrimination based on religion.
  37. There is every sign that when push comes to shove, Trump often backs down.
  38. I therefore hope that the international community will also develop the courage to push back on key issues.
  39. The Dutch election, while was less unequivocal than I would like, was nevertheless a good first signal of European resistance to racist populism.
  40. The critical next step is to defeat Marine Le Pen at the end of April, or at worst in May.
  41. That done, the Germans seem to be on track to choose between two eminently acceptable candidates of the center left and center right.
  42. I still hope Europe will not allow the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to suffer the same fate as TPP. It is, after all, a bilateral deal between the EU and U.S. If you stand up for it, Washington will need to rethink.
  43. I hope Europe will maintain its sanctions on Russia and insist on implementation of the Minsk 2 agreement in Ukraine.
  44. I hope Europe and Asia will stand up for the Paris climate change agreement, monitoring any moves by the Administration to vitiate its implementation.
  45. I even hope Europe will take on the mantle of defense of liberal democratic and economic ideals, giving the Americans some time to sort out our obviously parlous domestic political situation. Chancellor Merkel last week did a good job of this.
  46. Trump is a foe to those of us who have enjoyed the enormous benefits of the post-World War II order.
  47. It is time for us to stand up to be counted.

 

 

 

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Why collude?

FBI Director Comey yesterday confirmed once again that Russia aimed to undermine the integrity of the US election process, to disfavor Hillary Clinton, and to favor Donald Trump. With so much already established, it is natural to assume that the Bureau’s investigation will also confirm that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

I wonder. Putin’s objectives were congruent with Trump’s. What purpose would be served by collusion? A wink and a nod might well suffice. While Trump campaign officials like Jeff Sessions, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page (as well as now Secretary of State Tillerson) had clear and suspicious connections to Russia, it is going to be difficult to prove collusion unless there are written records of their conversations with Moscow.

Wire taps are still possible, because the National Security Agency may have been focused on Russians the campaign officials were talking with. Emails or other records of the conversations are also possible. But I wouldn’t bank on it. Russian tradecraft is good enough. They really didn’t need much guidance from the Trump campaign. They had emails they hacked from both the Republican and Democratic campaigns. They had easy access to Wikileaks. It didn’t take genius, or collusion, to know which emails to publicize to favor the Republican candidate.

So what we could end up with from this enormous scandal is an equivocal outcome. Yes, the Russians interfered to favor one candidate over the other. But no one did anything illegal or even immoral on the American side of the equation. All they did was run the best campaign they could under the circumstances. No one is going to fault Trump for that. Russophilia is now so widespread among Republicans that Putin’s enthusiasm for his candidacy will raise few eyebrows among Trump supporters.

What they should fault Trump for is the barrage of lies he has rained from his Twitter account and from the White House spokesman, as well as his deplorable treatment of our British and German allies. No president I can recall has dissed London and Berlin so definitively. Trump accused the Brits of colluding with Obama to spy on the Trump campaign. He refused to shake Chancellor Merkel’s hand and tried to drag her into his petty fantasies by suggesting that Obama wire tapped them both. These are the shabby techniques of a second rate salesman. It is hard to picture a Trump visit to either London or Berlin anytime soon.

Nor is it easy to picture a visit to Moscow or a meeting anyplace with Putin that doesn’t raise more questions than it answers. Until the FBI and Congressional investigations have reached definitive conclusions, my guess is that Trump’s bromance with Putin is on ice. Any deal short of an unconditional Russian withdrawal from Ukraine and Syria (with no quid pro quo) would make us all wonder what Putin got in return, further undermining a presidency that is already foundering.

But foundering is not yet failing. The only people who can do anything about Trump at this point are Republicans in Congress and judges in the federal courts. The latter are already showing their spunk. But the Congress is still lining up to salute the President, who they hope will cut taxes for rich people and regulations on commerce and industry. With some notable exceptions in the Senate, the Republican members care little about Russia. Many even admire Putin’s autocratic ways. You don’t have to collude if your objectives are the same.

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Peace picks March 20-27

1. Addressing the North Korean Threat: A Discussion with Congressman Joe Wilson | Monday, March 20th | 11:30-1:00PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |

Hudson Institute will host a timely conversation on the growing threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs to the Unites States and our East Asian allies. U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Readiness Subcommittee, will join Hudson missile defense and East Asia security experts Rebeccah Heinrichs and Arthur Herman for an in-depth discussion on the status of Pyongyang’s weapons development activities and how the U.S. and our regional allies should respond to bolster their security.

2. From Scarcity to Security: Water as a Resource for Middle East Peacebuilding | Monday, March 20th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Elliot School | Register Here |

In the Middle East, water has often constituted a source of tension between Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring states. In recent years, however, regional leaders have increasingly identified water security as a shared interest that transcends borders – and even a potential avenue for peacebuilding. Join Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, EcoPeace Middle East and Marina Djernaes, Director, EcoPeace Center for Water Security for a discussion on this resource.

For two decades, the EcoPeace Middle East organization has engaged Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians in the joint promotion of practical solutions to transboundary problems of scarcity and pollution. In the process, they have fostered regional alliances, built environmental infrastructure, altered allocation policies, and shined spotlights on the environmental crises facing sacred sites such as the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. This panel will draw on decades of civil society and intergovernmental experience to highlight the potential of water security as a catalyst for peace building in the Middle East and beyond.

3. Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy | Tuesday, March 21st | 12:30 | The Atlantic Council | Register Here |

The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is launching a new initiative, Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy. Over the next two years, the Hariri Center will pool expertise from multiple specialists to cover the many challenges of rebuilding Syria including in: economics, finance, development, infrastructure, political economy, civil society, food security, energy, law, and employment. More than just a cursory overview, the initiative will produce a strategic roadmap to reconstruction with the participation of Syrians and the support of the international community.

The Hariri Center invites you to a discussion on the technical and political challenges ahead for rebuilding Syria with country and development experts on March 21, 2017 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. Our panelists will include Dr. Osama Kadi, president of the Syrian Economic Task Force, Mr. Todd Diamond, Middle East director for Chemonics International, Mona Yacoubian, former deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development, and Bassam Barabandi, former Syrian diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change. The conversation will be moderated by Hariri Center Senior Fellow Faysal Itani. Mr. Omar Shawaf, chairman and founder of BINAA, will give introductory remarks.

4. A Conversation with His Excellency Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon| Tuesday, March 21st | 3:00-4:00 PM | The Wilson Center | Register Here |

The Lebanon Ideas Forum is an assemblage of scholars, journalists, policymakers, and diplomats who will discuss issues concerning Lebanon, its wider region, and relations with the United States and Europe. This event is the inaugural event in the Lebanon Ideas Forum series. The Lebanon Ideas Forum is part of a greater strategic partnership between the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and Safadi Foundation USA, which was established in 2017.  Join the Wilson Center this Tuesday for a discussion with Lara Alameh, President of the Board and CEO, Safadi Foundation USA, and Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon.

5. Securing Southeastern Europe: A New Model for Progress in the Balkans? | Tuesday, March 21st | 4:00 PM | The Atlantic Council | Register Here

Please join the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative on Tuesday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. for a conversation with the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro, as they discuss security cooperation in the Western Balkans.

At this public event, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic, and Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier will jointly discuss their perspective on the security challenges facing Southeastern Europe, as well as their insights on addressing issues ranging from Islamic radicalization and terrorist threats to the completion of Montenegro’s NATO accession process.

6. The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and US policy in Iraq | Wednesday, March 22nd | 10:00-11:30 | Brookings | Register Here |

On March 22, the Brookings Intelligence Project will host former CIA analyst John Nixon to outline his findings from his interrogation of Hussein, and what lessons he believes can be learned. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, will provide introductory remarks and moderate the discussion. Following their remarks, Riedel and Nixon will take questions from the audience.

7. U.S.- Iran Relations: Opportunities for the New Administration | Wednesday, March 22nd | 11:30-12:30 | The Wilson Center | Register Here |

Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent hostage situation, Iran-US relations have been characterized by mutual misperceptions. The nuclear deal of June 2015 between Iran and the “P5+1” came to fruition against this backdrop, in large part due to the efforts of The Right Honourable Catherine Ashton, Baroness of Upholland, Former Vice President of the European Commission and former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, Senior Counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

The July 2015 deal was an unprecedented step towards rebuilding that trust, though tensions are being fueled by military cooperation with Russia in Syria and new sanctions announced by the Trump administration. The new administration faces familiar challenges in relations with Iran, but also some key strategic and economic opportunities. Rob Litwak, Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies, will moderate a discussion between Baroness Ashton and Ambassador Sherman who well know these challenges and opportunities, and can speak to how the U.S. can be appealing to their strategic interests using diplomacy and negotiations.

8. The Impact of Gender Norms on Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia | Wednesday, March 22nd | 12:00-1:00 | The Elliot School | Register Here |

Dr. Hala Aldosari will lead a discussion on the impact of gender norms on the construction of women’s roles and identity in Saudi Arabia. Analysis of key limitations of personal status laws, planning of women’s health services and the concepts of legislation on violence against women will be presented. The talk will also delve into the role of state and non-state agents in shaping the discourse on gender norms and roles, in light of the recent economic and political trends.

Hala Aldosari received her PhD and postdoctoral training in health services research and the social determinants of women’s health. Her research and publications are focused on the intersection of gender, laws, health and political identity in Saudi Arabia. She works on different projects to promote women’s rights and prevention from violence against women and girls. In 2016, she won the Freedom award for her leading role to promote human rights and democracy in Saudi Arabia.

9. Reaffirming the U.S.-Taiwan Security Relationship | Friday, March 24th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |

As President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping next month, one subject that is likely to be discussed is Taiwan. President Trump has inherited a clear and long-established diplomatic and security structure pledged to defend Taiwan, its democratic political institutions, and the freedoms its people enjoy. The keystones of U.S. relations with Taiwan are the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances which established guidelines for U.S. policy toward Taiwan over the last four decades. The Six Assurances addressed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, set a fixed stance on sovereignty issues, and guaranteed that previous agreements calling for U.S. assistance to defend Taiwan would remain firmly in effect.

On March 24, Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will host a distinguished panel of experts to examine the Trump administration’s stance on Taiwan and the outlook for existing agreements to protect Taiwan. Hudson senior fellows Seth Cropsey and William Schneider will be joined by Dennis Wilder, a professor at Georgetown University, and Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute. The panel will assess what is needed to fulfill and fortify the existing agreements with Taiwan and assure not only this partnership, but the U.S.’s entire network of regional and global alliances.

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Libya still adrift

Last Thursday the Atlantic Council hosted an event “Prospects for Ending the Civil War in Libya,” moderated by Karim Mezran. The event featured Nebras Attia, human rights activist, Federica Saini Fasanotti, nonresident scholar at the Brookings Institution, Azza Maghur, senior lawyer at Maghur & Partners, Jason Pack, executive director of the US-Libya Business Association, and Ambassador Jonathan Winer, former US Special Envoy for Libya.

Ambassador Winer said that of the three actors vying for control of the country, no party has legitimacy among the Libyan people. Elections to determine sovereignty. Both Fayez Sarraj (Government of National Accord or GNA) and  ‎Aguila Saleh Issa (House of Representatives or HOR) reached out to international powers for help in facilitating elections, while military strongman Haftar refused to negotiate. Winer believes that the joint Tunisian, Algerian and Egyptian efforts to facilitate a Libya-Libya solution have some potential to re-energize negotiations, but he is not overly optimistic about their potential for success. The most foreign governments can do to encourage a favorable solution is to consolidate support behind one body instead of the divided foreign support for different militias. Winer maintains that US involvement in Libya is aimed at inclusivity reflecting local interests, though efforts are often thwarted by lack of cooperation and willingness to take orders from foreigners. He sees little indication that the Trump administration will pursue a policy towards Libya different than his predecessor.

When asked why she was skeptical about the Libyan Political Agreement that aimed to establish the GNA, Maghur replied she was not only skeptical of it, but that she knows it is a failure. The agreement is not realistic because it lacks transparency, inclusivity, and a clear start date. The agreement only makes the international community happy, and if they want to make the Libyan people happy they need to include them in the process.

As a lawyer in Libya, Maghur sees the judicial system as a strong tool for reunifying the nation. It is a venerable institution that survived the dictatorship and will survive the civil war. The criminal courts are very effective, but improvements are needed in the civil courts.

Fasanotti said Libyans need to develop a sense of nationality and to accept the country’s diversity as a strength. Although nobody wants a divided Libya, the three regions have existed since Italian colonization and are a good place to start. She imagines a federal system that capitalizes on the strengths of each region and celebrates their differences. When asked her opinion on Italian policy towards Libya she stressed its consistency: Italian government support for the GNA is unwavering. Unlike Ambassador Winer, she does not believe that reopening the Italian embassy in Libya is a good idea for security reasons, and because it might be vulnerable to exploitation by military strongman Haftar.

Attia criticized the international community for viewing the Libyan crisis in its own terms. She said that outside actors do not see the real issues affecting Libyan communities. She encourages people in power to reach out to cities and communities to ask what they need help with, supporting a bottom up approach as the best course of action to support Libya. Internationals are not solving the real problems in Libya. Youth is the most vulnerable population sector, at risk of extremism unless someone steps in and engages them with alternatives.

Pack described the proxy war in Libya as a situation where everyone wants to get control of the ‘Libya file,’ either to amp up their international status or to influence developments in a future, more stable, Libya. The Russians seek to limit American influence in the conflict, gain a warm water port, and potentially “trade” Libya for leverage in Syria or Crimea. Pack believes that a viable future for Libya requires heavy handed American intervention, both to consolidate foreign influence behind one actor and to support legitimacy on the ground with capacity building in every sector. He sees the private sector as a potential tool for the Trump administration to incentivize development that creates jobs and infrastructure while increasing bilateral ties between the US and Libya.

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