Category: Yael Mizrahi

Kurdish advances, Turkish concerns

Last week, the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG (People’s Protection Units, the paramilitary wing of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan or PYD) captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad, on the Syrian-Turkish border, which lies 30 miles East of Kobani, and 65 miles north of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.

This is a significant, as Tal Abyad sits at the center of the previously non-contiguous PYD controlled territory in Syria—known as Rojava. Rojava had been split into three cantons: Afrin (an area north-west of Aleppo), Kobani (west of Tal Abyad) and Al Jazira (in the north-east of Hasakeh Province). If the YPG keeps control of Tal Abyad, this will create a route from Kobani to al Jazira, facilitating Coalition efforts as well as laying the groundwork for Syrian-Kurdish self-governance in northeastern Syria. The loss of Tal Abyad deals a heavy blow to ISIS, as this town was used as a smuggling route for the group, as well as an entrance for foreign fighters.

Amidst these recent Kurdish gains, Turkey has been weighing the option of creating a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, in order to thwart the ambitions of the Syrian Kurds as well as provide a safe haven for Syrians. This is not the first time such buffer zones have been proposed; yet now the proposition has taken on a new attraction. Kurdish gains in Syria pose more of a threat to Turkey than ISIS.

The Kurds have a difficult history with Turkey. The PYD’s mother organization, the PKK (Kurdistan’s Workers Party), has been engaged for decades fighting against the Turkish state. Yet, the creation of such a buffer zone would require a major ground incursions of Turkish military forces—an unpopular and extremely dangerous scheme, as it would mean fighting both ISIS and Kurds.

Erdogan reiterated his position towards the formation of a possible Kurdish state on Turkey’s southern border last week, with a resounding “no.” A recent article in Yeni Safak, a pro-Erdogan newspaper, suggests that  Kurdish gains in northern Syria represent a plot by the West to destroy Turkey.

The Kurdish gains have complicated the US-Turkish relationship. The United States has increased its support for the Syrian Kurds since the January liberation of Kobani, where American airstrikes helped dislodge ISIS from the besieged city and cost the jihadi group thousands of fighters. The YPG’s victory at Tal Abyad would not have been possible without US-led, anti-ISIS Coalition airstrikes. America has given increased attention and support to the Kurdish fighters, as they are one of the only truly capable fighting forces more interested in fighting ISIS than Assad.

The question of whether Kurdish forces will continue the push towards Raqqa remains open. Some speculate that the Kurds are unlikely to take such a gamble. In Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga forces have successfully defended their region, but are unlikely to lead the effort to recapture Arab lands, such as Mosul or Anbar.

ISIS has responded to the recent Kurdish success with retaliation attacks on Kobani—purportedly entering from the Turkish border dressed in Free Syrian Aarmy and YPG uniforms. The ISIS attacks have left around 200 citizens dead.

The pictures below are from the Barzani Charity Foundation’s recent trip to Tal Abyad to deliver diesel and food aid.


Inside the city of Tal Abyad, smoke rising to the East
River crossing at the Syrian-Iraqi border
Food aid ready to be delivered to the residents of Tel Abyad


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The Kurds’ new clout

Last month, the Middle East Institute’s (MEI) Turkish Studies program hosted a panel entitled “The Kurds’ New Clout in U.S. Ties with Turkey and Iraq” which focused on the challenges and opportunities in U.S. relations with Turkey and Iraq in light of the growing regional influence of the Kurds. This growing influence, with the Kurds emerging as a key player in the fight against the Islamic State, has put US relations with the governments in Baghdad and Ankara to the test.

How will US collaboration with Iraqi Kurdistan affect US-Turkish and US-Iraqi relations? What will the implications be for the future of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)?

Panelists included Mohammad Shareef, founding member of the London Kurdish Institute, Denise Natali, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, and Gönül Tol, founding director of MEI’s Center for Turkish Studies, with Daniel Serwer moderated.

Shareef outlined the regional, economic, and political factors that define Iraqi Kurdistan as an emerging regional power. The logical conclusion was apparent: sooner or later Kurdistan would achieve independence, as a natural consequence of its growing strength and importance.

Denise Natali believes, however, that Kurdistan’s success needs to be viewed in the context of the region’s increasingly complex and unstable environment, as well as America’s other relations in the region. There is no ‘clear cut’ US Kurdish policy, as Washington views Turkey’s Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) as a terrorist group, while the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces are fighting alongside the US in Iraq.

Notwithstanding that cooperation, the White House remains committed to the territorial integrity of Iraq. This became a point of contention during President Barzani’s recent visit to Washington, when it was made clear that US military support would have to pass through Baghdad.

Gönül Tol outlined Turkey’s changing relationship with the United States on issues such as ISIS, economic cooperation, and rapprochement with Turkey’s Kurds. Turkish fear that the US wants to break up Turkey was allayed with the 2008 Turkey-US security agreement. Ankara’s relationship with the KRG mirrors this progression. Turkey opened a consulate in Erbil and has expanded bilateral trade centered on the natural gas and oil.

Natali believes that the Kurds might have overstepped in their territorial acquisition in Iraq—will they be able to pay for the lands and administer effective control over these areas? Considering the KRG is 17 billion dollars in debt, this remains to be seen. Mohamad Shareef believes that the KRG can be economically viable. A highlight is the 2006 Liberal Investment Law, which has offered vast benefits for foreign investors.

Serwer agreed that perhaps the Kurds have taken on more land than they can realistically control, but this could result in a ‘land for peace’ exchange. Kurdish independence has been postponed due to ISIS, but this issue is sure to resurface in the next 2-3 years, as the Iraqi Kurdish people overwhelmingly support independence. But in the absence of agreement on the borders of Kurdistan, independence could lead to more war, not less.

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Who makes the case for peace?

Last Friday, the Middle East Institute in conjunction with the Conflict Management Program at SAIS, Johns Hopkins held an event entitled “After Israel’s Election, Who Makes the Case for Peace?” Speakers included: Lara Friedman (Americans for Peace Now), Ghaith Al-Omari (WINEP), Ilan Peleg (MEI) and Shibley Telhami (University of Maryland)

Daniel Serwer opened the panel with the observation that since Netanyahu’s sweeping win, silence has descended upon the government formation process. What can we expect from Netanyahu’s fourth term? What can we expect from the Palestinian Authority? Is international recognition the Palestinians’ best alternative to a negotiated agreement? Are settlements Israel’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement? This discussion is taking place against the backdrop of major upheavals and uncertainty in the Middle East. How does this context affect the Israel/Palestine equation?

Ilan Peleg gave an overview of the forces at play during Israel’s latest election. Most surveys predicted that Netanyahu would loose, due to Bibi fatigue’, to the unprecedented rift with the White House, to the increasing socio-economic gaps in Israeli society, and the lack of progress on the peace process. Yet, Netanyahu prevailed.

Peleg attributes this to personality. Netanyahu’s charisma and oratory skills far outweighed those of his rival, Herzog. Netanyahu had a keen understanding of his right-wing constituency. In the final days of the election, he executed a clear cut plan, pulling out all the stops, whereby he was able to steal seats from his more right-wing rivals. Naftali Bennet’s party, Bait Hayehudi suffered, winning only 8 seats, down from 12 in 2013. Through statements like “there will be no Palestinian state under my watch”, and a call to action on the day of the elections with “Arab voters are moving to the polls en masse, and left-wing NGOs are bussing them in”, he reached out to the radical right. Peleg doesn’t see much change in policy likely during the next 2 years.

Gaith Al-Omari believes that is impossible to understand the current Palestinian situation without a broader regional understanding. He attributes the lack of Palestinian interest in the recent elections to two reasons: engaging with the left has proven only to empower Netanyahu, and secondly, they believe they have nothing to gain, as whether Likud or Labor win, it will not translate into political change, especially with regards to Israel’s settlement policy.

Al-Omari feels that Palestinians have no good BATNAs, as all ‘solutions’ will have problematic consequences. Joining international treaties and organizations has lost it’s attractiveness to the Palestinian street, as it has not led to any major advancements. Palestinians are also wary of an ICC bid, as it will have major implications for their relationship with the US, and they don’t want to use their last bullet.

A major issue arises with regards to a possible UN Security Council Resolution setting out the parameters of a peace agreement, including the right of return. Al-Omari says there is no way to ensure what this would entail. Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel presents a quandary, as does the lack of national unity. This must all be viewed agasint the backdrop of fears of a potential future intifada, which has a tendency to happen when you least expect it.

Shibley Telhami provided an overview of shift in the US-Israel relationship since the beginning of Obama’s tenure. Obama spent his first years in office trying to discern whether or not Netanyahu was capable of making peace. Kerry’s peace package was built to incentivize Netanyahu to create a coalition that would support a peace deal. The effort failed. After six years of trying, the US is not likely to gamble again anytime soon.

Currently, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dwarfed by more pressing issues: the Iranian negotiations and the fight against ISIS. The Administration still believes the conflict is of long-term importance and remains steadfast in favor of a two-state solution. It is conceivable that Obama may support or abstain from a UNSC vote on the issue. Telhami‘s recent polling shows that there is broad opposition to settlements across party lines, and that with regards to the Jewish-Democratic binary, the majority of Americans support Israel as a democratic state. However, when it comes to Congress, there is great divide between Democratic and Republican congressman and their constituencies.

Lara Friedman discussed the future likelihood of US administration efforts towards peace. The State Department has launched a reassessment of it’s policy. They are at a loss for how to proceed. At the end of the day, it will come down to Obama’s personal interest in making a difference. She takes hope from the recent rapprochement with Cuba and believes that the President will make some personal attempt to solve the Palestinian issue before he leaves office in 2016.

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Peace picks April 27- May 1

  1. Insurgency in the Middle East and Its Threat to the United States | Monday, April 27th | 9:00 AM- 12:00 PM  Elliot School of International Affairs | REGISTER TO ATTEND | 9:15-10:30: ‘Understanding Civil War, Insurgency and Terrorism in Today’s Middle East: Jon B. Alterman, Senior Vice President, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham, Associate Professor, University of Maryland, Dafna H. Rand, Deputy Director of Studies, Center for a New American Security, Joseph K. Young, Associate Professor, American University 10:45-12:00: ‘Understanding the Threat to the United States and Europe from Returning Jihadists’, Tricia Bacon, Professorial Lecturer, American University, Dorle Hellmuth, Assistant Professor, Catholic University.
  2.  Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: Priorities and Problems | Monday, April 27th | 1:00-2:30 PM | Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Ambassador Anne W. Patterson is a career diplomat, who currently serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Prior to returning to Washington for this assignment, Ambassador Patterson served as the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt (2011-2013) and as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (2007-2010). She has served the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Deputy Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and as the State Department’s Deputy Inspector General. She has also served as U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (2000-2003) and as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador (1997-2000).
  3. Defeating the Jihadists in Syria: Competition before Confrontation | Tuesday, April 28th | 11:00-12:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Faysal Itani acknowledges these positive yet limited results, but also presents the unintended consequences of this air campaign and US policy options given local Syrian realities.  Itani details how coalition efforts accelerated the rise of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the near-collapse of nationalist rebel forces. He proposes a US strategy to assist nationalist insurgents to defeat ISIS and the Nusra Front–by enabling them to compete with and contain jihadist groups, and ultimately confront them. Speakers include: Robert Ford, Senior Fellow, Middle East Institute and Richard Barrett, Senior Vice President, The Soufan Group
  4. A Conversation with Ephraim Sneh | Tuesday, April 28th | 1:00-2:00 PM| Woodrow Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | How does Israel look at the emerging U.S.-Iranian nuclear agreement? What are the prospects of negotiations with the Palestinians? And what are the implications of recent Israeli elections for Israel’s national security policies? Please join us for the second in a series of conversations with prominent Israeli politicians and experts about the future of Israel in the region and the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Ephraim Sneh, Chairman of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue, Netanya Academic College, and former Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense. Aaron David Miller, Historian, analyst, negotiator, and former advisor to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations, 1978-2003.
  5. In Search of a Syria Strategy | Thursday, April 30th | 12:00-1:30 PM |Cato Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND| What is the United States trying to accomplish in Syria? Are its goals achievable with current strategies? Join our panelists as they discuss how we reached this point, and the extent to which the U.S. should or should not be involved in the ongoing conflict. Featuring Emma Ashford, Visiting Fellow, Defense and Foreign Policy, Cato Institute; Erica Borghard, Assistant Professor, U.S. Military Academy (West Point); and Nicholas Heras, Research Associate, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security; moderated by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute.
  6. Grassroots Governing: A Talk with Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun| Thursday, April 30th | 12:00-1:30 PM| Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Vera Baboun, the first democratically elected female mayor of Bethlehem,  for a discussion about the challenges of leading the Bethlehem Municipality in the face of Israeli settlement construction, severe risks in public security, and persistent economic constraints. Mayor Baboun’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with Palestinian youth activists from Bethlehem, examining the role of municipal government and the civic engagement of youth in the West Bank today. Speakers include: Amb. Wendy Chamberlin, President, Middle East Institute,  Lana Abu-Hijleh Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, Global Communities, Betty Ba’baish Member, Bethlehem Youth Council Jacob Qara’a President, Bethlehem Youth Council  Muna Shikaki, Correspondent, Al-Arabiya News Channel
  7. The Kurds’ New Clout in U.S. Ties with Turkey and Iraq | Friday, May 1st | 12:00-1:30 PM | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The rise of the Kurds as a key player in the fight against the Islamic State has put U.S. relations with the governments in Baghdad and Ankara to the test. If the U.S. collaborates with the Kurds with greater intensity and in broader areas of policy in the coming years, how will this affect U.S.-Turkish and U.S.-Iraqi relations? What will the implications be for the Kurdistan Regional Government? Panelists: Mohammed Shareef Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society and Lecturer, University of Sulaimani in Iraqi Kurdistan and University of Exeter in the United Kingdom Denise Natali Senior Research Fellow, National Defense University Gonul Tol Director, Center for Turkish Studies, Middle East Institute Daniel Serwer, Senior Research Professor of Conflict Management, SAIS, and MEI Scholar


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Peace picks April 12-17

  1. Iraq Under Abadi: Bridging Sectarian Divides in the Face of ISIS | Monday, April 13th | 9:00- 10:15 AM | American Enterprise Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | At the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, US warplanes began airstrikes against ISIS positions in Tikrit on March 25. But ISIS isn’t the only challenge standing in the way of a stable, unified, democratic Iraq. How should the United States approach Iranian influence in Iraq? Can Iraq ever achieve a true power-sharing democracy in spite of the sectarian divides between Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites? A day before Abadi meets with President Obama in Washington, join a panel discussion on the future of America’s strategic partnership in Iraq. Speakers include: Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress, Denise Natali, National Defense University and Douglas Ollivant, New America Foundation and Mantid International.
  2. The Iran Nuclear Deal | Monday, April 13th 2015 | 11:00-1:30 PM | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND| What are the short and long-term obstacles to finalizing and sustaining a nuclear deal with Iran, and how would a U.S.-Iran nuclear detente impact ongoing conflicts and long-standing alliances in the Middle East? The two panels will focus on the future of the deal, and the regional implications of the deal. Speakers include: Jessica Tuchman Mathews, George Perkovich, Karim Sadjadpour, Yezid Sayigh, Frederic Wehrey, Ali Vaez, and David Sanger
  3. ISIS: The State of Terror| Tuesday, April 14th| 12:00-1:15 PM| New America | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In 2014, ISIS shocked the world with their brutality and the speed with which they took a large swath of Iraqi and Syrian territory. One year later, most countries, including the United States, are still trying to figure out what is driving this group and how best they can be defeated. J.M. Berger, an investigative journalist and non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, brings a uniquely qualified perspective to the analysis of the challenges posed by ISIS’s rise. In ISIS: State of Terror, Berger and Jessica Stern, a lecturer on terrorism at Harvard University, draw upon intelligence sources, law enforcement officials, and their own groundbreaking research to explain the genesis, evolution, and implications of the Islamic State—and how we can fight it. The authors analyze the tools ISIS fighters use both to frighten innocent citizens and lure new soldiers—including the “ghoulish pornography” of their pro-jihadi videos, the seductive appeal of “jihadic chic,” and its startlingly effective social media expertise.
  4. Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria | Tuesday, April 14th | 12:00-1:30 PM | The Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After four years of conflict, the prospect of a stable Syria continues to be bleak, with a diplomatic solution nowhere in sight and military steps lacking in international support. In their report titled, Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria: The Case for a Syrian National Stabilization Force, authors Hof, Kodmani, and White present a new way forward – one that takes President Obama’s train and equip program to the next level forging a Syrian ground force which could constitute the core of the future Syrian Army.. How can this force change the dynamics of the conflict on the ground and how can the international community help build it? What other elements need to be in place to make this force an effective part of a broader resolution of the conflict? Speakers include: Ambassador Frederic C. Hof Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council, Bassma Kodmani Executive Director The Arab Reform Initiative, and Jeffrey White Defense Fellow The Washington Institute
  5. The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Critical Issues | Thursday, April 16 | 12:00-1:00 PM |The Heritage Foundation | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5 plus 1 have entered a crucial phase ahead of the March 30 deadline for a framework agreement. examine some of the key issues involved in the negotiations and assess some of the pitfalls that must be avoided if an acceptable agreement is to be reached by the June 30th deadline for a final agreement. Speakers include, Fred Fleitz Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs, Center for Security Policy, Greg Jones Senior Researcher, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and Henry Sokolski. Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.
  6. Geopolitics of Energy Security in the Eastern Mediterranean | Wednesday, April 15 | 12:00-5:oo PM| American Security Project | REGISTER TO ATTEND| A half day conference examining the energy security challenges faced in the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the course of three panel discussions, the event will first examine the geopolitical importance of the region, focusing on the recent discovery of major natural gas fields in Israel.The next panel will look at the challenges of promoting energy cooperation throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, and will attempt to offer prescriptions for increasing energy security. The final panel will discuss the potential role that the US can play in the region in terms of investment opportunities and regional cooperation.
  7. Assessing U.S. Sanctions: Impact, Effectiveness, Consequences | Thursday, April 16 | 8:45- 3:30 PM |Woodrow Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The unfolding crisis in Ukraine has the United States and its European allies struggling to find a way to respond to Russia’s actions and continuing violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. To date, that response is centered on calibrated but escalating sanctions against Russia. Once again, American reliance on sanctions as an essential foreign policy tool is on display. Past and current examples of sanctions, including Iran, South Africa, Cuba and others will provide important context for understanding the role that sanctions play in American statecraft.
  8. Honeypots and Sticky Fingers: The Electronic Trap to Reveal Iran’s Illicit Cyber Network | Friday, April 17 | 2:00-5:00 PM | American Enterprise Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The West has severely underestimated Iran’s cyberwarfare capabilities. Despite sanctions, the Islamic Republic has managed to build a sophisticated information technology (IT) infrastructure, and new intelligence indicates that the Iranian regime may be maintaining front companies in the West to obtain cyber technology. How can the United States and its allies enhance their security and combat Iran in cyberspace?. General Keith Alexander, former commander of US Cyber Command and former director of the National Security Agency, will deliver a keynote address.
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Peace picks March 30-April 3

  1. General Wesley Clark: Exclusive Briefing from Ukraine’s Front Lines | Monday, March 30th | 4:30-6:00 PM | The Atlantic Council| REGISTER TO ATTEND General Clark, former NATO Allied Commander will discuss his time in Ukraine from where he just returned, met with Ukrainian military commanders and President Petro Poroshenko.
  2. Salafists and Sectarianism: Twitter and Communal Conflict in the Middle East | Tuesday March 31st | The Stimson Center | REGISTER TO ATTENDSocial media has a powerful effect on much of what happens in the world today. From inciting people to join protests on the streets of Cairo to recruiting young girls to join ISIS, social media can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. A close analysis of their Twitter accounts opens a window into their universe and the strategies they are using to increase animosity toward the Shi’a, who they believe are not real Muslims. Speakers include: Geneive Abdo, Fellow, Middle East Program, Stimson Center
, and Khalil al Anani, Adjunct Professor at School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
  3. To Vote or Not to Vote: Egypt’s Diverse Electorate | Tuesday, March 31st| 12:00-1:30 PM | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Egyptians have gone to the polls eight times since the 2011 uprising. The latest round of polling, set to begin on March 22, was delayed by a Supreme Constitutional Court committee ruling on the constitutionality of the election law. Voter turnout and enthusiasm has ebbed and flowed but coverage of Egypt’s voters has often painted them with a broad brush, categorizing the electorate as a heterogeneous mass. How will political parties tackle the challenge of engaging voters and exploiting the motivations of different factions? Speakers include: Sarah El Sirgany is a Cairo-based journalist and television producer, contributing to regional and international publications and networks including CNN, the New York Times, Al-Monitor, and Mada Masr. Reem Awny Abu-Zaid manages the “Egypt and Elections” project at the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute. Sahar F. Aziz is President of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association.
  4. Europe and the Iran Negotiations: EES Seminar Series | Tuesday, March 31st | 6:00-8:00 PM | Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTENDMs. Valerie Lincy is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Project, and will discuss the topic. She oversees the Project’s two principal projects, the Risk Report database and the Iran Watch website. She provides training as head of the Risk Report team that visits foreign countries. As the editor and principal investigator for Iran Watch, she bears the main responsibility for building, populating and maintaining the site, as well as writing articles for publication, organizing and presiding at roundtables, and conducting associated research.
  5. Deal or No Deal? Negotiating with Iran | Wedensday, April 1st | 10:00-11:30 AM | Brookings Institute |REGISTER TO ATTENDTalks aimed at producing a political framework to resolve the Iran nuclear issue are likely to come down to the wire before the  deadline at the end of March, but already leaders in the United States and Iran are facing an intense debate among key constituencies at home. Iranian hardliners have criticized potential regime concessions, while opponents of a deal in the U.S. Congress are advancing legislation that could undermine the Obama administration’s ability to implement an agreement.
  6. Making Sense of Chaos in the Middle East: Multiple Wars, Multiple Alliances | Wednesday, April 1st | 12:00-1:30 | Washington Institute for Near East Policy | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Volcanic changes in the region are under way, with the outbreak of Sunni-Shiite wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, unprecedented tension between Washington and Israel, and U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks that appear on the verge of breakthrough. Speakers include: James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, Dennis Ross, Robert Satloffis the Institute’s executive director and Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy and Michael Singh.
  7. Iraq: Now and After ISIS | Thursday, April 2nd | 12:00-1:00 PM | The Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Ambassador Sumaida’ie, who recently returned from Iraq, will discuss the evolution of the struggle in Iraq is both complex and consequential. The outcome is going to be a major factor in determining the future shape of the region, and will have a significant impact on global geopolitics. The United States as well as other players should have a clear eyed assessment of where things are heading, and what needs to be done if the direction of events is not palatable. 
  8. ISIS and al-Qaeda: Assessing Terrorist Threats to the Homeland and Beyond | Thursday, April 2nd | 12:30-2:00 PM | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND| The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (also known as ISIS) as a violent extremist group with global aspirations has raised concerns over a potential terrorist attack on US soil. As ISIS pursues its objective of establishing a state in various parts of the Middle East, it continues to recruit foreign fighters from North Africa and Europe in order to plan for attacks against the West. Recently, Belgian and Australian authorities uncovered ISIS-inspired cells on their territories and succeeded in foiling terrorist plots. So could the US homeland be an ISIS target? Speakers include: Bruce Hoffman, Director, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University, Bruce Riedel, Director of the Intelligence Project, Brookings Institution and a welcome by Barry Pavel, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security Atlantic Council.


















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