Tag: The Middle East

Peace picks April 17-21

ISIS, Russia, and China: Can America Win at Three-Front Information War? | Tuesday, April 18 | 11:45-1:30 | Hudson Institute |Register Here

The Hudson Institute is hosting a roundtable discussion that will focus on the whole range of approaches, from US international media to public diplomacy to strategic communications to “grey” and “black” psy-ops, with Jeffrey Gedmin, senior fellow at Atlantic Council and former president and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Martha Bayles, visiting fellow at Hudson Institute, and Eric Brown, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

As the information age becomes the disinformation age, America faces three distinct adversaries, each with its own expertise in marrying cutting-edge technology with age-old methods of manipulation and deception. What are the differences between radical jihadist, Russian, and Chinese propaganda? How is America responding? How should it respond?

Contentious Cultural Politics in the Middle East and North Africa| Tuesday, April 18 |12-1:30 | Elliott School | Register Here

Join the Elliot School’s Project on Middle East Political Science for a conversation on current issues in the Middle East and North Africa. The expert panel features Laryssa Chomiak, Centre d’Etudes Maghrébines à Tunis; Lisel Hintz, Barnard College; Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College CUNY; and Lisa Wedeen, University of Chicago

Turkey’s New ‘Sultan’: Prospects for US and Regional Policy | Tuesday, April 18 |12:30| WINEP |Register Here |

It seems inevitable that Turkey will play a role in navigating many of the crises currently challenging U.S. interests, including the outcome of the Syria war and the future of Russian involvement in the Middle East. And at Turkey’s helm amid this storm is the populist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who continues to consolidate his hold on domestic politics while using military and diplomatic means to solidify Ankara as a regional power — trends that could accelerate after the country’s landmark April 16 constitutional referendum.

In his latest book The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey, Dr. Soner Cagaptay assesses how the longtime leader has cemented his rule over the years — and at what cost to his country’s stability and democratic future. To discuss these ambitions and how they might affect the Trump administration’s regional calculus, The Washington Institute is pleased to host a Policy Forum with the author, who will be joined by experts Amberin Zaman and Gonul Tol.

2017 Global Development Forum | Wed April 19|8:30-2:30| CSIS | Register Here

Please join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for the third annual Global Development Forum (GDF) on April 19. The GDF will feature over 40 speakers, including key stakeholders from U.S. government agencies, leading multilateral and non-governmental organizations, foreign governments, and the private sector.

The 2017 Global Development Forum seeks to examine the role and purpose of official development assistance against a backdrop of rising incomes, economic growth, youth unemployment, and other continued complex challenges in many parts of the world. To address these challenges, the next U.S. administration will need to apply new approaches and remain highly flexible in a rapidly changing development landscape. In particular, this conference will explore ways in which the next few years will shape the role of the United States in international development, and how the United States can work with official donors and key partners, including the private sector, civil society, and multilateral institutions.

The Difficult Road Ahead: Stabilizing Iraq and the Gulf Region | Wednesday, April 19 | 9:00-10:30 | Stimson Center | Register Here

While U.S. and Iraqi forces are making clear progress in the fight against ISIS, the security situation in Iraq and the Gulf region remains tenuous. ISIS was able to grow and develop largely due to the difficulties the government faced in controlling its vast territory and establishing inclusive governance to effectively integrate Iraq’s diverse constituencies. In the context of the ongoing instability in Iraq, Iran has increased its involvement in the region’s conflicts and has been able to assert a great deal of influence over Iraqi politics.

Bringing security to Iraq is essential, and the impact of U.S. intervention continues to be felt regionally and globally. Iran, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the U.S. all have an interest in a stable, peaceful Iraq. However, even as ISIS is defeated in Iraq, the question remains whether the U.S. or the Iraqi government are prepared to “win the peace” in the long-term. This on-the-record discussion hosted by the Stimson Center and TRENDS Research & Advisory will feature Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen and an expert panel examining the question of what the U.S. and its regional partners can do to support Iraq in a way that will help ensure durable peace and stability.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces are making clear progress in the fight against ISIS, the security situation in Iraq and the Gulf region remains tenuous. ISIS was able to grow and develop largely due to the difficulties the government faced in controlling its vast territory and establishing inclusive governance to effectively integrate Iraq’s diverse constituencies. In the context of the ongoing instability in Iraq, Iran has increased its involvement in the region’s conflicts and has been able to assert a great deal of influence over Iraqi politics.

Vision 2030: One Year into Saudi Arabia’s Economic Reforms | Thursday, April 20|3:00-4:30 | CSIS | Register Here |

Join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a conversation with H.E. Dr. Majed Bin Abdullah al-Qasabi, the minister of commerce and investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who also serves on the Kingdom’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs, chaired by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Previously, Dr. al-Qasabi served as minister of social affairs and was an adviser to then-Crown Prince Salman’s Court, with the rank of minister. He was also secretary general of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and director general of the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Charity Foundation. Dr. al-Qasabi holds a Ph.D. in engineering management from the University of Missouri, and two M.A.s and a B.A. in civil engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Portland, respectively.

Energy Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Middle East | Wednesday, April 19 | 9:00 AM | Atlantic Council | Register Here

Please join the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, April 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for a discussion about how energy innovation and entrepreneurship in the government and private sector are reshaping the Middle East and creating economic opportunities in the region. Joining us are Julia Nesheiwat, presidential deputy envoy for hostage affairs at the US Department of State; HE Majid Al-Suwaid, consul general of the United Arab Emirates in New York; and Salah Tabbara, general manager of ALBina Industrial Construction Company.

Across the Middle East, countries are pursuing energy innovation. Last year, Saudi Arabia announced its “Vision 2030” goals, by which the country aims to transform the economy and reduce its dependency on oil. Turkey plans to prioritize research and development (R&D) in the energy sector in the coming years, while Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has set a goal of renewables providing 20 percent of all power used domestically by 2022. In the United Arab Emirates, Masdar is committed to the mission of renewable energy by investing in education and R&D.

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Women’s rights in MENA

Last Wednesday, March 29th, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies hosted the inaugural Haleh Esfandiari Forum event. Henri J. Barkey, Director of the Middle East Program (MEP) at the Wilson Center introduced keynote speaker, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO at the Wilson Center, moderated the subsequent conversation.

The Haleh Esfandiari Forum is a series of public events focused on women’s empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), named to honor Haleh Esfandiari’s commitment to promoting women’s empowerment and her leadership of MEP from its inception in 1998 through 2015. Barkey praised Esfandiari, Albright and Harman for their resolute leadership as women at the top of their fields. The attitude on stage was friendly as both Barkey and Harman worked closely with Albright during her time at the Wilson Center and beyond.

Albright praised the Wilson Center for committing resources to promoting women’s rights at a time when many experts focused on big power politics consider the subject of marginal importance. She attributes the Wilson Center’s contribution to Haleh Esfandari’s leadership as a force for change, and as resource for others who strive to make a difference. Albright emphasized that women’s rights are human rights and pointed to the violent treatment of women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan as a poignant reminder of this fact. She condemned groups who ignore the safety and rights of one portion of the population as ignoring the rights of all people. The issues that plague women impact the health of the economy and society as a whole.

Albright spoke about her work with Stephen Hadley at the Atlantic Council developing a plan to promote women’s rights in the MENA region. The team approached the task in a manner atypical of many DC think-tanks by going beyond the District and visiting with people on the ground in the region, including activists, refugees, politicians and monarchs. Calls for change are growing stronger. Civil society and activists are stirring progress; entrepreneurs are creating career opportunities for women outside the reach of government, and in some places authorities are starting to realize that their best resource is not their oil, but rather their people. These “green shoots of progress” need to be cultivated with sustained engagement on the part of the US.

Historically the US is the foremost supporter of women’s rights abroad, but Albright expressed doubt that the new administration will continue the tradition. Asked by Harman about the biggest changes in Congress since her time working for Senator Muskie, Albright highlighted the death of bipartisan solutions. Friendship and partnership across the aisle was a key part of her early experience. Harman concurred, citing the bipartisan House Judiciary Committee vote to impeach Nixon and the cooperation that ensued in the transition period after Nixon’s resignation.

The new administration’s proposed budget cuts directly decrease America’s limited soft-power influence in the region; Albright feels strongly that foreign assistance is one of the most effective tools for promoting US interests abroad and she appeals to Congress to reject cuts on diplomacy and for women’s empowerment around the world.

Albright was prudent to delineate the difference between promoting women’s rights and pushing Western values on the Middle East. She does not advocate for feminist reforms that are carbon copies of those in the US, recognizing that there are different concerns for different cultures. At the same time, she highlights the universal right for women’s voices to be heard, and the strength in solidarity.

Despite setbacks in the US and abroad, Albright remains optimistic. She said that feminist movements have endured across generations and coastlines, united by the idea that each individual life is valuable. She dreams of the day when every girl wakes up and feels that her life is cherished and her rights protected, that she is an individual and her future is determined by her character alone.

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Peace picks for April 3-10

 1. U.S.-Egyptian Relations In The Age Of ISIS | Monday, April 3rd|11:45-1:00| The Hudson Institute| Register Here

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s visit to Washington in early April presents an opportunity to renew the American-Egyptian alliance. Over the past three and half years, a wide gulf in policy approaches has led to disagreements on a range of issues, from democracy and human rights, to Islamist extremism and the Libyan Civil War. Will the diplomatic visit mark a new chapter in U.S.-Egyptian relations?

President Sisi’s visit comes at a critical moment for his country. In the Sinai, the Islamic State’s local affiliate is inflicting daily casualties on security forces. Its genocidal campaign against Egyptian Copts has led to a mass flight of Copts from north Sinai. This followed the bombing of the St. Mark Cathedral compound in Cairo that left 29 people dead.

As the new Trump administration refines its strategy towards the Arabic world’s most populous country, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom will host a discussion on the security, political, and religious freedom challenges facing Egypt. On April 3, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute, will join Hudson Senior Fellows Nina Shea and Samuel Tadros to assess the situation in Egypt and discuss effective U.S. policy options toward the country.

2. Is Something Stirring In Central Asia? |Monday, April 3rd | 4:00 PM | Atlantic Council | Register Here

Since the death of Uzekistan’s President Islam Karimov in September of 2016, the stability that characterized key developments and overall dynamics in Uzbekistan as well as in the Central Asia region as a whole, has been undergoing a noticeable shift. Initiatives of the newly installed President Mirziyoyev in Uzbekistan and proposals regarding reforms by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan suggest that something may be stirring in Central Asia. This first joint forum of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Atlantic Council will present these developments, ask if they represent a real shift, and consider the implications of such changes for the Central Asia region as a whole and for its place in the world.

Moderated by Dr. S. Frederick Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
American Foreign Policy Council; The event features Ambassador John Herbst; Ambassador Richard Hoagland Interim Co-chair  OSCE Minsk Group; Daniel Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia State department; Dr. Martha Olcott, Visiting Professor at Michigan State University.

3. Afghanistan: The Reconciliation Option |Tuesday, April 4th |12:15- 2:00 PM | The Stimson Center| Register Here

U.S. commanders characterize the fight against the Afghan Taliban as a “stalemate.” As U.S. national security leaders and Congress evaluate strategic choices in Afghanistan, the discussion has narrowly focused on military options and troop levels. The Stimson Center is pleased to host Ambassador Richard Olson who will detail what an alternative approach, a reconciliation option, might look like in Afghanistan. Shamila Chaudhary, former Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan on the National Security Council (2010-2011), will offer comments, Sameer Lalwani, Deputy Director of the South Asia program, will moderate a discussion, and Stimson Center President Brian Finlay will convene the event.

4. Global Cities, Local Neighborhoods In Displacement, Migration, And Promise | Tuesday, April 4th|4:00 -7:00 PM | Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars| Register Here

Please join the Urban Sustainability Laboratory and the Education Policy Program and the Center of Education Policy and Evaluation in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University for the first in a set of seminars to discuss equity and justice challenges that confront our cities and neighborhoods.
By addressing critical issues that face our urbanized world, the seminars seek to both advance public understanding about the significance and future of our world’s cities and to create more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful cities through research and policy.

On April 4, a panel of experts will examine key issues facing neighborhoods and communities in transition in the United States.  From Ferguson to Baltimore, Chicago to Los Angeles, cities and neighborhoods are experiencing transition to larger processes of urban renewal, gentrification, and marginalization, while at the same time under pressure from an intersection of housing, social welfare, education, and political forces within and beyond this country. Panelists will identify solutions and offer a vision for American cities, especially in an increasingly stratified world:

Leon Andrews, Race, Equity, and Leadership Initiative, National League of Cities; Johanna Bockman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University; Michelle Chatman, Department of Crime, Justice, and Security Studies, University of the District of Columbia; Sonya Horsford, Teacher’s College, Columbia University; Derek Hyra, Metropolitan Policy Center, American University

5. Foreign Fighter Fallout |Tuesday, April 4th | 9:00- 12:00 | CSIS | Register Here

As international and local forces battle in Iraq and Syria, an unknown number of the conflict’s tens of thousands foreign fighters may flee to other areas. These returnees could bolster international operations for the Islamic State and al Qaeda, oxygenating social tensions or conducting attacks on U.S. interests and allies around the world. Please join the CSIS Transnational Threats Project (TNT) for an in-depth discussion between Lieutenant General Michael K. Nagata, Director of the Directorate for Strategic Operational Planning at the National Counterterrorism Center and TNT Director & Senior Fellow Tom Sanderson. The discussion and Q&A will be followed by an expert panel discussion moderated by Tom Sanderson.

Weighing the Options: Choices and Challenges in the Middle East (in Arabic) |Wednesday, April 5th | 11:00 AM| Atlantic Council| Register Here

President Donald Trump confronts an array of difficult choices as he and his administration consider how to address the conflicts and problems in the Middle East that continue to threaten global stability. Please join us for an interactive online video discussion in Arabic with Hariri Center experts Abdul Rahman AlAgeli, Sarah El Sirgany, and Nabeel Khoury about the shifts in US policy towards the Middle East under the Trump Administration and how the new approach will impact regional conflicts and alliances, among other issues. The panelists will also share their views on whether the recently released Albright-Hadley Middle East Strategy Task Force report’s strategy is a valid vision to address the problems in the region. Mohamed Elmenshawy will moderate the discussion featuring Nonresident Fellows at Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council Mr. Abdul Rahman AlAgeli, Ms. Sarah El Sirgany, and Dr. Nabeel Khoury.

6. Containing the Civil War Contagion| Wednesday, April 5th | 12:30-1:00| MEI | Register Here

Civil wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq have killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions, enabled the resurgence of terrorist organizations, and threaten the stability of neighboring countries as well as Europe. These conflicts erupted in the wake of domestic demands for change in the face of repressive governments and in the context of bitter proxy struggles between regional powers. Bringing these civil wars to a sustainable and inclusive end is key to denying space to terrorist groups, repatriating IDPs and refugees, and starting the process of post-war reconstruction.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host Kathleen Cunningham (Univ. of Maryland), Marc Lynch (George Washington Univ.) and Kenneth M. Pollack (Brookings Institution) for an analysis of the causes and trajectories of the Middle East’s civil wars and policy implications for the United States. Lynch will present the thesis of his recent book The New Arab Wars and Pollock will draw on his co-authored article “Escaping the Civil War Trap in the Middle East” in opening remarks. MEI Scholar Ross Harrison will join as discussant.

7. Syria’s Trajectory and Challenges for the United States |Thursday, April 6th |8:30 AM -3:00 PM | Carnegie Endowment | Register Here

In six years, the Syria conflict has evolved from a democratic uprising to the world’s most pressing international crisis. As a new administration in the United States hones its policy to address the conflict, Carnegie’s Middle East Program will bring together speakers from Syria, other Arab countries, Turkey, Europe, and Russia to examine the potential scenarios for the future of the Syria conflict, the role of external players, as well as the serious political, humanitarian, and security challenges posed by this tragic conflict.

Carnegie’s Middle East Program gathers scholars from around the globe to examine the potential scenarios for the future of the conflict in Syria. Marwan Muasher, Nikolay Kozhanov, Hossein Mousavian, Galip Dalay, Riad Hijab, Rouba Mhaissen, Jihad Makdissi, Abdulhakim Bashar, Bassma Kodmani, Taysir Raddawi, Tobias Ellwood, Shanta Devarajan.

8. A Guide To Geopolitics In The 21st Century|Friday, April 7th |12:00-1:30 PM | Foreign Policy Research Institute | Register Here

How to understand a world where Russia threatens to break up the post-Cold War order in Europe, while China lays the groundwork for a new order in East Asia, and the entire Middle East is riven with conflict —this is the assignment we’ve given to one of the world’s great geopolitical thinkers, Jeremy Black, author of over 100 books on military and diplomatic history.

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It’s the oil

On Monday, Georgetown University’s Centers for Contemporary Arab Studies and Latin American Studies hosted an event “Oil, Authoritarianism, and Populism” to compare governance in the Middle East and Latin America after the discovery of oil. The discussion featured Daniel Neep, author of Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Space, Insurgency and State Formation, Georgetown Associate Professor Joseph Sassoon (author of Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime), and Angelo Rivero Santos, adjunct professor and director of Venezuela Programming at the McDonough School of Business.

Neep described the study of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as idiographic, isolated in part due to the complexity and variety in the region itself. At the end of the Cold War, the field of international relations started to shift and scholars increasingly focused on democratization. By the 2000s, the conversations switched to ways authoritarianism evolves and roots itself in the context of state and society. Much of this research is concerned with individual nations or bilateral comparisons, with little attention paid to international trends. Neep argued that there is much to learn from international interregional comparison. Comparisons between Latin America and the Middle East are particularly interesting. Populist authoritarianism is more successful in the Arab world, but Neep pointed out that political society’s conception of authoritarianism started in Latin America. He highlighted state-led industrialization, class uprisings, and land reform as key elements in comparisons of pre-2005 Syria, Egypt under Nasser, and South American countries. It is essential that scholars look at similar experiences across the globe to fully understand long term trajectories.

Additionally, Neep highlighted the error in thinking of authoritarian and democratic systems as diametrically opposed, or even as different“species.” He rejected the tendency to consider authoritarian regimes as a stage before the development of a democratic system. A more accurate way of thinking frames authoritarianism as a particular type of state. He went on to cite the current political crisis in the US as an example of crossover, a democratic regime with (potential?) authoritarian characteristics.

Sassoon identified fundamental elements of Middle Eastern regimes congruent with Latin American history such as widespread use of torture, a strong security apparatus, and a strong military. Yet, despite its military dictatorships, Latin America managed to move past authoritarian structures. Sassoon proposed that oil might be the factor retarding democratic progress in the MENA region, especially considering the failure of the 2011 uprisings in the region. Sassoon points out that Iraq and Egypt were more developed than Chile in the 1960’s, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth today. Aspirations for reform suffered from a lack of proper opposition and control of the ruling party.

Latin America possessed requisite structures to establishing a strong opposition entrenched in civil society that are not present in the Middle East. Sassoon warned that whether nations are producers or intermediaries of oil, there is too much reliance on the resource. This is a fundamental issue. No country has figured out how to divert oil wealth into something more productive. Sassoon used Libya as an example of this challenge; when Gadhafi took power Libya was a rich country, with no border disputes and no enemies in the world. Forty years later it is a failed state.

Santos identified Venezuela as the best country in Latin America to compare with the Middle East because of its position as the second biggest oil producer in the Western hemisphere after the US. The history of democracy in Venezuela is complicated, with over 25 constitutions since it’s independence in 1810. Equally complex is its relationship with oil: it is both a curse and a blessing. Oil propelled Venezuela to relevancy in the world stage through membership in OPEC and the Jose Accords, and triggered social and political transformations at home. But the country is a classic example of “Dutch Disease,” where the discovery of oil shifted the formerly diverse agricultural economy to one dependent on a single resource.

Venezuela differs from many countries in the MENA region because the government always believed that the oil belonged to the people, and worked to create social contracts that addressed the role of oil in society and how to distribute resource wealth. However, you cannot distribute wealth that you do not have, and Santos remarked that low oil prices cause problems such as the current unrest.

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