Category: Adam Friend

Success without victory

In October of 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan with a goal of rooting out the Taliban government in Kabul and establishing a peaceful democratic state in its place. Sixteen years later the war continues with no sign of resolution, as the Taliban continue to launch attacks on U.S. forces and Afghan civilians. For policymakers in Washington, what is the best approach to end the conflict? Does the US have a strategy to declare victory in Afghanistan?

February 16 the Middle East Institute’s Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies, Marvin G. Weinbaum, moderated a discussion featuring Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow and researcher on drug trafficking at Brookings; Christopher Kolenda, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former senior advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Department of Defense; Ahmad Khalid Majidyar, director of MEI’s IranObserved Project; and Ronald Neumann, former US ambassador to Afghanistan and currently President of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Here is the full video of the event:

Weinbaum opened the panel with a question: Given the U.S. administration’s signaling their intention of “winning” in Afghanistan, what does “winning” look like?

The panel agreed on the operating goal for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan: ensuring no terrorist attacks on the United States based out of Afghanistan. Neumann commented that the White House’s strategy appears sensible, despite the failure to explain it in depth. Since the enemy in Afghanistan is a non-state group with a capacity to regenerate, a realistic concept of victory must be limited: “far less than surrender on the deck of the Missouri.” Felbab-Brown noted that this limited goal of reducing the potential for terrorist attacks has been America’s core strategic objective since 2001, but there has been little reckoning with what that looks like in real terms. Can that goal be accomplished by military force alone? How much will it need support from the Afghan government? Does success require completely defeating the Taliban, or negotiating their existence under a democratic system?

Majidyar added that the US has a second vital interest in Afghanistan: with a porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a renewed Afghan conflict can easily destabilize its nuclear-armed neighbor. Thus, American success also requires enabling the Afghan government to control its territory and police its borders with minimal foreign assistance. Majidyar suggested that this goal, and the goal of leaving an Afghan government capable of enforcing nternal security and engaging cooperatively with its neighbors, will remain a challenge.

The panelists disagreed, however, on the necessity of a fixed timetable for withdrawal.

Neumann opposed setting a hard deadline, noting that American objectives require leaving a competent partner on the ground in the Afghan government, which still after 16 years remains incapable of good governance. He criticized the Obama administration’s emphasis on fixed timetables, which the Taliban exploited to lay low and gather forces. A conditions-based plan of withdrawal hinges on political will, with an expectation that the operation to build up the Afghan military will continue into 2019 or 2020.

Felbab-Brown echoed Neumann’s criticism of the Afghan government, but advised that setting deadlines can produce reforms by pressuring Kabul into action. Majidyar argued that the Obama administration intended to produce changes in the Afghan government with their timetable, but it had the unintended effect of producing more corruption in Kabul, as America’s local and international allies limited their involvement in anticipation of a US pull out.

As a final answer to Weinbaum’s question, Kolenda summarized the three general possibilities for a military victory: a decisive victory over the enemy, a transition of responsibility to the host-nation government (which was the goal under Obama), or a negotiated settlement that satisfies US interests. Kolenda implied that this third possibility has the most realistic chance of success.

Following up on that point, Weinbaum turned the discussion to the possibility of negotiation: If there can be a solution through negotiations, how prepared are both sides to come to an agreement?

The panelists were pessimistic on the chances for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban in the near future. Majidyar pointed out that while Washington and Kabul have given concessions to the Taliban as inducements to talk (such as releasing Taliban prisoners and allowing them quasi-diplomatic privileges in foreign countries), the Taliban have made no positive moves in return. While the American position is that any talks must involve both the Taliban and the Afghan government, the Taliban refuse to recognize the government in Kabul. Felbab-Brown agreed that the Taliban had no incentive to negotiate before next year’s presidential elections, and added that an electoral crisis (which she predicted is likely) would strengthen their cause. It is possible that the Taliban are signaling their willingness to negotiate only as a stalling tactic, while gathering power to unleash after US withdrawal.

The panelists agreed that negotiations must be thought out, with a clear understanding of what would be an acceptable result that satisfies American and Afghan interests. Kolenda was firm in stating that the US will not leave Afghanistan without guaranteeing the country’s stability, while arguing that the Taliban have already agreed to much of American objectives for the country. Success is within sight. He agreed with Neumann, though, that the specifics of negotiations – how they will verify and enforce the results – have not been sufficiently thought out. Majidyar and Felbab-Brown warned that the Afghan government (with or without participation from the Taliban) must engage in a process of building national consensus and reconciliation, or else risk a reignited civil war potentially worse than that of the 1990s.

The panel concluded with a contradiction: the best way forward in Afghanistan is a negotiated outcome, but it is unclear whether there is a willing negotiating partner. Does Washington have an exit strategy in Afghanistan if US interests remain unmet? What responsibility does America have if civil war breaks out after we leave? While we refuse to countenance failure, the route to success without a clear military victory remains unclear.

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Peace picks, February 19-25

  1. Iran’s Missile Program in Perspective| Tuesday, February 20 | 9:00am – 10:30am | Atlantic Council | Register here |

The Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative invites you to a panel discussion on Iran’s missile program, its role in Iranian defense strategy, and as a source of tension in the region and beyond. While the primary threat posed by the program stems from its potential connection to Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s neighbors and the United States are also concerned about the transfer of shorter-range rockets to Iranian-backed militant groups in Yemen and Lebanon. The Trump administration has raised the issue as a “flaw” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and is discussing a possible side agreement with key European nations that would include missiles. Iran has rejected changes to the JCPOA and views the missile program as an essential element of its military doctrine, a means of deterrence and a tool of statecraft. Please join Aaron Stein (Resident Senior Fellow,Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council), Michael Elleman (Senior Fellow for Missile Defense, IISS), and Melissa Dalton (Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, International Security Program, CSIS). Bharath Gopalaswamy (Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council) will moderate.


  1. The United States and India: Forging an Indispensable Democratic Partnership | Tuesday, February 20 | 10:00am – 11:30am | Center for American Progress | Register here |

The relationship between the United States and India has become an important priority for both nations and is increasingly important to advancing their shared interests of promoting economic prosperity, security, and democratic institutions. Over the past year, the Center for American Progress organized a binational group of Indian and American experts in a wide variety of fields to work together to craft a vision for the future of U.S.-India relations. The resulting task force report — “The United States and India: Forging an Indispensable Democratic Partnership” — outlines a path forward for the bilateral relationship, along with a series of concrete recommendations that both sides can take to advance shared interests. Please join CAP for the release of the report and a discussion with the task force co-chairs—Nirupama Menon Rao (former Indian Ambassador to the United States; former Foreign Secretary of India) and Richard Rahul Verma (former U.S. Ambassador to India; Vice Chairman, The Asia Group)—on the future of the U.S.-India relationship. With an opening statement by Neera Tanden (President and CEO, CAP). Kelly Magsamen (Vice President, National Security and International Policy, CAP) will moderate.


  1. Neither Free nor Fair: What to Do About Venezuela’s Presidential Elections? | Wednesday, February 21 | 9:00am – 10:30am | Atlantic Council | Register here |

Please join the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center for a conversation on Venezuela’s electoral conditions, the uncertain road ahead, and the need for a revamped role of the international community in spurring change. Speakers include H.E. Camilo Reyes (Ambassador of Colombia to the United States), Gerardo De Icaza (Acting Secretary for Strengthening Democracy, Organization of American States), and Luis Lander (President Venezuelan Electoral Observatory), among others. Tracy Wilkinson (Reporter, Washington DC Bureau, Los Angeles Times) will moderate.


  1. Envisioning Palestine: Strategies for Palestinian Self-Determination | Wednesday, February 21 | 12:30pm – 2:00pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

Relations between the U.S. and the Palestinians are in free-fall. The Trump administration’s decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then cut funding to UNRWA to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table have been met with mass protests and official recriminations. Meanwhile, peace has never seemed more distant, with a recent poll showing support for a two-state solution at a historic low among both Israelis and Palestinians. What are the prospects today for advancing Palestinian self-determination? At a time when Palestinian options seem limited, what new and creative roles are the Palestinian grassroots, civil society and leadership playing in supporting a resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation? The Middle East Institute, Foundation for Middle East Peace and the OneVoice Movement are pleased to host a panel of distinguished experts to discuss those questions and more, featuring Maya Berry (Executive director, Arab American Institute), Khaled Elgindy (Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution), and Abdallah Hamarsheh (Deputy director and co-founder, ZimamPalestine). OneVoice’s regional director in the Mid-Atlantic, Obada Shtaya, will moderate the discussion.


  1. ‘Last Men in Aleppo’: A Reel Progress screening and discussion | Wednesday, February 21 | 7:00pm – 8:30pm | Center for American Progress | Register here |

“Last Men in Aleppo” is a 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary highlighting the volunteer search and rescue organization Syria Civil Defence, commonly known as the White Helmets. Since 2013, the White Helmets have gained international attention for rescuing and assisting civilians targeted by the Assad regime and Russian forces in Syria. “Last Men in Aleppo” documents the lives and personal struggles of these brave volunteer rescue workers as they conduct rescue missions across Aleppo, Syria.Please join the Center for American Progress’ Reel Progress program and Grasshopper Film for a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Last Men in Aleppo.” The screening will be followed by a short panel featuring the film’s director, Feras Fayyad—the first Syrian filmmaker to be nominated for an Oscar—along with Brian Katulis (Senior Fellow, CAP), and Steven Cook (Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations). Nadia Bilbassy-Charters (Senior Correspondent, Al Arabiya TV) will moderate the discussion.


  1. The U.S.-Japan Alliance and the Problem of Deterrence| Thursday, February 22 | 9:00am – 11:00am | Brookings Institution | Register here |

A fundamental purpose of the U.S.-Japan alliance has always been to reduce the incentive that any adversary would have to wage war against Japan. To that end, Japan has built up the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces over several decades. For its part, the United States has clearly stated its commitment to Japan’s defense and a willingness, if necessary, to use nuclear weapons should an adversary attack Japan. Recent shifts in the regional security environment, particularly North Korea’s relentless effort to build nuclear capabilities to hit the continental United States can undermine Japanese confidence in the U.S. defense commitment. In particular, Japanese security experts worry that Washington will no longer be willing to use nuclear weapons to defend Japan once North Korea can retaliate with its own nuclear program. The Center for East Asia Policy Studies will convene a public event examining U.S. extended deterrence in Japan and Asia. Featuring Narushige Michishita (Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies), M. Elaine Bunn (Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, DoD), Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Noboru Yamaguchi (Professor, International University of Japan), and Eric Heginbotham (Principal Research Scientist, Center for International Studies, MIT). Robert Einhorn (Senior Fellow, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Brookings Institutions) will moderate the discussion.


  1. In the Taiwan Strait, China Sets its Own Rules | Thursday, February 22 | 9:00am – 11:00am | Hudson Institute | Register here |

On January 4, the People’s Republic of China unilaterally and without consultation activated the M503 flight route through the Taiwan Strait. The move violated several cross-strait agreements and threatened the status quo. The flight route change represents just one instance in a broader trend of Chinese actions that violate international laws, agreements, and norms in order to further China’s own interests. “With Chinese characteristics” has become a buzz phrase for Beijing’s effort to enjoy the benefits of a stable international order while insisting on its own conflicting foreign policy and military goals. The Hudson Institute will convene a panel of experts to discuss the challenges such actions pose to broader regional and international interests. Please join Seth Cropsey (Director, Center for American Seapower, Hudson Institute), Doug Feith (Director, Center for National Security Strategies, Hudson Institute), Vice Admiral Mark Fox (ret.) (corporate vice president of customer affairs, Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division), and Peter Wood (scholar, Jamestown Foundation)


  1. Restoring Venezuela’s Democracy and Halting the Humanitarian Disaster| Friday, February 23 | 10:00am – 11:30am | Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) | Register here |

As Venezuela further collapses under a narco-state regime, with hyperinflation, widespread scarcity of food and medicine, one of the world’s highest homicide rates, thousands fleeing to neighboring countries every day, and with no clear electoral way out, the importance of the role of the international community to increase pressure on Venezuela’s regime has become more crucial than ever. Secretary Tillerson’s recent visit to the Americas elevated the urgency of building a comprehensive approach from the international community to use the different mechanisms available to increase pressure on Nicolas Maduro’s regime. CSIS President and CEO Dr. John Hamre will provide opening remarks. Michael Matera (Director Americas, CSIS) will introduce our speakers, Luis Almagro (Secretary General, Organization of American States), Juan Zarate (former Deputy National Security Advisor), and Maria Corina Machado (leader in the Venezuelan opposition), who will join via video conference. Moises Rendon (CSIS Associate Director) will lead the conversation.

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The window for diplomacy is closing

Since the beginning of the year Iran has seen a wave of nationwide protests. They are the largest the country has witnessed since the Green Movement of 2009, which represented a political challenge to the Iranian government. The more recent outbreak is more diffuse, leaderless, and radical – with some chants demanding overthrow of the entire system. Meanwhile, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between Presidents Obama and Rouhani in 2015 has stalled, with a change in attitude from the White House on the deal. As the foment of demonstrations simmers down, what does national opinion portend for Iran’s government in coming days?

On February 2, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative presented the results of a survey of popular opinion across Iran, conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). Results of the survey, taken in the aftermath of the recent protests across Iran, were presented by Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni of CISSM. Joining him were Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, and Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and publisher of Bourse & Bazaar, an online magazine covering Iranian business affairs. Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative, joined as moderator. (A full recording of the event can be seen here.)

Dr. Mohseni presented the findings of the 103-question survey, compiling the results of 1,002 phone interviews conducted across Iran. Carried out between January 16 and 24, the survey was meant to get a sense of Iranian opinion on politics. CISSM has been conducting a similar survey since 2015. This year’s poll was postponed by a few weeks in order to capture a sense of public opinion on recent protests.

Mohseni’s survey not unexpectedly found increasing levels of discontent with the economy, with a strong majority of Iranians saying the economy is bad (68%, up from 63% in June 2017) and over half saying it is getting worse (58%, up from 50% in June). Iranians are dissatisfied with their government’s handling of the economy, with majorities saying the government should do more to help the poor (73%), control food prices (95%), and compensate victims of failed financial institutions (81%). The highest level of agreement goes to the issue of corruption – Iranians believe nearly unanimously (96%) that the government needs to do more to fight financial and bureaucratic corruption, which is widely understood as a crucial issue for the Iranian economy.

What does this economic dissatisfaction mean for opinion toward the government? Despite their economic woes, the survey reveals that Iranians generally stand with the government of the Islamic Republic. Large majorities (77%) reject demands for a fundamental change in the system or that Iran should be less involved in Iraq and Syria (61%). Iranians are split when it comes to aims in the Middle East: nearly half (49%) say Iran should work toward mutually acceptable solutions to regional problems, while slightly fewer (46%) think Iran should use its power to dominate the region. A strong majority (65%) believes that peaceful protesters should be released from prison, but similar majorities support severe punishment for those who attacked the police (64%) or damaged private property (60%).

The survey elicited detailed information on perception of the JCPOA. Esfandyar Batmanghelidj (present over Skype) cited a number of worrying trends. The data reveal increasing disappointment with the results of the JCPOA agreement, which, despite general approval (55%, down 12 points since June 2017) is widely seen as unfulfilled (93%) because of American blocking of economic opportunities for Iran. Batmanghelidj warned of the “economic roots of new anti-Americanism,” with the data showing rising negative opinion toward the American people (from 26.2% “very unfavorable” in January 2016 to 36.6% today).

While Iranian opinion toward the US government has long been poor (rating 85.4% “very unfavorable” today), Batmanghelidj noted that this negative opinion typically did not affect the largely positive perception in Iran of the American people as distinct from their government. After 2016, that pattern may have shifted. The Iranian public may be in process of turning away from the openness that Rouhani championed back toward an Ahmedinejad-era focus on economic isolationism.

Kelsey Davenport interpreted general support for Iran’s missile program (74% calling it “very important” and 57% insisting it is “not negotiable”) and nuclear development following the JCPOA (75% rating it “very important”) as proof that there is no public support in Iran for further concessions. The international community, she recommended, should focus on enforcing what is restricted under the JCPOA (such as shipping missile components to Houthi fighters in Yemen) rather than looking for larger capitulations (like the full-scale abandonment of the missile program).

Davenport also noted the continuing acceptance of the JCPOA despite lack of faith in American promises (with 64% “not confident at all” that the U.S. would live up to its obligations), recommending that European parties to the deal push forward with their promises to Iran (as 60% of Iranians are “somewhat” or “very confident” they will).

Extrapolating, these numbers portend trouble for both the Iranian and American governments moving forward. The successful negotiation of the JCPOA in 2015 reflected a rare moment when Iranian fatigue with the “resistance economy” overlapped with an American willingness to accept the post-revolution regime. Today that window of overlap may be shrinking. As Mohseni suggested, the philosophy that made the JCPOA possible is in jeopardy, with Iranians taking the message that diplomacy has not brought them the results they were promised. Without a change in stance from the international community soon, we risk watching Iran’s moment of openness pass by.

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Peace is still far off

As 2018 opens, the Syrian Civil War, as a battle of two opposing visions of Syria’s future, has ended. Today, the conflict continues on a more complex level: with multiple layers of conflict, international intervention, and growing power for non-state armed militias. What does 2018 bode for Syria, and what strategies are there to help bring the conflict to an end?

On January 25, the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank focused on the Syrian conflict, debuted its operation in Washington. The Omran Center, which has been operating in Turkey since 2013 as an arm of the broader Syrian Forum, opens its doors in America as a source of independent research and objective analysis of the murky state of affairs in Syria today. Yaser Tabbara introduced Thursday’s event, featuring analysts from the Omran Center discussing the current situation on the ground in Syria and trajectories for the near future.

Sinan Hatahet reported on the background as Syria moves into 2018. Describing the goals of the strongest power players on the ground (U.S., Turkey, Russia, Iran, along with the Syrian government and opposition), he noted that all are in favor of stabilization, with one exception: the forces of the Syrian opposition. Thus, building a lasting solution to the conflict requires a response to fundamental political issues that sparked the uprising in 2011. Hatahet went on to explain that, on the international level, the peace process is tilted toward the Russian approach to hold new elections and update the constitution, while preserving Bashar al-Assad as president. Despite this, the weakness of the Syrian military makes it difficult for the regime to regain control of the whole country without the assent of opposition groups.

Ammar Kahf spoke on developing trends on governance across Syria. Kahf described the complex phenomenon of decentralization that is taking place, both officially under the Assad government’s reforms and unofficially with local councils in areas outside of government control. The situation of local councils varies across the country, but their growing ability to provide for their constituents hints at a path toward stabilization that could bring in all Syrians. Kahf displayed the Omran Center’s proposal for a reorganization of the flow of government from Damascus to individual provinces and towns, in order to grant more local control over security.

Mona Alami warned about other risks for Syria in the absence of a peace deal. Alami predicted greater influence of Iranian-linked paramilitary groups, which have grown to rival the power of the Syrian army. With greater ability to call airstrikes, hold and control territory, and deploy rapidly from one area to another, these militias have become an unpredictable factor in building a solution for Syria. On a similar note, Sinan Hatahet warned that continuing conflict could spark the appearance of new rogue non-state actors, potentially more destructive than the Islamic State.

What the panelists did not predict for 2018, notably, is peace. There may be prospects for stabilization in Syria, but it is likely that the conflict is far from true resolution.

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Peace picks, January 29 – February 4

    1. Modernizing Trade Rules: The TPP and Beyond | Monday, January 29 | 10:00am – 11:30am | Brookings Institution | Register here |

    On January 29, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies will host a panel of experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges of disseminating TPP standards in two critical areas: the digital economy and internet governance, and competitive neutrality and state-owned enterprises. Experts from Japan and the United States will discuss strategies that each country can pursue in on-going or new trade negotiations to advance TPP rules in these critical areas. Featuring panelists Tsuyoshi Kawase (Professor of Law at Sophia University), Maki Kunimatsu (Chief Policy Analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Research), and Joshua P. Meltzer (Senior Fellow in Global Economy and Development at Brookings), and Amy Porges (Principal at Porges Trade Law PLLC), with moderator Mireya Solís (Co-Director of Center for East Asia Policy Studies Senior Fellow at Brookings).


    1. Games and Gamesmanship: Unity and Stability at Pyeongchang | Monday, January 29 | 1:00pm – 2:30pm | Wilson Center | Register here |

    When athletes from North and South Korea unite under one flag at the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will be more than a political statement. It may also pave the way for a new approach to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Join us for a discussion on the history of sports diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula and the significance of the latest Olympic détente in dealing with Kim Jong-un’s regime. With speakers Jung H. Pak (Brookings Institution), Matthew Kroenig (Georgetown University), and Kang Choi (Asan Institute for Policy Studies).


    1. Preventing Atrocities in the 21st Century | Tuesday, January 30 | 9:00am – 11:00am | U.S. Institute of Peace | Register here |

    In recent decades we have seen new commitments to protect civilians from mass atrocities. Still, policymakers face obstacles. They may lack access to areas at risk, or leverage over possible perpetrators. So how can we translate political commitments into timely and effective practice? Is it possible to identify risk and prevent mass violence before it erupts? How can justice mechanisms help ensure accountability and prevent future mass violence? Join us on January 30 for a discussion on the state of atrocity prevention with leading experts. Featuring discussants Mô Bleeker (Special Envoy for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs), Lawrence Woocher (Research Director, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum), and Menachem Rosensaft (General Council, World Jewish Congress), with moderator Jonas Claes (Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace). Opening remarks by Ambassador Martin Dahinden (Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States) and Carla Koppell (Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace).


    1. On Refugee Integration and the Global Compact on Refugees: Lessons from Turkey | Tuesday, January 30 | 10:30am – 12:00pm | Brookings Institution | Register here |

    The Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) will host a panel discussion on Turkey’s experience with integrating roughly 3.5 million refugees and how that experience can inform the Compact. Izza Leghtas, senior advocate at Refugees International, will discuss the findings of her recent report, “I am only looking for my rights,” on the difficulties refugees face in accessing legal employment and the need for livelihood programs in Turkey’s urban centers. On the basis of his recently completed Syrian Barometer 2017, Murat Erdoğan, director of the Migration and Integration Research Center at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul, will reflect on the attitudes of the Turkish public toward refugee integration, as well as attitudes of the refugees themselves toward their host societies. Elizabeth Ferris, research professor at the Institute of Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, will remark on how Turkey’s experience could relate to the broader issues surrounding global refugee governance and inform the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. Kemal Kirişci, TÜSİAD senior fellow and director of the Turkey Project at Brookings, will moderate the discussion.


    1. Broadcasting Change: Arabic Media as a Catalyst for Liberalism | Tuesday, January 30 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm | Hudson Institute | Register here |

    Given the turmoil in the Middle East, liberals in Arabic-speaking countries have been routinely dismissed as too small in number to make a difference. Yet today, Arab liberals lead some of the largest regional media outlets, using their broadcasts to promote religious toleration and pluralism, civil society, gender equality, and rule of law. With the new National Security Strategy’s emphasis on “Competitive Engagement,” how can the United States work to bolster the efforts of these reformers in Arab media? Hudson Institute will host a discussion to assess the challenges to strengthening reformist media in the Arab World. The panel will consist of Joseph Braude, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and advisor at the Al-Mesbar Center for Research and Studies in Dubai; Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, President, Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Adam Garfinkle, Editor, The American Interest; Eric Brown, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute. This event will be live streamed on Hudson’s homepage.


    1. Taking Stock of the Transatlantic Relationship: Female Thought Leaders Reflect on 2017 | Wednesday, January 31 | 4:00pm – 5:15pm | Atlantic Council | Register here |

    Please join the Atlantic Council and the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association for a conversation with female thought leaders about the current state of the transatlantic relationship. This panel discussion will convene leading female voices from across the transatlantic policy community to reflect back on the past year, and discuss the future of NATO and US engagement in Europe, how the transatlantic partnership must adapt to today’s strategic environment, and the importance of female leadership in foreign policy and international security. This expert discussion featuring female leaders in transatlantic foreign and security policy is the inaugural event of the Atlantic Council’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. A conversation with Amb. Kristen Silverberg (Managing Director,

    Institute of International Finance; Former US Ambassador to the European Union), Julianne Smith (Senior Fellow and Director, Transatlantic Security Program, Center for a New American Security), and Christine Wormuth (Director, Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience, Atlantic Council; Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, US Department of Defense). Moderated by Sally Painter (Chief Operating Officer, Blue Star Strategies; Senior Advisor, Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council). A networking reception will follow the event.


    1. Changing Dynamics in the Gulf: A Conversation with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani| Thursday, February 1 | 9:00am – 10:00am | American Enterprise Institute | Register here |

    Once an important mechanism for cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since June 2017 has been fractured with one member state, Qatar, the focus of a diplomatic and economic blockade spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A Kuwaiti-led mediation process has not resolved the crisis, at a time when Russia’s reemergence in the Middle East, the growing influence of disinformation campaigns, and Iran’s ongoing malign activities all suggest that deeper challenges lie ahead. Who benefits from this standoff between traditional American allies? What are the implications of a continuing crisis in the GCC for the region and for US partnerships? Join AEI’s Andrew Bowen and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar HE Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani as they discuss US-Qatar relations and the challenges confronting the Gulf region. With introductory remarks by Danielle Pletka of AEI.


    1. Protests in North Africa: Parallels and Prospects | Thursday, February 1 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

    Seven years after the outbreak of the Arab Spring in North Africa, demonstrators are taking to the streets again in Tunisia and Morocco. How do these protests compare with each other, and to previous waves of uprisings across the Arab World since 2011? How are these activists starting new conversations around social, economic, and political issues in their countries? The Middle East Institute is pleased to host a panel discussion examining the social and economic drivers behind these demonstrations, as well as prospects for resolving these inequities. MEI’s senior vice president for policy research and programs, Paul Salem, will moderate a discussion with Wafa Ben Hassine (MENA policy counsel for Access Now, via Skype), Intissar Fakir (editor-in-chief of Sada, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), and Dokhi Fassihian (senior program manager, Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House) to discuss these issues.


    1. Iranian Public Opinion after the Protests | Friday, February 2 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm | Atlantic Council | Register here |

    The Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland invite you to a panel discussion on Iranian public opinion in the aftermath of recent protests. The event will present new public opinion data gathered since demonstrations broke out in more than 100 Iranian cities and towns in late December protesting poor economic conditions, Iran’s interventions abroad, and domestic political constraints. The event will also relate Iranian attitudes on political and economic issues to a broader set of regional and international issues, including Iran’s regional influence, Iranian relations with the West, and the Iranian nuclear deal. A conversation with Kelsey Davenport (Director for Nonproliferation, Arms Control Association), Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni (Research Scholar, Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland), and Adnan Tabatabai (co-founder and CEO, Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient). Moderated by Barbara Slavin (Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council).


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Peace picks, January 22-26

  1. Ending Civil Wars | Monday, January 22 | 2:30pm – 4:00pm | U.S. Institute of Peace | Register here |

The cause of civil wars and effective policy responses have been debated extensively for decades, and the United States has often stressed counterinsurgency doctrine and state-building to restore political and societal stability. However, 21st century rebel movements, shifting geopolitics, and the high costs of intervention bring the “standard treatment regime” for resolving civil wars into question. Join us as experts discuss their findings and recommendations on how the United States can better respond to intrastate conflict and promote both development and stability to create lasting peace. Featuring former Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry (Stanford University), Nancy Lindborg (President, U.S. Institute of Peace), Steve Krasner (Stanford University), Stephen Biddle (George Washington University), Susanna Campbell (American University), Clare Lockhart (Director and Co-Founder, Institute for State Effectiveness), and Paul Wise (Stanford University).


  1. Turkey, the Kurds, and the Struggle for Order in the Middle East | Tuesday, January 23 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm | Hudson Institute | Register here |

The American-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) has empowered Syria’s Kurds and, as a result, alienated Turkey. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have expanded their presence in Syria. Washington, Moscow, and Tehran now find themselves in a complicated diplomatic contest over the orientation of Turkey and various Kurdish polities and factions. How should the U.S. manage its role in this contest? Hudson Senior Fellows Eric Brown and Michael Doran will discuss the current state of affairs in the region and offer recommendations for future U.S. policies. Hudson Fellow Peter Rough will moderate the conversation.


  1. What Does 2018 Have in Store for Turkey? | Wednesday, January 24 | 12:00pm – 1:00pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

Turkey began 2018 embroiled in domestic dissent and diplomatic friction. Last April’s constitutional referendum was met with widespread criticism as an attempt by President Erdogan to consolidate power. Activists and journalists face increasing restrictions on their rights, the government continues its crackdown on the opposition, and debates swirl over the future of Turkey’s economy, the Kurdish question, and relations with the United States and European Union. These various issues are coming to a head in advance of 2019’s presidential election. The Middle East Institute (MEI) will convene a panel of experts to examine these key issues and more, featuring Soner Captagay (Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy), Howard Eissenstat (St. Lawrence University), and Max Hoffman (Center for American Progress). MEI’s Director for Turkish Studies Gönül Tol will moderate the discussion.


  1. Bringing Armed Groups into the Peace Process in Afghanistan | Thursday, January 25 | 9:30am – 11:00am | U.S. Institute of Peace | Register here | 

Peace negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan remain elusive, despite years of effort and a growing consensus that no side is likely able to defeat the other militarily.  The Afghan government, United States, and Taliban leadership all profess openness to a peace deal, but efforts have suffered from mistrust, conflicting objectives, and each party’s efforts to break the military stalemate.  Afghanistan in the meantime continues to face widespread violence, insurgent control of large swathes of the countryside, and major economic challenges. The Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum at the U.S. Institute of Peace will host a panel of leading experts to discuss options for advancing peace talks, reaching an inclusive political settlement, and transitioning Taliban and other insurgents off the battlefield and into nonviolent politics. Featuring Johnny Walsh (U.S. Institute of Peace) as moderator, with speakers Alexander Ramsbotham (Conciliation Resources), Laurel E. Miller (RAND Corporation), and Javid Ahmad (Atlantic Council).


  1. The Impact of Trump’s Jerusalem Move: A Conversation with PLO Ambassador Husam Zomlot | Thursday, January 25 | 12:00pm – 1:15pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the U.S. embassy there was met with Arab and international censure. The United Nations General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, for a resolution demanding that the United States rescind this declaration. Human rights groups decry the decision as a death knell for the two-state solution. The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host a conversation with Ambassador Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States. Ambassador Zomlot will address the implications of this announcement on Palestinians as well as their Arab neighbors, and how a future peace process might be revived. MEI’s Senior Vice President for Policy Research and Programs, Paul Salem, will moderate the discussion.


  1. Current Challenges in US-Turkey Relations | Thursday, January 25 | 2:00pm – 3:00pm | SETA Foundation | Register here |

President Trump’s win in the November 2016 election was met with cautious optimism in Turkey, however, as the first year of his administration draws to a close, the bilateral relationship still faces a number of challenges. The National Security Strategy issued in December 2017 promises a “dramatic rethinking” of US foreign policy as National Security Advisor HR McMaster put it, but it is unclear what prospects it holds for US-Turkey relations. Moving forward into 2018, how will the divergent approaches between the US and Turkey in Syria affect the broader bilateral relationship? Please join the SETA Foundation at Washington DC for a discussion on the challenges facing the bilateral relationship between the US and Turkey. Featuring speakers Luke Coffey (The Heritage Center), James Jeffrey (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), Kilic B. Kanat (SETA Foundation), with moderator Kadir Ustun (SETA Foundation).


  1. People Power Movements and International Human Rights: ICNC Monograph Launch | Thursday, January 25 | 4:00pm – 5:15pm | Atlantic Council| Register here |

From winning freedom for slaves to achieving recognition of women’s rights, the real source of many historical breakthroughs in international human rights has been the bottom-up resistance efforts of ordinary people to collectively and nonviolently fight injustice and lack of freedoms. The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s (ICNC) monograph author and legal scholar Elizabeth A. Wilson (Rutgers University) will explore a legal framework for understanding the relationship between civil resistance movements and international human rights. A moderated discussion will follow, featuring Maria Stephan (U.S. Institute of Peace) and Sean Murphy (The George Washington University Law School), moderated by Maciej Bartkowski (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict). Mathew Burrows (Atlantic Council) and Maciej Bartkowski will deliver welcoming remarks.

  1. Islamist Politics in the Middle East and North Africa | Thursday, January 25 | 5:30pm– 7:00pm| Project on Middle East Democracy (Elliott School of International Affairs) | Register here |

The past decade has witnessed major changes as Islamist parties and movements across the Middle East and North Africa were democratically elected, ousted from power, formed coalitions, splintered internally, faced increasing repression, and governed. This panel of top scholars will discuss innovative new political science research on Islamist movements and parties, examining who votes for these organizations, their internal dynamics, and how our study of them continues to evolve. Featuring panelists Lindsay Benstead (Portland State University), Steven Brooke (University of Louisville), Quinn Mecham (Brigham Young University), Jillian Schwedler, (Hunter College, CUNY), and Joas Wagemakers (Utrecht University), moderated by Marc Lynch (George Washington University).

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