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Crown Center hosts panel on Mid-East politics, economics

Published: September 3, 2010
Section: News


Round table: Speakers at the Crowne Center’s panel discuss Middle Eastern relations.
PHOTO BY Ingrid Schulte/The Hoot

Five Brandeis faculty members discussed Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Palestine-Israel and Middle East relations Wednesday afternoon in a panel hosted by the The Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

Naghmeh Sohrabi, Director of Research at the Crown Center, Professor Kanan Makiya (IMES), Crown Center Junior Fellow Joshua Walker, Professor Nader Habibi (ECON) and Professor Shai Feldmen (POL) participated in the panel.

Sohrabi said that, with the exception of coverage of nuclear weapons, there is not much American media coverage of Iran because of a lack of independent journalists working in the country and the ways in which the 2009 Iranian elections impacted how Americans decide what invents are important enough to publicize.

Sohrabi continued to say that there is a growing division between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei which is so extreme that Khamenei recently warned the Iranian government that there should not be parallelisms in governance.

Sohrabi said this rift opened the doors to diplomacy relating to nuclear disarmament, but did not bode well for democracy in Iran.

“If our end goal is a pragmatic end to nuclear enrichment, then the growing rift is an opening, an opportunity, where Ahmadinejad can be offered carrots that enforce his growing nationalist and populist rhetoric,” he said. “But if our end goal is a liberal democratic Iran, then the future is not bright.”

Makiya discussed the official end of the Iraqi invasion and said that “intangible costs of the war are real but not countable like the stand of American respect.

“It is completely understandable why people feel betrayed,” he said. However, that was the American perspective.

According to Makiya, “most Iraqis: the women, the Shai and the Kurds would consider the outlook a positive one since for the first time these groups have been given a chance to speak for themselves.”

Makiya believes that although the war seemed to damage many individuals it was a necessary evil. “My post is something had to be done. A war can be good for some, maybe not for others, and who is to say which one is right and which one is not,” she said.

After the discussion on Iraq Walker addressed the prevailing distance in American and Turkish relations. Walker believes that “after the Cold War Turkey remained allies to United States and Europe but now as it realizes its strengths, in Turkish perspective, Europe seems irrelevant.

“They are now trying [to] find themselves in the middle of the Middle East.” Walker still “ remains optimistic” and believes that Turkey likes to stay on the line between the west and the east.

Building off Walker’s perspective on Turkey’s emerging power in the Middle East, Habibi said that “2009 was a bad year for every country … But now Turkey seems to rise as the Dubai of the Middle East.”

At the end of the panel, Feldman, Director of the Crown Center said the Obama administration should handle the Palestine-Israel negotiation. “ Both countries have weak leaders and therefore [the] United States need to intervene,” Feldman said.

“I hope they start to implement their policies as they decide them and not wait for the whole package to be resolved. If that happens the entire process remains hostage to the strongest issue and there is no visible implantation for the people to see,” Feldman said.

There were some students in attendance, but it was mainly professors and other adults from the Brandeis community who listened to the discussion.

“It was really cool and nice to hear about the whole region. It addressed a lot of issues that I study,” Mark Grinberg ’11 said.

While Grinberg came to the event for educational purposes, Jen Wang ’14 came to stay connected with international issues. “Since coming to Brandeis I’ve been out of touch with the media. It was nice to just know what was going on around the world,” Wang said.

The version of this article published on Sept. 3 incorrectly quoted statements by Naghmeh Sohrabi. This article has been altered to accuartely reflect his presentation.