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Occasional Papers

Foreign Policy Challenges for the New Administration: Iran and the Middle East

Following the inauguration of a new President of the United States, the Fares Center held a conference entitled “Foreign Policy Challenges for the New Administration: Iran and the Middle East” on March 5-6, 2009. The conference brought to light important concerns plaguing the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and examined how this situation affects U.S. engagement in the region. Experts, including academics, policymakers, diplomats, journalists, and distinguished members of the military, gathered from around the world to reflect on this topic and to provide concrete policy recommendations to the new U.S. administration. It was gratifying to hear the participants themselves comment on the caliber of speakers in attendance this year. As always, audience members also enriched the dialogue with their insightful comments and questions.

This publication, the Fares Center’s fifth occasional paper, summarizes the conference presentations. The synopses are preceded by an introduction, which offers an overview of the topics under review, several recurrent themes from the conference, and a list of the participant’s prescriptions for U.S. policymakers on how to change the dynamic in the Middle East in a helpful way.

The United States and the Middle East: What Comes Next After Iraq?

In preparation for the upcoming presidential elections in the United States, the Fares Center held a conference entitled “The United States and the Middle East:What Comes Next After Iraq?” on March 27-28, 2008. The purpose of the conference was to identify issues pertaining to the Middle East that will be of concern to Americans in the coming years. Questions and discussions dealt with how Middle Eastern states have been affected by the Iraq War and by other regional challenges.

Conference participants from a wide range of national and professional backgrounds debated how the new leadership in Washington should understand and deal with political and military developments that are unfolding in the Middle East. Experts and audience members offered their perspectives on how the United States should best serve its own interests while helping parties in the Middle East manage ongoing conflicts.

The insights and recommendations expressed at the conference are detailed in this publication, the Fares Center’s fourth occasional paper. The introduction highlights developments in the Middle East that are especially relevant to U.S. policy and American voters, underlines common themes discussed during the conference, and catalogues conference participants’ prescriptions for U.S. policymakers. Subsequent pages include summaries of the remarks presented by each conference participant.

The "War on Terrorism". Where do we stand?

The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies was founded in March 2002, not long after the declaration of the War on Terrorism.

Terrorism transcends borders. Yet so do cooperation and scholarly exchange. Dialogue—of the cross-national and cross-regional variety— is a cornerstone of our Center. We seek to promote it in all our activities, which include lecture series, roundtable discussions, conferences, and publications. It is in this spirit of international dialogue that we hosted this year’s conference assessing the War on Terrorism—its causes, impacts, and proposed solutions. We invited speakers not just from the United States but also from the Middle East and Europe. We focused our conference discussions not simply on terrorism in the Middle East, but on terrorism worldwide, and on the local and global factors that spawn and sustain it.

The result was a truly international event that engaged voices and ideas from across the globe, all weighing in on one of today’s biggest global challenges. It was indeed gratifying for us to hear our conference participants praise the international nature of the event.

This publication, the Center’s third occasional paper, seeks to capture the global scope of the conference. It provides summaries of all presentations and commentaries. It also features an introduction that sets the stage, providing context and perspective and highlighting major themes.



Democratizing the Middle East?

Occasional Paper No. 2 of the FCEMS Series on Lighting the Path to Understanding addresses democratization in the Middle East, and is based on the January 2006 conference Democratizing the Middle East? The publication summarizes the presenters’ remarks from the conference. It also includes an introduction that provides context, highlights the conference’s conclusions, and lists major themes.

The conference featured many notable themes, but I single out one in particular: the prevalence of misperceptions about the Middle East and democracy. We heard at the conference that many wrongly assume there is no democratic tradition in the Middle East; we were told that there are misunderstandings about the status of the region’s women; and we were informed that domestic politics in the Middle East are often misread by those in Washington. Our mission at the center is to generate a greater understanding of the Eastern Mediterranean region, an area comprising modern-day Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Turkey. By bringing these misperceptions to the attention of our readers in government, policy making, academia, journalism, and the general public, we hope we are contributing to this mission.

Engaging in Dialogue on U.S. Foreign Policy

This FCEMS Series on Lighting the Path to Understanding represents the Fares Center’s latest effort to raise awareness of the Eastern Mediterranean. The series shall identify a particular issue with immediate relevance to the region and subject it to examination and/or analysis. It is our genuine hope that each paper will shed sufficient light on the subject at hand to generate increased understanding of the issue among the series’ intended audience of foreign policy makers, elected officials, academics, journalists, and the global citizenry. We are equally hopeful that, through generating this higher level of understanding, each paper will also provide some guidance to those individuals tackling the challenges currently affecting the region.

Occasional Paper No. 1 addresses U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, using the November 2004 conference, Engaging in Dialogue on U.S. Foreign Policy, as a framework for examination. This first paper, recognizing the conference participants’ depth and diversity of knowledge and experience, allows their remarks to drive the analysis. Summaries of each lecturer’s comments are presented here, with an additional section in the introduction capturing the core themes coming out of the conference. Collectively, the comments and themes comprise an admirably diverse set of observations on, recommendations for, and an overall assessment of, U.S. Mideast policies.