Tag Archives: Middle East

Finding a Path to Peace in the Middle East

Tensions in the Middle East are at their highest level in years, increasing the potential for catastrophic conflicts in the region. Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister of Israel, has been working to solve the underlying issues nearly her entire life. In a detailed talk at UC San Diego, she breaks down what she sees as the main barriers to peace.

Livni’s story begins long before her time in politics. She tells a captivating tale of how her parents met. They were robbing a British train as members of Irgun, fighting for a Jewish state years before Israel declared independence. She continued in their footsteps in many ways, with a long career in Israeli politics.

Thanks to her extensive career, Livni has a unique perspective on conflicts in the Middle East. In this year’s Herb York Memorial Lecture, she shares her insights into why achieving a peace agreement is so complicated, the opportunities she believes have been missed, and why she differs with her parents in supporting a two-state solution.

Watch — Security for Israel and Her Neighbors: Challenges and Opportunities with Tzipi Livni – Herb York Memorial Lecture

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Does Trump Have a Middle East Policy?

The Trump administration has clear objectives in the Middle East, but there is a wide gap between those objectives and the methods employed to achieve them. That’s according to Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Obama and current fellow at the Washington Institute. Ross spoke recently at UC Santa Barbara, breaking down President Trump’s Middle East policy into three key elements: counter-ISIS, counter-Iran, and achieving the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

When it comes to ISIS, Ross says the president’s strategy is working in part, but is incomplete. The military effort to defeat the terror group has been largely successful, but ISIS will leave behind a power vacuum. Ross says without a comprehensive plan for reconstruction, security, governance and the inclusion of Sunnis in place, we risk another, similar terror group filling the vacuum.

In Iran, Ross says the Trump administration is pursuing a maximum pressure strategy, hoping to squeeze the regime with sanctions until it is forced to give up its nuclear program. Ross says a similar plan has made some headway with North Korea, but there is a major difference: the Iran nuclear deal. Ross says it will be difficult to put the necessary pressure on Iran when the US is the only country that has pulled out of the deal. Additionally, Ross says the administration has been largely absent from a growing conflict in the region concerning Iranian surface-to-surface missiles being sent to Syria, threatening Israel.

Finally, when it comes to Israel itself, Ross says the Trump administration is pursuing a deal with the Palestinians, but has made some missteps. Ross argues the approach of getting Arab leaders involved with negotiations was a step in the right direction, but the execution of the plan pushed Palestinians away from the table, and has ignored the recent actions of Mohammed Bin Salman in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

While Ross argues the Trump administration lacks sufficient strategy in three key areas of Middle East policy, he believes there are relatively simple changes the president could make. In the fight against ISIS, Ross lays out a plan to ensure the terror group is not replaced by something worse. In Iran, he predicts an opportunity to negotiate with Russia on both sanctions and a deal to keep Iranian weapons out of Syria. And, he even has some suggestions for how to achieve the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Watch Does Trump Have a Middle East Policy?

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Life After The Fall of Hussein

Join novelist Sinan Antoon and journalist Leila Fadel as they discuss the documentary, Life after the Fall, directed by Kasim Abid, which follows the daily life of a family in modern day Iraq after the fall of Sadam Hussein.

As one family member says, “After the fall, we would sit on our balcony and talk about the future of Iraq. We had high hopes… But in the end everything failed. We didn’t benefit at all. The country didn’t get better or rebuilt, it just got destroyed some more.”

According to Sinan Antoon, there are very few documentaries like this one where Iraqis get to speak about their feelings and desires for more than 30 seconds in American media. “It’s so rare that you actually get to see Iraqis who are not terrorists or extremists.”

As a journalist, Leila Fadel wanted to document what it was like to live and survive invasion occupation. “I told the stories of grave-diggers… I told the stories of pregnant women trying to have their babies without getting shot on roads after curfew… I told the story through marriages and divorces…”

Key to documenting the Iraqi experience is living outside the protected “green zone” and interviewing as many Iraqi people as possible. Says Antoon: “Iraqi’s are like other humans on the planet… are a spectrum, come from different classes, different backgrounds. And they don’t all have one of two opinions – either Saddam lovers or US lovers. It’s more complicated.”

Fadel agrees. “Sometimes when you’re a journalist abroad, they’ll say things like ‘what are people saying on the Arab street?’ — which doesn’t exist and nobody has one opinion and I don’t know where that street is.”

“Without hearing these stories of real people,” says Antoon, “it’s sometimes difficult for people to imagine Iraqis living full lives. So their destruction is not really registered as a loss.”

Watch Life After The Fall – Storytelling from Iraq

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History in the Making: Libya in the Time of Revolution

For better or for worse, we live in a time of history-making moments, especially in the Middle East. Our long-running UC Berkeley series “Conversations with History” has been recording the voices of those making and uncovering history for more than 500 episodes and the latest installment, “Libya in a Time of Revolution,” is no exception.

Host Harry Kreisler welcomes war correspondent Lindsey Hilsum, who offers her first-person account of the revolution in Libya that toppled the dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In this fascinating interview, Hilsum, who chronicles her adventure in the book Sandstorm, discusses Gaddafi’s 40-year reign of terror and his role as an international actor. She then traces the factors that led to his fall, emphasizing Libyan nationalism, the Arab spring and the intervention of external powers, and analyzes the role of journalists in the continuing worldwide struggle for human dignity. Hilsum concludes with a discussion of what she learned from her experiences in the country and speculates on Libya’s future and how external intervention can bring about change in places like Syria.

Watch Conversations with History: Libya in the Time of Revolution with Lindsey Hilsum.

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