The Middle East: A Zone of Frenemies?

Event Date: 
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Event Time: 
12:15 p.m.
Location: 
015 Robertson Hall

Amin Saikal, Visiting Research Scholar at LISD, will present a WWS Lunchtimer talk, "The Middle East: A Zone of Frenemies?" at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in 015 Robertson Hall. This talk is restricted to WWS faculty, fellows, and students.

The oil-rich but volatile Middle East has lately been experiencing major geopolitical and balance of power shifts, perhaps not seen since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the British-French colonial orchestrations nearly a century ago. The old correlation of forces in support of maintaining the status quo, especially following the Iranian revolution more than 36 years ago, has swiftly been altering. A set of new alignments and realignments along multiple regional fault-lines, including sectarian divisions and geopolitical rivalries at different levels, has come to redefine the region and possibly change its traditional political and territorial contours. The rise of such radical Islamic groups as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and ensuing humanitarian crises have prompted the United States and its allies to engage once again in an air military campaign and humanitarian operations, primarily to save the Christian and Yazdi minorities and to prevent Iraq from disintegrating. The old regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have remained locked in proxy conflicts in many parts of the region, and the US and Iran have come to discover common regional security interests, despite having demonized one another for so many decades, a development which has annoyed US allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, for different reasons. This talk will discuss these issues in an attempt to see what is the future for the Middle East, a region so turbulent and yet so rich from which the world cannot simply disentangle itself.

Amin Saikal AM, FASSA, is Professor of Political Science, Public Policy Fellow, and Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, as well as currently a Visiting Research Scholar at Lichtenstein Institute on Self-Determination. He has been a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in International Relations, and Visiting Fellow to Princeton University, Cambridge University and the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. He is an awardee of the Order of Australia (AM) "for service to the international community and education through the development of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, and as an author and adviser," and is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

His latest books include: Iran at the Crossroads (Cambridge: Polity Press) – forthcoming; Zone of Crisis: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014); Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012); The Rise and Fall of the Shah: Iran from Autocracy to Religious Rule (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Islam and the West: Conflict or Cooperation?(London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003); American Democracy Promotion in the Changing Middle East: From Bush to Obama (London: Routledge, 2013, co-editor); Democracy and Reform in the Middle East and Asia: Social Protest and Authoritarian Rule after the Arab Spring (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014, co-editor). He has also published in major journal and dailies, including The New York Times, International Herald TribuneThe Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian; and is a frequent commentator on TV and radio networks on issues pertinent to his field of specialty.