Posted by on January 05, 2012 in Blog

The Middle East Policy Council held its 67th Capitol Hill Conference today at the Rayburn House Office Building. The focus of the conference was “Israel, Turkey & Iran in the Changing Arab World.” The event included a distinguished panel of speakers: Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group, Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution.

Malley offered a grim but realistic view of the peace talks currently underway between Israelis and Palestinians, saying no one believes that they will work, in part because Israel wants to wait and see the outcome of the changes in the Arab World before attempting to make any bold moves. He suggested that the Palestinians had an opportunity to put Israel in an awkward international position by launching a peaceful uprising in the Middle of the Arab Spring, given that western leaders were praising the wave of popular uprisings. He speculated that the devastating effects of the 2nd intifada on Palestinian society may have served as deterrence to another major uprising against the occupation.

Taspinar remarked that it was virtually unimaginable a few years ago for Turkey to be on bad terms with Israel, but on good terms with the U.S., indicating that this strange circumstance only came about because of the Arab Spring and Washington’s positive view of Turkey’s role.  Taspinar said that while Turkey tries to avoid sectarian politics, the majority of the population does sympathize with Syria’s Sunni majority and views them as being oppressed by the Alawites. He suggested Turkey would rather avoid military intervention in Syria, but that if U.N. support ever became available (meaning Russia and China would have to abstain from vetoing), it may be more willing to pursue that option.

Sadjadpour discussed the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, suggesting that Saudi Arabia tries to define the region according to sectarian lines of Sunni vs. Shia, while Iran defines it through accommodation and resistance to U.S. imperialism; both being faulty frameworks in his view. He said that young Iranians who want change in their country don’t speak of “revolution” because the word is owned by the current regime and is no longer associated with freedom.

Sadjadpour and Malley disagreed over the possibility that the current climate made a military strike against Iran more likely. Sadjadpour said that because the sanctions were clearly beginning to work and their effects are being felt by the Iranian regime, that war has become unnecessary and unlikely. Malley, on the other hand, said that the fact that the sanctions were beginning to hurt the Iranian regime heightened the probability that Iran would act out in response, and that whatever action it took would be taken as a provocation to launch a strike against Iran.

The event was well-attended and included a lively Q&A with members of the audience.

comments powered by Disqus