Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Blog
Yesterday, AAI President Jim Zogby joined Geneive Abdo and Ted Piccone in a panel discussion hosted by the National Security Network (NSN) and the Project on Middle East Democracy to address the current state of political affairs in the Arab world and Iran. Pro-democracy movements in several Arab countries are causing regional dynamics with Iran to shift. These changes are raising questions about the role the United Nations and United States will play in shaping regional politics and policy, and the profound implications for the United States in the region. NSN Executive Director Heather Hurlburt moderated the panel.
Jim began the discussion with an analysis of AAI’s latest two-part six-nation poll on Arab Attitudes toward Iran and Arab Attitudes toward the U.S., highlighting Arab wariness toward American and Iranian intervention in the region and the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian as a means to mitigate Iranian influence in the Arab world. “One of the great ways of diminishing Iran … is to move that agenda [on Palestine] forward and solve it,” he said. Jim explained that American intervention in the region caused Arab attitudes toward the U.S. to drop lower than they were under President Bush. However, Jim also explained that the majority of Arabs are concerned with Iran’s regional role in the Middle East as well.
Geneive Abdo, fellow at The Century Foundation and the National Security Network and an expert on Iran, discussed the domestic and foreign political landscape of Iranian affairs. Abdo focused on the internal dichotomy of Iranian politics, shedding light on the increasing marginalization of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his political faction:“…in the context of the Middle East - of Middle East relationships - I think it's important to remember that Ahmadinejad has been marginalized [by the Iranian regime] and also it's important to remember that as president, he never had very much power.” Abdo’s broader commentary on Iran’s role at the UN highlights the disconnect between what Ahmedinejad says to the international community about Iranian policy and what how political reality actually manifests on the ground.
Ted Piccone, senior fellow and deputy director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, assessed the U.N.'s role in the Middle East before the Arab uprisings and the ways in which its role is likely to change in the future. Piccone said that the U.S. could potentially benefit from increased Arab participation with the U.N: “if the Arab states, as they evolve, have more buy-in to the UN system and the international rules of the game, starting with some of the basic values of democracy and human rights, then I think that will be a big plus for the US.”
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