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USC Experts Discuss Recent Middle East Crises

Lior Haykeen |
September 20, 2013 | 2:32 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Map of middle east/Flickr, CC)
(Map of middle east/Flickr, CC)
A panel of experts provided university students with a detailed explanation of the recent crises throughout the Middle East Thursday afternoon in USC’s Doheny Memorial Library.

Some would attribute many of the uprisings across the Middle East to the media, specifically Al-Jazeera, said Laurie Brand, USC Middle East politics and culture professor.

Brand, Gualtieri, Hammad and Sherman Jackson, USC Islamic law and culture professor, were the four USC experts who participated in the discussion panel.

But it is important to remember that other factors such as economic corruption, security forces brutality and declining quality and amounts of governmental services contributed to the situation as well, she said.

Brand presented the following generalization to the students as a rule regarding Middle East crises:

The earlier in history an uprising in the Middle East began, the less external forces became involved. As technology developed and social media reached the region, uprisings that started in later years led to more external involvement. 

Also, she said, uprisings that continued for longer periods of time resulted in more concern from countries outside the region.

The fact that there are millions of refugees from across the region, specifically more recent refugees from Syria, is one of the most critical issues in the Middle East at the moment, said the panel.

There are two million people looking for shelter outside of Syria, another two million displaced in Syria and the numbers are expected to rise, Brand said.

“We should be thinking of a solution for the refugee problem, not thinking about how many refugees can be handled in other countries in the short term,” said Sarah Gualtieri, USC Middle East studies professor.

There are two more things that should be done by the US administration regarding the Syria crisis, Gualtieri said.

First, U.S. administration and residents should have more access to information on the humanitarian refugee crisis. This could persuade the U.S. government that a military strike is not in its best interest, she said.

“We as a public also need to have greater access to what’s called evidence,” Gualtieri said. “We need to scrutinize the United Nations report.”

The U.N. report outlined the results of a thorough investigation of the August 21 Ghouta attacks in northeast Damascus, Syria. The report confirms that chemical weapons were used in that attack, and that there is reason to believe that the weapons were used by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though the report did not confirm Assad was responsible.

In addition, Gueltieri argues that dialogue between the U.S. and Iran could be helpful because of the role Iran plays in the region.

“Strange bedfellows can often produce unanticipated and productive results,” she said.

Gualtieri also referred to an interview with Assad in which he said, “What happened in the very beginning is completely different than what’s happening now.”

It is important to focus on how the situation in Syria went from a non-violent uprising to a civil war, Gualtieri said.

 “The situation [before the uprising] was a perfect storm,” she said.

In his recent talks, mostly in response to the Ghouta attacks, Obama called for human dignity in Syria. Still, Obama has remained fairly silent.

“It’s difficult for inhabitants of the region to take the call for dignity seriously when there’s been so much inconsistency,” she said

When speaking of U.S. intervention, Fayez Hammad, USC political science lecturer, spoke in specifics about Libya.

“The last thing that Libya needs right now is American forces involvement,” he said.

“I like the fact that they were able to tie in other countries’ politics with the Syrian situation,” said USC student Mushfiq Chowdhury who attended the discussion. “This is something that needs to be highlighted and looked at not just as an act of civil unrest.”

Reach Staff Reporter Lior Haykeen here.



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