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Department of Government and International Affairs to host Middle East conference

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai regularly takes bags of cash from the Iranian government in payments, presenting a new challenge for American and NATO interests. In Pakistan, an epic flood that displaced 3 million people has further rattled the country’s shaky political structure and barely functioning economy.

In Iran, it has been 31 years since the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and more than a year since the 2009 protests mesmerized the world. But since then, what has become of its protest movement that took to the streets and to Twitter?

And in Iraq, the relatively successful parliamentary elections this spring provided hopeful signs for the budding democracy, but is political freedom sustainable as U.S. forces continue to draw down?

These are just some of the questions to consider as the complicated landscape of electoral politics and democratization in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran will be the focus of a Nov. 3-4 conference at USF, drawing some of the world’s leading figures, scholars and commentators on the ever-complex subject.

The event will feature a keynote lecture by Marine Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, CENTCOM deputy commander; an address by Ambassador John Limbert, a former hostage in Tehran, on the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Hostage Crisis; and a talk by New York Times international affairs columnist Roger Cohen.

The conference will be held at the Embassy Suites, 3705 Spectrum Blvd. in Tampa. All events are free and open to the public.

Mohsen Milani, chair of USF’s Department of Government and International Affairs, knows the convoluted issues well as one of the nation’s leading experts on Iran. This week, Milani penned an op-ed column for The New York Times examining Iran’s payments to Karzai, a development that will figure prominently in the conference’s discussions.

“There are no other four contiguous countries in the world that pose a greater challenge to American national security than do Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran,” Milani said. “Although they have profoundly different histories and political systems, elections have been playing an increasingly important role in all of those countries.

“This symposium will discuss the commonalities and differences among the latest elections in these countries, as well as explore the relationship between elections in these countries and American national interests in that troubled region of the world. Ultimately, we want to provide our community with a comparative perspective about these four countries. There is much wisdom in the statement, ‘If you only know one country, you know no country.’”

Conference discussions will explore the interplay of electoral politics, religion, social conditions and democratization efforts in the volatile region as the United States enters the 10th year at war in Afghanistan and has concluded its combat mission in Iraq.

The Nov. 3 session will feature a panel discussion on electoral politics and democratization in Afghanistan, followed by a lecture by Cohen at 1 p.m. and a 3 p.m. presentation by Lt. Gen. Allen. Allen served as both a commanding general and deputy commanding general in Iraq.

Nov. 4 will mark the 31st Anniversary of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a turning point in United States’ relationship with the region, and will feature panels focused on politics and democratization in Iraq, Pakistan and Iran. Limbert will present the keynote address at 1 p.m.

Limbert was among the Americans taken hostage on Nov. 4, 1979, by Islamic revolutionaries and held with 51 of his colleagues for 444 days. Now a Distinguished Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy, Limbert also is the author of “Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History,” considered one of the leading primers on U.S. diplomatic history with Iran and an important treatise on lessons learned and lost over the decades since the hostage crisis.

Other confirmed speakers include: Professor Nazif Shahrani (Indiana University); Dr. Amin Tarzi (Marine Corps University); Ambassador Feisal Instrabadi (Indiana University); Dr. Marina Ottaway (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace); Mr. Shuja Nawaz (The Atlantic Council); Karim Sadjadpour (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace); and Dr. Babak Rahimi (University of California, San Diego).

The event carries forward the university’s on-going focus on politics, war, health and humanitarian issues in the region, which were the focus of a three-day conference in March. That conference drew leading authorities on Afghanistan and Pakistan and featured a lecture by then CENTCOM Commander Gen. David H. Petraeus.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences School of Social Sciences Government and International Affairs   
Author: Vickie Chachere