Arab Summer Lecture

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By Jake Nielson

A visiting foreign policy expert described the current political situation in the Middle East to BYU students Wednesday in the Herald R. Clark Building in her lecture titled, “The Arab Summer: What it Means for the Arab World for U.S. Policy.”

Roxane Farmanfarmaian, a visiting scholar from the Middle East Center at University of Utah and affiliated lecturer at Cambridge University, taught students her point of view on the issue based off of her extensive experience in international affairs.

She said she intended to recycle a speech she gave four months earlier but the changes in the Middle East were so drastic she had start over.

“I was just going to update a previous lecture but I realized that in four months everything had changed,” Farmanfarmaian said. “Based on these significant changes I thought I better re-write my speech.”

By adopting the theme “Four Months Ago,” she reiterated to the students the major changes that took place in the region in this summer.

“Four months ago Turkey and Israel were allies,” she said. “They have since broken off ties and the president of Turkey called them the West’s spoiled child.”

The lecture outlined the necessity of changes in United States foreign policy to coincide with the changes in the Middle East.

“We see an increasingly united Arab front clashing with a U.S. and Israeli front,” she said. “We are just sort of like underwear. We don’t need a lot but we just need to deal with it.”

While many middle eastern nations have benefited from the turn in events some of them feel they have drawn the short stick.

“Turkey and Iran are rising to the top and Saudi Arabia continues to stretch its wings in the area,” she said. “But the Arab summer has not been kind to Iran because it played the Arab street all the time.”

She explained how Turkey and many of the other nations are being successful in the region by getting rid of an “Islamic model” and turning it in for “Islamist secular capitalism.”

Farmanfarmaian showed the similarities of the role of religion in government by relating the current changes in the Middle East to the early founding of the U.S.

“You can be very religious in government and still be in government,” she said. “We are in an era of constitution writing.”

Yet the purpose of her speech was not just to inform the students but to inspire them to reach a greater level of understanding for the Arab people.

“We have to learn to be a little more flexible,” she said. “We need to rethink our enemies.”

But she assured students of a bright future if we can learn to work together.

“There is much to lose,” she said. “But there is so much to gain.”

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