Crown Center forum to focus on hot subjects in Middle East

Event comes on eve of Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas talks in Washington

Just hours before President Barak Obama sits down with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas in an attempt to restart the Middle East peace process, scholars from the Crown Center for Middle East Studies will update the campus on the latest developments and hottest topics in the region.

The annual beginning-of-the-year Crown forum, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Rapaporte Treasure Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 3 to 5 p.m. The event includes a spread of Middle Eastern food provided by the Crown Center.

The talks in Washington, which are sure to be on the minds of many at the forum, will be the focus of Wednesday’s presentation by Professor Shai Feldman, the Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center and a leading analyst of Middle East affairs.

“The success or failure of the new phase of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations launched by this meeting will depend on the extent to which the Obama administration — and President Obama personally — will remain engaged in this process beyond the ceremony in Washington,” Feldman says. “That’s what this hinges on.

“The Middle East leaders are kind of spoiled by important Secretaries of State like Kissinger and Baker chaperoning and babysitting the process,” he explained, saying that, because Obama’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George Mitchell, has had little success, “Obama will have to take more of a role.”

Noting that this forum is the Crown center’s most-popular annual event and “often ends up standing-room-only,” associate center director Kristina Cherniahivsky suggested that people who want to be sure of a seat get there early.

Cherniahivsky says that while an impassioned audience fills the hall, particular expertise is not a prerequisite. “You don’t need to be a Middle East expert,” to get something out of it, she says. “You don’t have to know all about the Mideast conflict to understand the implications of direct talks.”

Other hot Middle East topics to be explored include:

  • Iraq. Kanan Makiya, the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, will analyze the stalemate over the formation of a new government, and current events in Iraq in general.
  • Iran. Dr. Naghmeh Sohrabi, Assistant Director for Research at the Crown Center, will present and lead discussion on the internal political and social situation.
  • Turkey. Postdoctoral Fellow Joshua Walker, Junior Fellow at the Crown Center, will address the question “What Does Turkey Mean to the West Now?”
  • Economics. Nader Habibi, the Henry J. Leir Professor of the Economics of the Middle East, will discuss the latest developments in economic conditions in the region.

Each panelist will give brief remarks and then the floor will be open for discussion. Afterward, audience members will be able to talk with the Crown Center scholars one-on-one about upcoming courses and research interests.

The Crown Center is focused on the 22 members of the Arab League, stretching from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, and also including Israel, Turkey and Iran. The center’s research is not limited to the Arab-Israeli struggle, and includes Arab politics, Islamic studies, economic and social developments, and regional security and arms control.

Questions may be directed to: or 781-736-5320.

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