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A joint seminar by the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation and the Center for International Security and Cooperation
Speaker: Moshe Maoz, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Discussant: Alexander Key, Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, Stanford
While briefly examining the compatibility of democracy and Islam in Arab and Muslim countries, I focus on domestic and regional developments in the ongoing bloody war in Syria. I begin by describing the changing balance of power among government and opposition groups, the emerging autonomous regions, the collapse of the economy, and the critical problems of refugees. Most of these problems have crucially affected neighboring countries, notably the Shi'i-Sunni conflict in Iraq and Lebanon. And while Shi'i Iran has empowered its quasi-Shi'i ally, Bashar's Alawi regime, Sunni Muslim countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar are divided regarding support of the mainstream Muslim rebel groups. All these parties are deeply concerned about the strengthening of Al-Qai'da's affiliated fanatic Islamic groups in Syria and beyond. Bashar has taken advantage of the Al-Qaida menace to present himself to the West as a pragmatic, secular partner. He adopted his Russian ally's initiative to give up his chemical weapons, and the U.S., which had previously endeavored to topple Bashar, has accepted Russia's offer. Relevant to these developments is the agreement on Iran's nuclear program signed by Washington and its European partners with Tehran, Bashar’s ally. The intriguing question is whether Iran would now meet Washington's expectation and induce Bashar to step down within a political settlement; or would it continue to back Bashar and Hizballah while advancing its Shi'i Crescent strategic design?