Date: 27th October 2016
MERI Forum 2016
In this panel:
Kenneth Pollack, The Brookings Institute, USA
Clarisse Pasztory, Delegation of the European Union to Iraq
Max Hoffman, Center for American Progress, USA
Tanya Gilly, Former Member of Iraqi Parliament (Chair)
This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full video of the debates and Q&A above.
This panel addressed the global power dynamics of the region, considering diverging regional paths. The international strategies for the region have proved to be equally contradictory, mainly through the competition between the US and Russia. Thus, the potential for extended conflict is a significant risk. The panel was intended to reflect upon the influence of competing strategies at a global level would likely have on the region.
The panel began with Kenneth Pollack outlining two camps in the American public: the internationalists, which he identifies with, and the isolationists. The internationalists believe that “the US is safer and better when it engages with the rest of the world” whereas the isolationists are motivated partially by acknowledging the complexity of the situation in the Middle East and also by the belief that “we are spending too much blood and money on things that don’t concern us”. He designated Bush as having belonged to the internationalist camp, whilst he suggested Obama tried to be less involved in the Middle East’s problems. He suggested that in the likelihood of a Clinton presidency she would aim to be at the centre of these two opposing approaches, believing in reform and progress as the best steps forward for the future of the Middle East.
Clarisse Pasztory similarly highlighted the importance of the Middle East on the world stage, particularly in the EU due to the proximity to the region: “Your security is our security. Your disorder is our disorder”. She argued that although the EU perceives itself to be more important as an economic actor than a military actor, there is a need for a more resilient EU security strategy, including further military engagement. She argued that individual threat perceptions should be taken seriously as they can escalate. She expressed a view of Iraq at the current time as being characterised by exclusion, and argued that there should be a drive for good, accountable, inclusive governance including the rule of law to make a truly democratic country.
Following this, Max Hoffman discussed the US position, offering an alternate perspective to Kenneth Pollack. Although he agreed with Pollack on many points, he disagreed with his characterisation of Obama, suggesting that he was instead an internationalist but that the US had only defined their vision for the region narrowly, the intention being to give local players the space to define the region for themselves. However he argued that the result has been to create “further chaos” as regional players have been able to intervene and create fragmentation. Turkey was one actor which he believes capitalised on US disengagement, a “revanchist but pragmatic” Erdogan combining a shallow understanding of world history with his desire to “return Turkey to (in his mind) a global power”. Russia’s interests were also outlined by Hoffman, its motivation being underpinned by “Putin [being] willing to use the chaos in Syria to destabilise NATO” as well as a desire to protect Syrian bases. He concluded that it is vital for the next US president to convince the regional players to coordinate.