Persian Gulf Initiative to commence with April 6-7 conference

April 1, 2005

CAMBRIDGE, MA—MIT's Center for International Studies is launching a multi-year series of workshops, public forums, and publications to explore urgent issues of the Persian/Arabian Gulf region.  The first series, this spring, will take up the "crisis of governance" in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran.

Drawing on MIT scholars and others from around the world, the initiative will begin with the problems of stability and legitimacy in Saudi Arabia.  The renowned Saudi historian, Abdulaziz Al-Fahad, will begin the series with a public talk at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, in 66-110.  The title of his talk is "Religion and Power in Saudi Arabia."  He is coming to MIT from Riyadh for this event.  On the following day, another seven scholars will join Al-Fahad at the MIT Faculty Club to present their insights on the governance issues in Saudi Arabia.  The participants are listed below.  Professor Steven Van Evera of Political Science, and associate director of CIS, will chair.  

The series then turns to Iraq, with the all-day workshop scheduled for April 27.  Here, the main focus is state formation in the midst of occupation and insurgency.  The third in the series, on Iran, will be held May 4-5, with a public lecture on the evening of May 4 by Hadi Semati, Professor at Teheran University and currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  His talk and the next day's workshop will take up the question of who rules Iran by looking at decisions about its nuclear technology development.

"Our intention is to regard these problems from the standpoint of the region itself, not American interests or perspectives," says series organizer John Tirman, executive director of the Center for International Studies.  "We know too little about the political, social, and cultural dynamics of the region, and, as a result, the U.S. keeps making tragic mistakes.  We need to know more, and we need to put it into a comparative context." 

The Persian Gulf Initiative will include autumn 2005 forums in Washington, New York, and Cambridge.  An edited volume and other published work are expected from the series.  The project is supported with a generous gift from MIT alums who wish to remain anonymous. 

Participants in the Persian Gulf Initiative workshops, April-May 2005 

Saudi Arabia 
Khalid Al-Dakhil, King Saud University 
Eleanor Doumato, Watson Institute, Brown University 
Abdulaziz al Fahad, independent scholar, Riyahd, keynoter 
Michael Herb, Georgia St. University. 
Gwenn Okruhlik, University of Texas 
Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Bryant University and Watson Inst. 
Jean-Francois Seznec, Columbia University 
David Commins, Dickinson College ( observing 

Eric Davis, Rutgers University 
Ahmed Hashim, Naval War College 
Joost Hilterman, International Crisis Group, Amman 
Isam al Khafaji, University of Amsterdam 
Robert Looney, Naval Postgraduate School 
Brendan O'Leary, University of Pennsylvania 
Abdulkader Sinno, Indiana University 
Chappell Lawson, MIT, chair 

Ali Banuazizi, Boston College 
Juan Cole, University of Michigan 
Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii 
Farhad Kazemi, New York University 
Ali Mostashari, MIT 
Vali Nasr, Naval Postgraduate School 
Hadi Semati, Teheran University, keynoter 
Shai Feldman, Brandeis University (observing) 
Gary Sick, Columbia University 

Project coordinator: 
John Tirman 
CIS Executive Director 

Series chair: 
Steven Van Evera 
CIS Associate Director 
MIT Professor of Political Science

John Tirman

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.