MIT Center for International Studies

PRESS RELEASE April 1, 2005
M I T   C E N T E R   F O R   I N T E R N A T I O N A L   S T U D I E S

John Tirman


"Persian Gulf Initiative to Commence with April 6-7 Conference"

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology