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    for WIAC 2015 on the Middle East

The Middle East: Power, Politics, & Prospects for Peace

Frederick Axelgard

Welcome to the website for WIAC 2015 on the topic of The Middle East.  We are confident you will have a most rewarding experience by attending.


F W Axelgard
Senior Fellow, International Relations
The Wheatley Institution, BYU







Roundtables 2015

WIAC Roundtables

Each roundtable offers student delegates the opportunity, in a series of roundtable discussions, to analyze and develop policy recommendations for the United States within the topic of their selected roundtable. When registering, delegates select one roundtable that they will participate in.

Roundtables >>

The Gulf: Regional Rivalries & Regional Security

Roundtable Chair - Ambassador Edward Gnehm

The Persian Gulf is one of the most critically important geographic sub regions in the world. Countries bordering the Gulf contain over 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 40% of natural gas reserves. World access to these reserves is essential to support the global economy. Yet the region has seen repeated warfare driven my regional rivalries compounded by divisions in Islam between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Gulf Roundtable will delve into the intricacies of the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the complications of divisions in Islam, the impact of these rivalries and divisions on other unfolding events in the region, the past efforts to organize regional security structures, and current prospects for meaningful security arrangements.

Roundtable Information >>

Civil Society and Media

Roundtable Chair - Professor Amaney Jamal

Mainstream American political science defines civil society as a broad spectrum of secondary associations, ranging from political parties and pressure groups to sporting clubs, and postulates these intermediaries to be the bedrock of democracy. A strong and "vibrant" civil society is supposed to underpin responsible citizenship and make democratic forms of government work. Conversely, a weak civil society is supposed to support authoritarian rule which keeps society weak. By this logic most Middle Eastern societies appeared to be caught in a vicious circle. Further complicating our understanding of the role civil society plays in democracy is that Islamism has succeeded by monopolizing the very civic terrain that is supposed to underlie processes of democratization.. What room is there for Islamism in our civil society and democratization theories? Is there room? Finally, what role does media and representation play in debates on democratization? We will ask these and other questions in our roundtable.

Roundtable Information >>

Revolution & Civil Conflict

Roundtable Chair - Professor Quinn Mecham

This roundtable examines the revolutionary history of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab uprisings of 2010-2011 and the political conflict in the region since 2011. We examine the history of regime and government transitions in the Middle East, contemporary patterns of popular protest, and state responses to mass protest. In addition, we assess the sources of civil conflict and political violence, as well as the potential for state failure in parts of the Middle East. We will focus on the policy implications of a politically mobilized Middle East, as well as examine the possibility for a constructive foreign policy to reduce political violence and address widespread human rights abuses.

Roundtable Information >>

Political Economy of the Middle East

Roundtable Chair - Professor Melani Cammett

The Middle East and North Africa is often depicted as a region rife with authoritarian rule, stagnant economies, and limited prospects for improving the lives of its peoples. In reality, the region is highly variegated, with widely divergent types of economies and political settlements between rulers and ruled.  The goal of this roundtable is to think through ways in which governments and citizens can generate strategies and policies foster tangible improvements in well-being and in the prospects for economic and social advancement in the diverse countries of the region. 

In order to tackle these big questions, it is essential to trace the distinct patterns of economic and political development in various countries of the region. Towards this end, the roundtable will review political institutions and economic trends across the three main country groupings of the region, including the labor abundant/resource rich (LARR) countries such as Algeria, Iran, and Iraq, labor abundant/resource poor (LARP) countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, and the labor poor/resource rich (LPRR) countries of the Gulf. While population size and oil wealth by no means determine politics and economics, they affect the nature of state-society relations within each of these country groupings, in turn shaping patterns of economic growth and political development. With this background in mind, the roundtable will address the prospect for political and economic development in different types of countries in the region.

Roundtable Information >>

Youth, Demographics and Social Change

Roundtable Chair - Professor Donna Lee Bowen

Youth in the Middle East currently face an unrivaled combination of challenges and opportunities. Young men and women comprise about 30 percent of the region’s population. During the 2009-2011 Uprisings, they played vital roles in organizing, facilitating and agitating for change. Yet poor education systems, stalled economies and restrictive governance curtail their life choices. Continued political roadblocks and lack of good jobs result in frustration. In our roundtable, we will look at the following questions: 1) what kind of future do young men and women throughout the countries of the Middle East face in terms of education, employment, and marriage and family? 2) What are their concerns, hopes and aspirations? 3) What restrictions are levied on one hand by state governments and on the other by tradition and social mores? 4) How do they respond to the upsurge of Islamism and violence in the region?

Roundtable Information >>

The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Changing Policy for a Changing Conflict?

Roundtable Chair - Professor Josh Gubler

In the years since the United States formally adopted its "two-state" policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, the conflict has changed. The nature of the players on the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the conflict, as well as the publics that support them, have changed. Similar change can be observed in the Arab states that surround them and in the larger international community. However, despite these and other significant changes, we have seen surprisingly little change in US policy or approach towards the conflict. This roundtable will begin with a brief history of the conflict (its roots and key events) as well as a discussion of important changes in recent years to the conflict. Armed with this knowledge, participants will be tasked to propose realistic, coherent, and feasible alternatives to current US foreign policy towards the conflict.

Roundtable Information >>

Gender, Islam and Human Development

Roundtable Chair - Professor Lisa Blaydes

While the 20th century has been associated with a major improvement in status for women around the world, Muslim societies stand virtually alone in continuing to perpetuate traditional sex roles that have a negative impact on the economic and political empowerment of women. Previous scholars have documented the existence of a stark difference, for example, in gender egalitarian attitudes between Muslim societies and the rest of the world.   This roundtable session will seek to answer three core questions. First, what explains the persistence of traditional gender norms in the Islamic world and how can we understand heterogeneity in gender egalitarianism across Muslim societies?  Second, how do changing economic, institutional and legal factors impact the well-being of Muslim women?  And finally, what types of interventions can lead to a long-term positive impact on the lives of Muslim women and girls?

Roundtable Information >>

Understanding the Role of Islamic Religion in Contemporary Middle Eastern Conflicts: Exacerbating or Mitigating Factor?

Roundtable Chair - Professor James Toronto

This roundtable will examine issues of human rights and conflict in the contemporary Middle East, exploring how aspects of Islamic religious thought and history interact with other political, social, and economic factors in creating, perpetuating, and resolving conflict. We will focus our reading, discussion, and policy making efforts on the religious underpinnings of debates on terrorism, gender equality, and freedom of conscience, taking into account sources in Islamic scripture, law, and history and the voices of both conservative and liberal Muslim thinkers.

Roundtable Information >>



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