November Events Feature Eminent Speakers - Center for Contemporary Arab Studies | Georgetown University

CCAS sponsored two exciting talks in the second half of November, 2008, one by the prominent American diplomat Edward Djerejian, and the other by His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Djerejian noted that the next U.S. President has immense power to bring positive changes to the Middle East, but that the United States government must first shift from a strategy of conflict management to one of conflict resolution in order to realize these changes. In light of this prescription, Djerejian explained, Barack Obama must engage in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process early on in his tenure, especially since both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ran out of time to bring about significant change on this issue.

The key to diplomacy, as Djerejian puts it, is understanding enemy interests and showing enemies where we should come together. “You have to engage your adversaries,” he explained. The Ambassador admitted to being a “staunch advocate” of engaging in “strategic dialogue” with Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other countries with which the United States has experienced strained relations.

A Georgetown School of Foreign Service graduate, Djerejian is a leading expert on the complex political, security, economic, religious, and ethnic issues of the Middle East. In his lecture he stressed that the next U.S. administration must adopt a coherent policy toward the “broader Middle East”—i.e., the Muslim world from North Africa to Indonesia—that addresses all of the problems that plague the Muslim world, not just those of military/strategic nature. Also, he said, the next U.S. administration must be able to “connect the dots” regarding the various interconnected conflicts in the region. Finally, Djerejian said, “American foreign policy in the Middle East cannot underestimate the role of religion and culture, especially in this region.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Security Studies Program and the SFS Dean’s Office.

Reflections on U.S.-Saudi Relations

On Wednesday, November 19, 2008, CCAS hosted His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, who spoke in the boardroom about the past, present, and future of U.S.-Saudi relations. In 1973 the prince was appointed an Advisor in the Royal Court, and from 1977-2001 he served as the Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). The Prince was also the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States from 2005 to 2007.

In the first half of his lecture, Prince Turki traced U.S.-Saudi relations from the 1933 agreement between Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil of California to the hot-cold relations during the Bush administration. While the prince recognized the strength of current U.S.-Saudi relations in matters of tourism, education, and finance (the United States remains the largest investor in Saudi Arabia), he also identified a constraint in the relationship: U.S. Congress and “friends of Israel” who “continue to denigrate the Kingdom and pursue divisive efforts to separate the two countries.”

Despite Saudi Arabia’s occasionally rocky relationship with the United States, Prince Turki remains optimistic for the future of U.S.-Saudi relations. He expressed hope that the new American administration under Barack Obama will make a concerted effort toward achieving a peaceful solution in Palestine, which he describes as “a bleeding wound that has not been cured.” The prince outlined six recommendations for the future Obama administration, which ranged from encouraging the passage of a UN Security Council resolution protecting Iraq’s territorial integrity to demanding Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese and Syrian territories. Prince Turki closed on a humorous yet hopeful note, saying, “I tell [President-elect Obama] that his advisors will look at all of the requests I made to him and tell him, ‘We can’t do that.’ He can reply by saying, ‘Yes, we can.’”