Remember Iran at the polls
October 31, 2008
Vote for the man who understands the tremendous ramifications of putting someone else’s child in harm’s way, pleaded Amos Guiora, law professor at the University of Utah and retired lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The event, sponsored by the University of Utah Park City Institute and the Quinney College of Law’s Global Justice Project, was held Thursday evening at the Park Meadows Country Club. The lecture is part of an ongoing series by distinguished faculty members in Park City and was attended by a few dozen people.
Guiora spoke on the impact of the U.S. presidential elections on the Middle East, and he said the biggest problem with American policy makers is that they fail to understand the complexity of the region.
For example, just defining the region is difficult. In today’s current geopolitical situation, it’s legitimate to include the Caucasus region, he said, and interpret Russian’s incursion into Georgia as a re-engagement in the Middle East.
In response to the stated purpose of the lecture, the impact of the American election on the Middle East, he said the elephant in the room is Iran.
"We in Israel take very seriously the Iranian claim to bomb Israel from here to nowhere," he said. "The existential threat is a nuclear Iran."
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Pakistan’s 200 nuclear bombs and its autonomous northwest region are affected by Iran. The next government in Egypt after its president dies is affected. Which Palestinian government will take over the West Bank if Israel disengages is affected. Most importantly, what happens in Iraq if America withdraws is affected.
"Do the (candidates) truly understand the incredible complexity of the Middle East?" he pondered.
Another area to watch is Turkey where the religious ruling party is under strain, he said. Will the country become part of Europe, or will the party pull it farther from the West?
Part of the Iran equation is its relationship with Russia.
"The blinking light is Russia," he said. "The invasion into Georgia was a classic textbook case of Russia sending a message."
But what was the message? Was it to Iran? Was it to the United States? It most certainly was to Ukraine, he said, but to whom else?
He also called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "fever" that will burn for many more years.
Guiora said whoever the new president is he will need "sophisticated" advisors. He defined sophisticated as being able to speak another language and the cultural literacy that should accompany that, and the ability to understand history, politics and power.
The new president must never act impulsively and must have the maturity not to use power.
"It’s natural to want to call in the cavalry but what about the morning thereafter?" he said.
Understanding the effects and ramifications of using power, as well as its limits, requires tremendous maturity and long-term thinking, he said.
The president, his advisors and the military need to rethink and agree on what policies in the Middle East will serve the nation’s long-term interests.
He isn’t convinced the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan benefited either America’s or Israel’s long-term interests.
Cheri Daily, director of corporate and foundation relations for the university, said Guiora’s engagement had actually been requested by members of the Park City Institute. The previous lecture had been on Russia and Georgia.
Attendee Mark Kramer said he was not only impressed by the speaker and the insights he provided into the situation in the Middle East, but was also impressed by the audience in terms of the discourse and questions during the Q-and-A portion.
"It seemed a really valuable session for people, it makes me wonder why we don’t do more of that in Park City if there’s an appetite for it," he said. "It was a great service for the university to bring these things to town."