Statue of Saddam being toppled

Wednesday, February 6, 3:00 p.m., The Arizona Senior Academy Building 

The third in this year’s 90-minute sessions from the non-partisan Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions series comprises a video, “The Middle East: Regional Disorder,” with an exposition by Steve Harris, Academy Village resident and retired Navy project manager. Discussion will follow.

The program covers the history of the current state of affairs in the Middle East beginning with the break-up of the Muslim Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, an Empire that encompassed much of the present Middle East landscape and many of its ethnic homelands.

The video shows how Great Powers (the victors in World War I) colonized the remaining sections of the Empire, drawing political boundaries with very little regard to ethnic divisions or homelands.  As these countries with their irrational boundaries became independent nations, they never achieved coherence or legitimacy, and after the Cold War most of the area succumbed to autocratic rule. 

In the aftermath of U.S.-led coalition invasions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Sunni Muslim Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq were replaced with more radical Shiite-led governments, to the exclusion of the Sunni population.  As these governments attempted to normalize relations with Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia, formerly the strongest power in the area because of its enormous oil reserves, felt increasingly threatened. Government protests of The Green Movement in Iran in 2009 and the “Arab Spring” in 2011 led to regional unrest with the aim of promoting democracy, but autocratic rule was re-established in Egypt and Turkey and fortified in Iran.  The continuing historic rivalry of Shiite and Sunni-identified governments has resulted in the human disasters of Syria and Yemen.

Moderator Steven Harris will attempt to unravel the tangled skein of these conflicts in the discussion period.


Feb. 6: “The Middle East: Regional Disorder”: Great Decisions