March 4, 2009

Iran in the Spotlight

The fifth annual Fares Center conference on March 5–6 focuses on the Obama administration’s foreign policy challenges in the Middle East

By Taylor McNeil

Last summer, when she was thinking of topics to focus on for the annual spring Fares Center conference, director Leila Fawaz narrowed the choice to two: the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iran. In the end, she decided on Iran, and the timing is proving uncanny.

With Iran beginning tests of its first nuclear power plant on February 25, the goal of the conference, to examine foreign policy challenges of the new administration, is as topical as ever, and will draw a wide range of experts from around the world. The fifth annual conference will be held March 5–6 at the Cabot Intercultural Center.

“The purpose of the Fares Center is to bring about more understanding about the peoples of the Middle East,” says Fawaz, the Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies. “The idea is to make it more understandable by having such a high-level discussion on one of the areas where the Bush administration has messed up so immensely.”

Among the highlights of the conference is the keynote address on March 5, “War or Peace: Obama’s Challenges in the Middle East,” by R. Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The webcast keynote address the next day features retired General John P. Abizaid, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, speaking on security challenges in the Middle East.

Other sessions include “America and Iran: The Historical Context,” “American Policies and Options in the Region” and “Nuclear Issues.”

The conference is free and open to the public. It begins at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, and concludes at 7:30 p.m. on March 6. To register and learn more, go to

Taylor McNeil can be reached at

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