03/07/2012 · Cologne · Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
Lecture & Discussion
Cologne: »Strategic Changes and Challenges in the Middle East«
The Amerika Haus e.V. NRW invited in cooperation with the US-Consulate General Düsseldorf the to a lecture with General ret. John P. Abizaid, followed by an exchange with General ret. Egon Ramms, moderated by Ute Lange, “Women In International Security” (WIIS).
At the time of his retirement in 2007, the four-star general was the longest-serving commander of the United States Central Command with responsibility for military operations in 27 countries in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and the Horn of Africa. Among those were stations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. General ret. Abizaid studied at the University of Jordan in Amman and holds a Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.
Due to his lifelong experience, the large audience was looking forward to General ret. Abizaid’s evaluation regarding the “Strategic Changes and Challenges in the Middle East”. General ret. Abizaid was welcomed and introduced by Consul General Janice G. Weiner as well as by Dr. Juliane Kronen, Board Member of Amerika Haus NRW e.V. He first named four categories of challenges that move the United States to get involved in the Middle East, to then go on and present his idea of efficient strategies to stabilize the conflict-laden region.
Considering the United States’ security interests, General ret. Abizaid named the following reasons to explain the US-American engagement in the Middle East:
1. The revolutionary movements of the so called “Arab Spring” would give a legitimate rise of hope. It is unpredictable though, to evaluate for how long the moderate, civic groups within these societies would be able and willing to revolt against the totalitarian regimes and the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism in their countries.
2. According to General ret. Abiziad, when looking at Iran, the idea of the current political elites holding a nuclear weapon was the most frightening perception he could think of. However, he pointed out that to trust and support the forward-looking and moderate Iranian civil society should be the course of action for the international community’s regional engagement.
3. Considering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, General ret. Abizaid called for redoubling the international efforts to mediate, since people were driven more and more to extremism and conditions became increasingly unpredictable.
4. The last factor named by General ret. Abizaid to explain the United States’ engagement in the Middle East was their dependency on oil from this region.
To meet these challenges, General ret. Abizaid called for a sustainable strategy which would consider military intervention as a last consequence. He came to the conclusion that because this approach requires a lot of time to produce a visible effect, it was of high priority for the international community to exercise patience.
Considering the German-American alliance, General ret. Abizaid referred to their common heritage of Western values and concluded: “It is worth fighting for!”
Following the lecture, Ute Lange moderated a discussion between General ret. Abiziad and his German colleague General ret. Egon Ramms, former ISAF commander. Jointly, they highlighted the mutual hope for an implementation of more sustainable strategies, which were ideally shaped by diplomacy and patience in order to strengthen the moderate movements in Middle Eastern societies. Afterwards both, General ret. Abizaid and General ret. Ramms, engaged in a Q&A with the audience.
Summary by Svea Burmester, Amerika Haus e.V. NRW
Dialog partner was Egon Ramms, General ret. and former ISAF-Commander.
Welcome Words: Consul General Janice G. Weiner.
Interview with General ret. John P. Abizaid, Dirk Müller, Deutschlandfunk (German version only).
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With kind support of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and the U.S. Consulate in NRW: