On February 7, 2013, the Middle East and North Africa Center at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted a roundtable with Mr. Terje Rød-Larsen, President of the International Peace Institute (IPI).
In a presentation titled “Middle East in Transition: Risks and Opportunities,” he discussed the current security and political situation in the Middle East, the latest developments in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, as well as the rising transnational dimensions to many of these events.
Regarding Egypt, Mr. Rød-Larsen emphasized the unpredictable nature of the current situation, particularly concerning how President Muhammad Morsi will govern in a deeply polarized society. He noted that many observers of the Egyptian revolution were optimistic in their initial assessments of how events would unfold after the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. Looking forward, Mr. Rød-Larsen suggested that near-term improvements remained uncertain due to the unpredictable situation.
On Syria, Mr. Rød-Larsen described how much the situation had deteriorated in recent months, particularly with the onset of winter and the ongoing refugee crisis. Furthermore, he argued that the regional spillover from the civil war has drawn in a diverse range of foreign state and non-state actors. In many regards, this has resulted in a stalemate as different groups battle to shape what a post-Bashar al-Assad Syria will look like. Despite the enormous bloodshed and destruction that has already been wrought, Mr. Rød-Larsen noted that the longer the Assad regime remains in power, the more difficult the reconstruction process will be afterwards.
Finally, Mr. Rød-Larsen cited the diminished United States role as one of the major developments likely to shape the future regional security environment. After over a decade of state-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a variety of factors, including new energy sources, the rise of Asia and domestic war fatigue, were likely to see the US drastically reduce its footprint in the region. In this power vacuum, emerging regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, along with smaller powers such as Qatar, were pushing to expand their influence and responsibilities.
Date / Time: Thursday, February 7, 2013 / 10:30am-11:30am
Venue: Conference Room (2F), The Asan Institute for Policy Studies