• Al Jilali Fort, 1587 Muscat photo by Linda Pappas Funsch

Sultanate of Oman: Beacon of Hope in the Middle East

 August 17, 2018

 Linda Pappas Funsch

Few Americans know much about Oman, a small sultanate located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Yet Oman hosts American military forces on three Omani bases through a Facilities Access Agreement and its unbroken alliance with the US dates from 1790.

The majority of Omanis are Ibadhi, an early offshoot of Islam and a third tradition within the Islamic mosaic.   This small but strategic country at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said – who has been in power since 1970 after engineering a bloodless palace coup against his father.

Although Omani society is historically tribal, Sultan Qaboos has been able to construct an effective national consensus, in which Omani loyalty transcends tribe. Oman is also now highly urbanized and since 2014, foreign migrants represent over 43% of the population working primarily in the oil industry.  Yet in addition to encouraging the growth of the petroleum sector, the Sultan has also initiated a program of “Omanization,” aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on hydrocarbon production, increasing private investment, and replacing expatriate labor with trained Omanis.

Linda Pappas Funsch, author of Oman Reborn: Balancing Tradition and Modernization (2015, Palgrave Macmillan), will discuss the history and modern transformation of the Sultanate of Oman, a little known, but vitally important, country of the Arab Middle East. The story of Oman is compelling – a maritime power that prospered as the global hub for the frankincense trade in antiquity. Its unique world view and international relations of today are a reflection of its lengthy interaction with diverse cultures. Oman’s foreign policy today is a product of its history, values, and realistic appraisal of 21st century dynamics.

Ms. Funsch is a career specialist in Islamic and modern Middle Eastern history and cultures with experience in academia, publishing, consulting, tourism and travel writing.  Following undergraduate study at Marymount College, Tarrytown (NY) and the American University in Cairo, she was awarded an M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Literature at New York University.  She has served as editor of The Arab World magazine in New York, consultant for the League of Arab States’ office to the United Nations, project specialist for the Ford Foundation, both in Beirut and New York, and US Director of the American Research in Egypt consortium in Princeton, NJ.

She has taught at several colleges in New York and Maryland, including Iona College, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Hood College and — for  15 years and currently   —  at Frederick (MD) Community College’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. She has guest lectured at Georgetown University, the World Affairs Council, the World Bank, the National Defense University, Mary Washington University, and Baylor University, among others. She has also been interviewed on the Voice of America. In addition, she is engaged in a number of ecumenical outreach activities, aimed at fostering an understanding and appreciation of the shared values among the Abrahamic faith traditions.

Location TBD

Past Programs

How Russia Views the World

October 14, 2016 

 Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz and Mikhail Alexseev

Twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Kremlin’s view of the world changed dramatically. Suddenly, the Russian Federation, the Soviet Union’s successor state internationally, was surrounded by 14 newly independent nation-states, each with its own interests and relationships with Moscow and the world. All 15 republics dropped the mantra of Communism, but its residue has remained. Since then, history has not ended. Moscow continues to view the world through its unique prism and we need to understand better what shapes the views and aspirations of its leadership in the making of Russia’s foreign policy today. Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz is Director of the Conflict Resolution MA Program at Georgetown University and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer for 36 years and was US Ambassador to Belarus from 1994-1997 and Georgia from 1998-2001. He also served two tours in Moscow as well as tours in The Hague and at the US Mission to NATO in Brussels. He was chosen for the Ambassador Robert Frasure award for peacemaking and conflict prevention in 2000 for his work in preventing spillover of the Chechen war into Georgia. Mikhail Alexseev, Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University, is a specialist on migration, ethnopolitical conflict and post-Soviet Russia. He is the author of “Immigration Phobia and the Security Dilemma: Russia, Europe and the United States” (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and the principal investigator of a multi-year international research project on migration and ethno-religious violence in the Russian Federation. He has published articles in various academic journals and opinion pieces on Soviet and post-Soviet affairs in the New York Times, Newsweek, the Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today and the Seattle Times. This program is co-sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington, DC. This event is part of the “Kennan Conversations” program. Mr. Yalowitz and Mr. Alexseev will also be addressing this topic at the Albuquerque Committee on Foreign Relations (ACFR) dinner October 13. Santa Fe World Affair Forum (SFWAF) members may attend at ACFR member prices. For more information please contact ACFR program chair Bob McGuire (rsmcg@comcast.net or 505-281-1108).

Terrorism and the Middle East in 2016: Next Steps

September 12, 2016 

 Dr. Emile Nakhleh

The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) continues to threaten the Middle East region, the United States and the world. What are the ideological and policy factors that drive it, and what lies behind its apparent resiliency? In contrast with its predecessor terror group, al-Qa’ida, the “jihadist” threat from ISIS is more lethal, battle-hardened, and well entrenched. Whereas al-Qa’ida Central moved from the global arena to regional and local areas, ISIS seems to be moving from the local theater(Syria and Iraq) to regional states and expanding globally. Using social media platforms, ISIS is bent on radicalizing and recruiting Muslim youth in the West and elsewhere, including in the United States. ISIS is not larger than life and must and will be contained.  Dr. Nakhleh will address all, including the nature and source of radical Sunni ideology that feeds it, and will highlight US regional policy and the threats and challenges over the next five to ten years. Dr. Nakhleh is a retired Senior Intelligence Service Officer, a Research Professor and Director of the newly launched Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. He is a National Intelligence Council/IC Associate and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Since retiring from the US Government in 2006, he has consulted on national security issues, particularly Islamic radicalization, terrorism, and the Arab states of the Middle East. He has published frequently on the “Arab Spring” in the Financial Times and the LobeLog blog At the CIA, he was a senior analyst and director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program and a regional analyst in the Middle East. He holds a Ph.D. from the American University, Washington, D.C., in International Relations, an M.A. from Georgetown University in Political Science, and a B.A. from Saint John’s University, Minnesota, in Political Science. He is the author of numerous academic books and scholarly articles. He and his wife, Ilonka Lessnau Nakhleh, live in Albuquerque, NM. Cost for this lunch session is $25 for members and $35 for non-members.  This program with Dr. Emile Nakhleh is now SOLD OUT! What Have We Learned About Combating Terrorism After 9/11 Article by Emile Nakhleh Date: September 13, 2016.

Categories: Africa, Economics|Tags: |

A Special Showing of “America’s Diplomats”

June, 2016

This one hour documentary on June 23 from 12-2 explores the role of diplomacy in shaping American history and focuses on the people who have staffed our embassies, consulates and US Department of State throughout our history, what their lives are like and what they do. This story begins with Benjamin Franklin and his mission to France so crucial in obtaining US independence and then highlights the diplomacy involved throughout this country’s development. The video includes events as recent as the negotiations for the Iran nuclear agreement. Along the way, it portrays sacrifices made by US diplomats – from Nairobi to Benghazi – as well as the triumphs. “America’s Diplomats” is a one hour documentary produced by the Foreign Policy Association for screening on PBS this year.   It summarizes the contribution of diplomacy to the security and wellbeing of the nation providing a portrait of the US Foreign Service illustrating the responsibilities, achievements and challenges of US diplomacy and diplomats in the 21st Century. This showing “America’s Diplomats” will conclude with a moderated discussion led by a special panel of American diplomats.

Categories: Diplomacy|

Doomed to cooperate: How American and Russian nuclear scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War Dangers

March 18, 2016 

Siegfried. S. Hecker: Professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation

Nuclear risks changed dramatically when the Soviet Union collapsed. Suddenly the world was threatened more by Russia’s weakness than its strength. Never before had a country with the capacity to destroy the world experienced such turmoil. The United States and much of the world was concerned about loose nukes, nuclear materials, loose nuclear experts and uncontrolled nuclear exports. Scientists and engineers at Los Alamos and other Dept. of Energy nuclear laboratories joined forces with those at the Russian nuclear weapon institutes for more than 20 years to avoid what looked like the perfect nuclear storm. Today’s strained relations between Washington and Moscow have curtailed that cooperation to the detriment of a safer world. This talk is a preview of the two-volume book to appear this spring.

Categories: Non-Proliferation, Russia|Tags: |

Africa’s Petroleum Boom: Blessing or Curse?

February 26, 2016 

Mark L. Asquino: US Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, 2012-15

Several Sub-Saharan African nations have been experiencing an unprecedented influx of riches as a result of the exportation abroad of their oil and gas.  Equatorial Guinea, where Mark Asquino was Ambassador until October, is the third largest petroleum Sub-Saharan producer today.  On the other side of the continent, the Sudan – where Ambassador Asquino previously served, is another.  The two top producers, however, are Nigeria and Angola which he will also discuss.  On the one hand, the riches accrued from petroleum exports have made these countries far wealthier than their wildest dreams.  On the other, money isn’t everything.  What are the pluses and minuses of Africa’s petroleum gold mine, who benefits, who loses and how best can these countries cope?

Categories: Africa, Economics|Tags: |

The Iran Nuclear Deal: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Its Potential Ramifications

November 20, 2015

Cheryl Rofer, Former President of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security

On July 14, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the P5+1 (or E3+3) – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. The agreement imposes strict controls on Iran’s nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions imposed on Iran. Implementation of the agreement is proceeding; Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency are working through the question of what work related to nuclear weapon development Iran may have done, to be capped by a United Nations Security Council resolution on December 15. Both Iran and the United States have completed their internal legislative processes related to the agreement, and October 18 was Adoption Day, when the agreement goes into effect. The next steps are for the P5+1 to develop conditional waivers to the sanctions and for Iran to meet a list of requirements for those waivers to go into effect. This is likely to be completed by spring or summer 2016. The talk will cover the basics of the agreement and major objections to it.

Categories: Middle East, Non-Proliferation|Tags: |
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