Past Speakers

Juan Cole

Monday, September 18, 2017

Topic: Does President Trump Have a Policy Toward the Greater Middle East?

Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent work is The New Arabs: How the Wired and Global Youth of the Middle East Is Transforming It (Simon & Schuster, June, 2014). Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009, rev. 2010) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He has been a regular guest on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Iranian domestic struggles and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at Truthdig. He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, and continues to travel widely there. A bibliography of his writings may be found here.

Jennifer Cooke

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Topic: Africa: The Case for US Engagement

Jennifer Cooke is director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she leads research and analysis on political, economic, and security dynamics in Africa. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on U.S.-Africa policy and provides briefings, testimony, and policy recommendations to U.S. policymakers, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. military. Recent projects include an examination of militancy and extremism in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, religious authority and the state in Africa, energy trends in sub-Saharan Africa, and the launch of the “Spotlight on Africa” conference series, which provides an in-depth look at political and economic developments in Africa’s largest and most dynamic economies.

Cooke is a frequent commentator in print, on radio, and on television, and she has testified before Congress on Boko Haram in Nigeria, the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, and the African Union. She travels widely in Africa and has been an election observer in Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria, and Ghana. Growing up, she lived in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic, as well as Belgium, Italy, and Canada. Prior to CSIS, she worked at the National Academy of Sciences in the Office of Human Rights and the Office of News and Public Information and in the U.S. Congress on the House Subcommittee on Africa. She holds an M.A. in African studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. in government, magna cum laude, from Harvard University.

Anne Garrels

Monday, July 10, 2017

Topic: Putin Country: The Real Russia

AnneGAnne Garrels,  a long-time foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, covered Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime and through the U.S. invasion and its aftermath, and earned international recognition in 2003 by being one of 16 U.S. journalists to remain in Baghdad during the U.S. bombing. Her vivid, around-the-clock reports from the city under siege gave listeners remarkable insight into the impact of the war and the challenges to come.

As U.S.-led forces advanced on the city, Garrels remained at her post, describing the scene on the streets and reactions from those she encountered. Her experiences in Baghdad are chronicled in her book Naked in Baghdad(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 2003).

Garrels, who first arrived in Iraq in 2002 under Saddam Hussein, led NPR’s coverage there until 2008. Her reports anticipated and documented the sectarian violence; she traveled the country working independently as well as embedding with U.S. forces.

Since Sept. 11, Garrels has also reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Before covering the Middle East, she concentrated on the former Soviet Union and its successor states for many years, earning an Alfred I. Dupont Award for her Russia coverage of diverse topics ranging from social and economic challenges to military and cultural developments. From Tiananmen Square to the battlegrounds of Chechnya, from Bosnia to Kosovo, Israel to Iraq, Garrels has put a human face on conflict, combining experience in the field with a sharp understanding of the policy debates in Washington.

Garrels’ work in Iraq has been recognized with the George Polk Award, the 2004 CPB Edward R. Murrow Award, the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia University Award, the University of Missouri Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism, and awards from Interaction and the World Affairs Council. For her contribution to NPR’s coverage of the Gulf War in 1990, Garrels shared an Alfred I. Dupont Award. In 1999, the Overseas Press Club honored Garrels with the Whitman Bassow Award for a series she did on global water issues.PutinCountry

Before joining NPR in 1988, a move she says allowed her to “spread her wings,” Garrels was the State Department correspondent for NBC News. Prior to that, Garrels worked at ABC in a variety of positions over the course of ten years, serving as Moscow bureau chief and correspondent until she was expelled in 1982. From 1984-85 she was the network’s Central American bureau chief.

In 1996-97, Garrels spent a year as an Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a member of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Garrels graduated from Harvard University in 1972  In March 2016, she published Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia [Farrar, Straus, and Giroux].

Trita Parsi

Monday June 12, 2017

Topic: Iran again

ParsiTrita Parsi is an award winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the founder and president of theNational Iranian American Council and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is the author ofTreacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press 2007), for which he conducted more than 130 interviews with senior Israeli, Iranian and American decision-makers. Treacherous Alliance is the silver medal winner of the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.

​Parsi’s book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press) was released early 2012 and was selected by Foreign Affairs journal as the Best Book of 2012 on the Middle East. He interviewed 70 high-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil—including the top American and Iranian negotiators—for this book. Parsi uncovers the previously unknown story of American and Iranian negotiations during Obama’s early years as president, the calculations behind the two nations’ dealings, and the real reasons for their current stalemate.

​Parsi was born in Iran but moved with his family at the age of four to Sweden in order to escape political repression in Iran. His father was an outspoken academic and non-Muslim who was jailed by the Shah and then by the Ayatollah. He moved to the United States as an adult and studied foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies where he received his Ph.D.

He founded NIAC to provide a non-partisan, non-profit organization through which Iranian-Americans could participate in American civic life. NIAC is a vocal proponent of dialogue and engagement between the US and Iran, which Parsi consistently has argued would enhance our national security by helping to stabilize the Middle East and bolster the moderates in Iran.

​Parsi has followed Middle East politics through work in the field and extensive experience on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. He is frequently consulted by Western and Asian governments on foreign policy matters. Parsi has worked for the Swedish Permanent Mission to the UN, where he served in the Security Council, handling the affairs of Afghanistan, Iraq, Tajikistan and Western Sahara, and in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, addressing human rights in Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq.

​Parsi studied for his Doctoral thesis on Israeli-Iranian relations under Professor Francis Fukuyama at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. In addition to his PhD, he holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Uppsala University and a Master’s Degree in Economics from the Stockholm School of Economics. He has served as an adjunct professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and as a Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

​He is fluent in Persian/Farsi, English, and Swedish. Parsi’s articles on Middle East affairs have been published in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Jane’s Intelligence Review, the Nation, The American Conservative, the Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and others. He is a frequent guest on CNN, PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, NPR, the BBC, and Al Jazeera.

 

Ambassador Chas Freeman

Monday, May 15, 2017

Topic: America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East

FreemanAmbassador Chas Freeman chairs Projects International, Inc.  For more than three decades, Projects International has helped its partner enterprises and clients to create business ventures across borders.  It facilitates their establishment of new businesses through the design,  negotiation, capitalization, and implementation of greenfield investments, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, franchises, one-off transactions, sales and agencies in other countries.  The firm operates on five continents.

Ambassador Freeman is a career diplomat (retired) who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 1993-94, earning the highest public service awards of the Department of Defense for his roles in designing a NATO-centered post-Cold War European security system and in reestablishing defense and military relations with China. He served as U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm). He was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the historic U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa and Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.

Ambassador Freeman worked as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the American embassies at both Bangkok (1984-1986) and Beijing (1981-1984). He was Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1979-1981. He was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon’s path-breaking visit to China in 1972. In addition to his Middle Eastern, African, East Asian and European diplomatic experience, he had a tour of duty in India.

John Harvey

Monday, April 24, 2017

Topic: U.S. Nuclear Forces: Decisions for the Trump Administration

Harvey1Dr. John R. Harvey is a physicist with over 35 years of experience working nuclear weapons and national security issues, first at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, then at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control and in senior positions in the Departments of Defense (twice) and Energy.  From 2009-2013, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs under then Undersecretary Ash Carter.  He was Dr. Carter’s “go to” person for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as well as for interactions with the Department of Energy on joint oversight of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.  Dr. Harvey also provided oversight to DoD acquisition programs to sustain and modernize nuclear weapons delivery systems and systems for their command and control.  Since retiring in 2013, he consults for several organizations on many of these same issues.

Ali Ahmida

Monday, March 6, 2017

Topic: The Libya We Do Not Know

AhmidaAli Abdullatif Ahmida is a professor at the University of New England.  He was born in Waddan, Libya and educated at Cairo University in Egypt and The University of Washington, Seattle. He is the founding Chair (2000 – 2014) of the Department of Political Science at the University of New England, Biddeford, Maine, USA. His areas of expertise are political theory, comparative politics, and historical sociology. His scholarship is cross-cultural and focuses on power, agency and anti-colonial resistance in North Africa, especially in modern Libya.

Dr. Ahmida has published major articles in Italian Studies, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Arab Future, Third World Quarterly and the Arab Journal of International Studies. He is also the author of The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonialization and Resistance, a book published by SUNY Press, 1994, 2009. This book was translated into Arabic and has been published in a second edition by the Center of Arab Unity Studies, 1998, Beirut, Lebanon. A third edition is due out in 2013. He is the editor of Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture and Politics, published by Palgrave Press in 2000. An Arabic translation of the book was published by The Centre of Arab Unity Studies in 2014.

Routledge Press published Dr. Ahmida’s book, Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya, 2005; an Arabic edition was published in 2009, and an Italian edition will be published in 2013. Cambridge Scholars Press has published his edited book, Bridges Across The Sahara, September 2009, and The Center of Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, Lebanon, published his book Post-Orientalism: Critical Reviews of North African Social and Cultural History in August 2009. His most recent book is The Libya we do not know (in Arabic) was published by The Libyan Ministry of Culture in 2014. Dr. Ahmida is currently working on two books, one about genocide in colonial Libya, one a biography of Libyan freedom fighter Omar al-Mukhtar.

Julia Preston

Monday, February 6, 2017

Topic: Immigration and the US-Mexico Partnership

PrestonJulia Preston was a member of The New York Times staff that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on international affairs for its series that profiled the corrosive effects of drug corruption in Mexico.

Ms. Preston became a national correspondent covering immigration for The Times in April 2006.  She was a federal courts reporter from May 2004 to March 2006.  Previously she was deputy investigations editor from March 2003 to April 2004.  Prior to that, she had been United Nations bureau chief from October 2002 to February 2003, covering the Security Council deliberations on Iraq.  From January to September 2002, Ms. Preston was an editor on the Foreign Desk in New York.  From September 1995 to December 2001, she was a New York Times correspondent in Mexico.

Ms. Preston came to The Times in July 1995 after working at the Washington Post for nine years as a foreign correspondent.  She is a 1997 recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for distinguished coverage of Latin America and a 1994 winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Humanitarian Journalism.

She covered the United Nations for The Post from January 1993 to May 1995, a period that included crises in Bosnia, Somalia, North Korea, Rwanda and Iraq.  She was a Post Latin America correspondent based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 1990 to 1992, covering the impeachment of President Fernando Collor de Mello.

Previously Ms. Preston was the Washington Post bureau chief in Miami from 1986 to 1989, covering wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala and the conflict between the United States and Panamanian general Manuel Antonio Noriega, as well as Cuba and Haiti.  Before that Ms. Preston had worked for The Boston Globe and National Public Radio.

Ms. Preston is the author, with Samuel Dillon, of Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), which recounts Mexico’s transformation over three decades from an authoritarian state into a democracy.

Born in Lake Forest, Ill., on May 29, 1951, Ms. Preston received a B.A. degree in Latin American Studies from Yale University in 1976. She speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. She has one daughter.

Colin Woodard

Monday, January 16, 2017

Topic: American Character

WoodardColin Woodard is an award-winning author and journalist. He is currently State and National Affairs Writer for the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram, where he was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist and received a 2012 George Polk Award for his investigative reporting.

He is also a contributing editor at Politico and writes for Washington Monthly and The Chronicle of Higher Education and reviews books for the Washington Post. A native of Maine, he has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and seven continents, and lived for more than four years in Eastern Europe. In 2014 he was named one of the “Best State Capitol Reporters in America” by the Washington Post and Journalist of the Year by the Maine Press Association.

WoodardNationsHe is the author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (Viking, 2011) which was named one of the Best Books of 2011 by the editors of The New Republic and The Globalist and won the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-Fiction.His other books include the New England bestseller The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier (Viking Press, 2004), a cultural and environmental history of coastal Maine; Ocean’s End: Travels Through Endangered Seas (Basic Books, 2000), a narrative non-fiction account of the deterioration of the world’s oceans; and the New York Times Bestseller The Republic of Pirates: Being The True And Surprising Story Of The Caribbean Pirates And The Man Who Brought Them Down , on which the NBC series “Crossbones” (starring John Malkovich) is based.

WoodardCharacterHis fifth book, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good was published by Viking on March 15, 2016.

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