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The Middle East is once again on fire, and Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” sought to explain it in his Monday morning lecture at 10:45 a.m. in the Amphitheater. His was the first lecture in Week Eight’s theme of “Chautauqua’s Global Public Square.”
The early Ottoman Empire was a global power for more than 200 years before it was defeated during the Siege of Vienna in the 16th century. And it took the Ottomans about 150 years to figure out what they did wrong.
“They tried many things,” Soner Cagaptay said. “In the end, they concluded that the only way to catch up with the Europeans was to become a European society.”
As a country that began its experiment in democracy less than a century ago, the transformation from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey has been nothing less than remarkable. But Ibrahim Kalin doesn’t think of his country as a perfect model for democracy. Rather, he believes it should serve as motivation for other countries.
“Turkey can serve as a source of inspiration, and maybe there are experiences from which other Middle Eastern countries can learn,” he said. “But we don’t impose Turkey as a model, because it’s just too patronizing.”
During his Interfaith Lecture on Monday, the Right Rev. John Chane demonstrated that Turkey and Iran share similar political and economic interests: Both are concerned about the plight of those living in the Palestinian territories, and soon the trade volume between the two countries is expected to exceed $30 billion, he said.
However, Chane noted that Iran and Turkey also have their differences. Iran sees Syria’s Assad regime as its ally and as a distribution point for weapons, arming both Syrian forces and also Hezbollah. Turkey, on the other hand, views Syria as a destabilizing presence in the region and has directly opposed its leadership.
In 2008, Dennis Ross was asked by Vanity Fair if he thought the map presented by T.E. Lawrence to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 could be applied to the Middle East today. Ross said the notion was inconceivable. But five years later, Ross said he believes the map — which separates countries of the Middle East by their individual tribes, sects and clans — may have “a lot of possibility.”
“This is not the Middle East that you knew before,” he said. “It is a Middle East that is changing.”
For more than 20 years, Chautauqua Institution has hosted a Middle East Update, an annual program that brings in foreign policy experts to help Chautauquans understand the tightly wound and highly complicated knot of conflicts and relationships in the Middle East.
This year’s Middle East Update begins at 4 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy and will continue on Aug. 12 and 13 at the same time and place. Today, Geoffrey Kemp, director of regional security programs at the Center for the National Interest, will moderate a discussion with Dennis Ross, diplomat and counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ross is also speaking at today’s morning lecture.