Highlights from the public program on
“RESET: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future” by Stephen Kinzer,
Baruch College/CUNY, June 10, 2010.
Date: June 17, 2010
“The US needs to reset its own foreign policy.”
Highlights and Photos by
Figen BINGUL, Lightmillennium.Org
Over 200 guests from different backgrounds and professional fields gathered in Baruch College on June 10, 2010 to hear Stephen Kinzer’s vision of a New Middle East as set forth in detail in Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future (published on June 8, 2010 by Times Books). The event offered a unique opportunity for guests to meet the author and network with each other. The program was preceded by a reception sponsored by Peri Ela, a quaint upper-East Side restaurant known for their flavorful Turkish dishes. At 7:00 pm, the host of the program, Prof. Abdullah Tansel, Baruch College, CUNY, opened the night by welcoming everyone. He said there was no other name to deliver the presentation better than Prof. Kinzer, “an expert in Middle East politics.” Prof. Tansel addressed the turbulent times that the Middle East is living in and stated that “ “the problems are bigger in the Middle East than its size,” and emphasized the timeliness of the presentation. He then introduced Bircan Unver, the founding president of the Light Millennium organization.
Prof. Abdullah Tansel, Baruch/CUNY made the welcoming remarks.
Bircan Unver said “it is a privilege to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Light Millennium with Stephen Kinzer.” She made a Power Point presentation in which she called for collaboration towards “nuclear disarmament” “peace process”, and cultural diversity through Light Millennium’s program and activities. She explained that LM was founded upon the principles of freedom of expression and human rights articles of the Universal Declaration of Independence. She showed snapshots from the organization’s various activities such as e-publications, television programs, and public events in which she illustrated the “diversity of participations from different walks of life” as well as the “diversity of ideas.” She also talked about the “$1 Open Online Membership Campaign,” the organization launched in 2009 via NYCharities.Org, and welcomed guests to be a partner of the LM by donating $1 either on an annual or monthly basis.
Lawrence M. Kaye, Vice Chairman, The American Turkish Society
introduced briefly his organization and the Author.
Afterwards, Lawrence M. Kaye, Vice-Chairman of The American Turkish Society, one of the co-presenters of the event, took to the podium. He provided brief information about The Society’s mission, stating, “The Society is America’s oldest not-for-profit organization seeking to enhance economic, political, and cultural ties between Turkey and the United States. Its mission is accomplished by bringing together leaders in government, including Prime Ministers, Ministers of State and Ambassadors, as well as business leaders, journalists, artists, and scholars covering a spectrum of fields."
Kaye then referred to a book event presented by The Society in 2001, in which Kinzer had discussed Crescent and Star: Turkey between Two Worlds, praised by the Economist “as a critical but affectionate portrait of Turkey’s recent history that throws considerable light on the complex ways of this strategically important ally to the West”. “With current US-Turkish relations now strained over Iran and Israel, and the debate over Turkey’s EU membership, it seems as though the ‘East-West debate’ that Kinzer recounted in Crescent and Star has not abated,” Kaye said. He then introduced Stephen Kinzer, stating “it is no wonder that Kinzer is considered by the Washington post to be among the best in foreign policy storytelling.”
Stephen Kinzer started his speech by congratulating the 10th Anniversary of the Light Millennium and thanking Bircan Unver, The American Turkish Society and the Baruch College for jointly hosting the event. He talked about the time he spent in Turkey including being the first American who had a local blues radio show. He said it was fun to live in Turkey and that he still remembers all wonderful aspects of Turkey. He remarked, “There has been more news in the US about Turkey in the last three weeks than in the entire US history.” He said he is interested in digging up historical facts and that this book is different from previous ones in terms of having a past and present component. The book explains how Turkey and Iran as the two non –Arab nations in the Middle East both became democracies on their own.. And therefore they play a big role in the future of the Middle East.
Over 200 guests from different backgrounds and professional fields gathered in Baruch College on June 10, 2010
to hear Stephen Kinzer’s vision of a New Middle East.
“The only open, vibrant, and democratic societies in the region are Turkey and Iran.”
Kinzer explained problems associated with US foreign policy towards the Middle East, saying “US policy is stuck in the Cold War rot.” Although the landscape in the Middle East is different now than it was 20 years ago, US policy in the region remains the same. During the Cold War, Turkey was in NATO, but didn’t have independent policy-making power in the region. However in the last decade, Turkey has a dramatic new role. The US always had a security interest in Saudi Arabia and Israel as it needed their help, especially financial help in carrying out in undertaking covert operations. In view of new threats and new actors, US needs to reset its own policy “and choose partners with (1) long term strategic goals congruent with those of US, (2) societies that share common values with the American society. In this respect, the Saudi Arabia has nothing in common, “it’s a difficult ally,” he said. “The only open, vibrant, and democratic societies in the region are Turkey and Iran. Therefore the US should look for ways to have a broader approach in negotiations with these countries.”
|“Turkey is a model, an attractive pole for Muslim countries.”
Kinzer said that Israel and Iran were the only two countries in the Middle East with neighbors and most countries in the world currently denouncing them. People are angry and the way to resolve this is to bring Iran and Israel out of their isolation and make them feel safe. He said this is where Turkey comes in. “Turkey will be the key strategic actor in the Middle East in the coming decades … Turkey is a model, an attractive pole for Muslim countries.” Turkey has been tremendously successful because it has always been able to change with times. Turkey can be a poster child for how Islamic politics can be conducted within a true democracy.
About the latest crisis in the region, Kinzer said, “The situation in the Middle East is not bleak if we can produce original theories.” US needs to shift its policy in the region, and draw Turkey and Iran as close partners in bringing peace to the region. As metaphor for the outdated foreign policy that the U.S continues to sustain in the Middle East, he quoted Rumi: “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”
Prof. Sultan Catto with Stephen Kinzer during the Q & A Session.
After Stephen Kinzer’s speech, Prof. Sultan Catto invited Bircan Unver to present an award to Stephen Kinzer on behalf of the Light Millennium thanking the author for his great contributions to the peace process in the world and to marking the 10th Anniversary of the Light Millennium. Afterwards, Sultan Catto with Baruch College opened the Q&A session. In response to a question regarding Israel, Kinzer replied, “we should tell Israelis that their policies make it difficult for us to support them. The best thing for Israel would be to have a calm neighborhood. And for this they need to have better relations with Turkey.”
After the presentation Stephen Kinzer held a book signing session with the audience (Baruch College/CUNY, NYC).
To the question regarding Turkey’s role in the Islamic world, he said that if Turkey wants to be a regional leader, it should work towards de-escalating conflict with Israel as better relations between the countries is vital to Middle East peace.
Overall, Stephen Kinzer explained that his book provides an alternative angle at addressing Middle East issues. In Reset, he urges U.S. to RESET its foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. He envisions Iran and Turkey to be potential partners for the US in creating a new Middle East.
This event is organized by The Light Millennium
to mark its 10th Anniversary and hosted by Baruch College/CUNY, Weissman School of Arts and Sciences
in collaboration with The American Turkish Society
* * * * *
In the end, Kinzer hopes, both Turkey and the U.S. can learn from each other...
In addition to the Baruch College program, The Light Millennium and the SETA Foundation of Washington, D.C. jointly presented a noon program with Stephen KINZER for his new book "Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future" at the SETA Foundation D.C. on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. 60 people attended from embassies, diplomats, media, government, think-thank groups and civil society organizations.. Based on Stephen Kinzer's presentation on his book RESET, several challenging questions came in during the program by the attendees about Turkey-Iran-Brazil accord, increasing tension over Iran issue, and Turkey's veto at the UN Security Council for further sanctions on Iran as well as increasing tension between Turkey and Israel on Gaza. Given the recent uproar over the Israeli attack on a the humanitarian flotilla in route to Gaza, and the deaths of Turk present on the ship, Kinzer asserted that the Turkish government should now begin the process of “toning down the rhetoric over the issue”, and look ahead. Kinzer said that Turkey should strive to not act solely on emotion and to not adopt the U.S. tendency and bad policy of acting impulsively on emotions. To achieve that, Kinzer argues, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) should make reconciling steps towards Israel. Besides, it should take on more confidence building measures, to ensure U.S. policy makers that the government is not taking the country in a negative direction with its new policies, and ensure the U.S. and the international community not to fear a hidden agenda of Islamization in Turkey. In the end, Kinzer hopes, both Turkey and the U.S. can learn from each other: while Turkey has to come to terms with the current Israeli government, the United States have to accept that it has to live and work with the regime in Iran.
Stephen Kinzer during the Q&A Session at the SETA Foundation of Washington DC on June 15, 2010.
Additional photos by: Selcuk ACAR, Sirin CENGIZALP & SETA-DC Foundation
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
SPECIAL THANKS TO VOLUNTEERS:
Prof. Abdullah Tansel,
Prof. Sultan Catto
Lawrence M. Kaye
Baruch/CUNY Weissman School of Arts and Sciences
The American Turkish Society
Hailey Cook, Nuh Yilmaz and Ufuk Ulutas
SETA Foundation of Washington DC
For partnering and collaborating on these two programs.
|Videography: Stephanie WEIN
Photography: Figen BINGUL,
Selcuk ACAR, Turkish Journal
Devrim Idil MUMKAYA
For their volunteering efforts both during and after the event.
Special Thanks to the following media outlets for their support for the publicity of these program:
Kinzer: Ortadoğu'da barış, Türkiye ve İran olmadan asla!.. (in Turkish - with a few photos from the program)
"ABD'nin ortakları Türkiye ve İran olmalı" (in Turkish) Kinzer,
Kinzer: Ortadoğu'da barış, Türkiye ve İran olmadan asla!... (in Turkish)
http://www.turkla.com/index.php?c=1&newsid=7345 (Los Angeles & California)
Kinzer’e göre ABD’nin yeni ortakları
Kinzer, ABD Ortadoğu'da Ortadoğu’da yanlış adım atıyor
"İsrail'in Türkiye'ye ihtiyacı var”
ABD Türkiye ve İran ile ortak olmalı
10th Anniversary, Issue# 23, May 2010 - LIGHTMILLENNIUM.ORG........