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 at The Santa Fe Community College – Room 487

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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.

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History, Identity, Democracy: A Framework for Understanding Israeli Politics

October 30, 2015

 Eytan Gilboa, Chair and Academic Director, The Israel Public Diplomacy Forum

What are the key characteristics of Israeli society that have affected the formation of the Israeli political system and political culture?  Professor Gilboa will offer insights into the Israeli political arena exploring such elements as political parties, elections, coalition government and representation for religious and ethnic minorities.  He will also address relations between the Israeli government, society, the Supreme Court and the mass media and explore the difficult issues that come from the delicate balance of power between them. (more…)

The Migration Crisis in the Mediterranean: Reasons and Repercussions

September 17, 2015

 Panayotis J. Tsakonas, Professor of International Relations, Security Studies and Foreign Policy Analysis at the Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece.

What are the repercussions of migration for the EU and in particular South European states? How has illegal migration unfolded in the broader Mediterranean region during the last decade and why has it reached crisis proportions?  How is the huge influx of migrants from war torn areas in the Middle East and Africa being perceived and dealt with by the European Union and its members, particularly those hardest hit—Greece, Italy, and Hungary—as well as their neighbors.  What is driving the huge increase, how is Europe coping, how are these unprecedented waves of human migration affecting European security and what can be done to deal with the influx?

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A Recent Visit to Palestine

February 10, 2015

Arvid and Mary Jo Lundy, prior to this visit to the Palestinian territories, they worked on a Habitat for Humanity Orphanage rehabilitation project in Romania and earlier on drinking water projects in Ethiopia and Chiapas, Mexico

Conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been almost continuous in our lifetimes – or so it seems. 2014 saw its renewed eruption with the Hamas kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank resulting in the summer’s horrific Gaza War. This was followed by numerous small but chilling incidents in the West Bank and Jerusalem last fall. Simultaneously the Palestinian Authority unsuccessfully pursued the recognition of statehood by the UN Security Council, signed a number of UN agreements and will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court in April.

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The Geopolitics of Oil

February 9, 2013

Molly Williamson, former Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Career Minister, is an expert on energy, economic and demographic factors affecting foreign policy formulation, US-Middle East relations, especially the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran and nuclear challenges, and the inter-agency process

How do energy, economic and demographic factors affect US foreign policy decision-making as they relate to America’s relations in the Middle East and especially the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Iran and its nuclear challenges as well as their roles within the US government’s inter-agency policy making process?

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