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MIDDLE EAST WARNINGS It’s a shaky landscape, one that’s familiar to a graduate of the program in international development. s the Middle East gets more and more attention, so, too, does Sarhang Hamasaeed. A native of Iraq, Hamasaeed earned a master’s in international development policy from Duke in 2007; he’s a product of the program for which the Summer Academic Institute students were preparing. Now he’s a senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). USIP was created by Congress three decades ago to promote the nonviolent resolution of conflicts around the world. Hamasaeed’s Duke program included coursework in policy analysis, reinventing government, economics, conflict management, and negotiation: “All the courses come in handy, because in the context of the Middle East and North Africa, development and conflict prevention, management, and resolution are interrelated.” Still, he said in a late-August conversation, this is a messy time, even by Middle East standards, as uncomfortable alliances of convenience were forming against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Hamasaeed endured the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, and a number of civil wars in between. After his graduate work, he returned to Iraq and worked as a deputy director general with the Kurdistan regional government, focusing on information technology. Based in Washington, he still travels to Iraq frequently. The international community shares responsibility for “the catastrophic level of violence” in Syria, and, ultimately, for the rise of ISIS, Hamasaeed said. In Syria, a civilian uprising against the Assad dicta-

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torship had become a magare not just about attacknet for fanatical forces. In ing one place and disapIraq, the Shia-led governpearing. They particularly ment was squeezing out aim to attract young peo“All the courses come the minority Sunni populaple between thirteen and in handy, because in tion from meaningful politseventeen, and sometimes the context of the ical participation. In both even younger. They take places, “disaffected comthose young people— Middle East and munities felt alienated many of whom are all too North Africa, develfrom power.” Extremist familiar with the language opment and conflict politics, then, leapt into the of violence—and transprevention, manage- form them into hardcore vacuum. ment, and resolution On the regional level, fighters.” are interrelated.” there were rivalries and ISIS gets abundant fundloyalties that transcended ing, Hamasaeed said, from borders. “You have reprivate and regional actors. gional powers like Iran, the Gulf States, It imposes taxation and extortion and Turkey, with each one backing differschemes wherever it locates, and it finds ent political groups in Iraq. The same markets for the output from conquered thing is true in Syria. Iran, for example, put oil fields. It captured great caches of arms all its weight behind the Assad regime, from the armies in Syria and Iraq; one of sent in weapons and fighters, and his sources in Iraq described, just after the brought other actors, like Hezbollah and fall of Mosul, highways littered with abanShia militias, into the fight.” The firing up doned armored carriers, tanks, and antiof proxy wars was a spark for ISIS. aircraft weapons. Hamasaeed also And on the international level, “the U.S. mentioned huge amounts of cash capRussia, China, and the European countries tured from the Mosul Bank—maybe weren’t able to agree on an outcome in around half a billion dollars. Syria that could end the conflict, or at And what does all this mean for the least transform it into something that future of his native Iraq? “The country could be wound down.” Gradually the sithas been on a course toward potential uation became hopelessly complex. breakup,” he said. “If the current collaboAmong the complexities: an increasing ration on security interests translates population of “internally displaced” into political collaboration among the refugees, already in the millions, a crisis Sunni, Kurdish, and Shia leaders, I think a that brings its own challenges in security, breakup can be avoided. But the current economic growth, and social cohesion. power structure has not worked for the The West is right to recognize, howKurds, has not worked for the Sunnis. So what Iraq looks like will be different, no ever belatedly, the threat from ISIS, matter what, from what it was before Hamasaeed said. “What distinguishes the the Islamic State’s inroads earlier this Islamic State from organizations like alsummer.” —RJB Qaeda is that they want to govern. They

the meantime, this class-as-community gathers to watch the Durham Bulls take on the Buffalo Bisons. Storelli has explained the iconic standing of the Bulls; they have a strong season record, and an even stronger entertainment package this Friday evening, complete with fireworks. Your Korean classmate is impressed to learn that the Bulls’ shortstop also comes from Korea. At the stadium, the evening theme has to do with honoring the armed forces. Even beyond the fireworks, there are lots of patriotic gestures, including the on-the-field swearing-in of 32

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new U.S. Marines. The link between sports and patriotism doesn’t seem uniquely American, you and your classmates agree. Just think about the Olympics. Tonight there are interludes of seeming inaction, occasional bursts of excitement, diversions provided by the proximity of your classmates, the side attraction provided by round after round of ballpark hotdogs, and the satisfying feeling that, even with the narrow loss by the Bulls, it’s an evening well spent. It’s an up-and-down ride. It’s a lot, as you’ve come to understand, like graduate school. Now it’s time to play ball. ■ Opposite: photo by Iveta Vaivode

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Duke Alumni Magazine  

Vol. 100 No. 4

Duke Alumni Magazine  

Vol. 100 No. 4