To kick off the Model Arab League Summit at Grand Valley State University, Imad Harb lectured as a keynote speaker on Feb. 18, hosted by the Middle East studies department.
Harb, a political scientist, strategic analyst and professor at Georgetown University, has spent his career studying and assessing foreign relations in the Middle East.
"We look for a speaker who would be willing to address something that would be interesting to a wide range of students who are doing the Arab League, but also something that the rest of the university would want to hear," said Coeli Fitzpatrick, coordinator of the MES minor. "I think not just on this campus, but nationwide, it's good for people to learn more about this from experts."
Harb's talk, "Syria and Iraq: Independent, Yet Prizes to be Won," was one of two talks that he gave on Thursday, and aimed to give historical context to the current Syrian civil war and institutional failure in Iraq. Harb also shared his thoughts about the future of the Middle East. His second lecture took place later in the evening and was exclusively for MAL delegates.
The MAL Summit is an annual event hosted at GVSU. The summit attracts students from all over Michigan and surrounding states come to join in and gain experience in delegation and international relations.
Fitzpatrick said that Harb's specialized experience made him the perfect choice to kick off the summit weekend, since he would have to appeal to two different audiences.
"I think that there needs to be more understanding about what is going on," Fitzpatrick said. "The way we hear about it in the U.S., it always comes down to terrorism. It's a very complicated war, there's certainly more going on than the spectacular stuff that we hear about in the west."
Harb's Syria and Iraq discussion took place in the multipurpose room in the Mary Idema Pew Library and drew a large student audience.
Harb began his lecture by giving historical background, talking about critical events in the 90s and early 2000s that still have an effect on how the countries operate today.
"The state was the only source of legitimate power," he said. "It only had the power to make things happen and to prevent bad things from happening, all of a sudden, overnight, it was no longer there. That really made (Iraq) an unruly place."
After giving an overview of the rise of ISIS and why that group came reign over any other group in those countries, Harb talked about how other countries, the U.S. included, has to approach dealing with this tumultuous situation.
"You don't think of this issue as one you're going to solve," Harb said. "You have to think of this issue as a product of many other issues. You have to try to deal with the other issues before this one."
He finished his discussion by sharing his thoughts about the Middle East going forward and what he thinks is the most viable solution.
"Right now, the best plan of action is to stop fighting," he said. "To cease fire. It's something that is being worked on. The only thing that can happen right now is to stop fighting."