Four academics discussed "The Reaction in the Islamic World to Iraq" last night at Tresidder in an effort to understand and interpret how Muslim nations have responded to the American-led military intervention in Iraq.
"The expectations prior to the war that there would be a massive and consequential reaction from the Muslim world, I would argue, have not been met," said Institute for International Studies Senior Fellow Donald Emmerson.
Speaking primarily with respect to Indonesia, Emmerson added, "The people who have opposed the war have done so for diverse reasons in response to local agendas."
In light of polling in Southeast Asian countries indicating that overwhelming majorities are opposed to the American presence in Iraq, Emmerson outlined four reasons why an overt anti-American response has been limited.
These included the United States' hegemony as a global superpower and the fact that countries in this region are all developing and interested in encouraging foreign investments. Additionally, the Muslim communities are diverse, which inhibits a unified Muslim response, and the fact that the short war in Iraq was thousands of miles away limits how pressing countries such as Indonesia perceive the American presence in Iraq to be.
Asst. Religious Studies Prof. Jackie Armijo-Hussein spoke on Islam in China and Chinese reactions to the war.
"There have been a few reports in the Chinese press of Hans supporting the war, especially when they saw the statues [of Saddam Hussein] falling — it reminded them very much of life under Mao," Armijo said. "On the other hand, most Chinese people have seen this as the Unites States doing something unforgivable and unjust."
Hoover Fellow Abbas Milani spoke about Iran's tenuous position in relation to American forces in Iraq.
"Iran is now literally surrounded by American forces," Milani said. "At the same time, the Americans, by attacking Iraq and Afghanistan, were doing all the work that Iran could have hoped to have accomplished."
Milani argued that though Iran has been pliant and cautious in its dealings with the United States, the government still retains the ability to instigate a Shi'ite reaction against the United States.
"I think they're hoping to trade this ability to influence the Shi'ites in Iraq for some sort of bargain with the United States," Milani said.
UC-Berkeley Near Eastern Studies Prof. Hatem Bazian addressed the dominant concerns in Middle Eastern media and among the peoples and governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other nations.
"There is still fundamental discussion about the causes of the war," Bazian said.
Bazian's concerns included what happened during the war as well as what kind of government will be set in place, if the Americans will betray any agreements with groups and how much oil interests will shape American actions.
Several dozen students and community members attended the talk and participated in the subsequent question-and-answer session.
"I was really impressed by the speakers," said junior Ariege Misherghi. "They presented and made clear to us a lot of viewpoints that weren't apparent."
The event was sponsored by the Society for International Affairs at Stanford, the Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Muslim Students Awareness Network and the ASSU Speakers Bureau.