Universiteit Leiden

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Panel discussion

Trump and the Iran Deal

Friday 27 October 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

About the panel discussion

On Friday October 13, Trump announced that he had not recertified the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Iran, US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia. While the other partners to the deal quickly announced they continued to support it, the status of the agreement is unclear from an international legal point of view as well as a political perspective. Much will depend on the reaction in the countries involved: Iran, China, Russia and the EU and what interests – internal or geopolitical – will prevail. Another question is what motivated Trump’s speech. 

LUCIS has brought together specialists on the US, Iran and international proliferation treaties to debate the speech, its background and the possible consequences.

Speakers & topics

Maaike Warnaar | Domestic Policies

Whether countries look at each other as friends or enemies is not a matter of mere objective threats or clashing interests. Relations among states are the product of historical interactions, and embedded in the views which the representatives of these states share about their state in relation to other states. If we want to understand relations between states, we need to become acquainted with the narratives these states maintain of one and another. Also, we would inquire into how the foreign policies of states confirm existing narratives and reproduce historically constructed relations. This is precisely what Maaike Warnaar did in her book  Iranian Foreign Policy during Ahmadinejad: Ideology and actions on the foreign policies of Iran in the period 2006-2013. She showed how the Iranian regime's construction of Iranian identity vis-à-vis the rest of the world (its past and its future, problems and solutions) can help understand Iranian foreign policies in the Middle East region and beyond. Maaike also argued how, through its foreign policies, the Iranian regime during Ahmadinejad reinforced and confirmed the worldviews it communicated. One of Maaike's conclusions was that the Iranian nuclear programme has become a beacon of Iranian resistance against its international isolation. This means that the Iranian regime during Ahmadinejad placed emphasis on the need for recognition of Iran’s equal rights to technological development. The emphasis on equality and development precluded any resolution of the nuclear issue that involves pursuation or force, but created possibilities for a resolution in which the West deals with Iran on equal terms.

Maaike Warnaar’s ongoing research focuses on Iran in the context of Middle East regional relations. She inquires, among other things, into the views of Iran among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and how these views have precluded cooperation between Iran and the GCC. Keywords include: constructivism, identity and foreign policy, Shi'ism, sectarianism, Saudi Arabia, GCC, regional conflicts.

Mohammadbagher Forough | Geopolitical Situation 

Mohammadbagher Forough's research is, broadly speaking, focused on geopolitical shifts at the global level, i.e., the retreat of the West and the rise of the rest (such as China at the global level and Iran at the regional level). 

At the theoretical level, the overall research question he investigates is how the elements of 'geo' (namely, geographical factors, connectivity, infrastructure projects, energy security) and 'politics' mutually affect and are affected by each other. 

More specifically, he focuses on three interlinked avenues of research: 

1. The specific geopolitical phenomenon that Dr. Forough is currently working on is China's Belt and Road initiative (also known as OBOR or the New Silk Road) and how it is reconfiguring the global 'politics' and remapping the global 'geo'graphy, with a special focus on the role of Middle East in general and Iran in particular in this initiative. Three specific lenses through which he examines this Chinese initiative are: infrastructure, connectivity, and energy security. 

2. The second avenue of research is the role of the Middle East within the dynamic context of the global geopolitical shifts in the partial retreat of the US from the Middle East and the increasing presence of China and Russia in the region. The Middle East is looking eastward. It is intimately involved in the Chinese initiative, Belt and Road, in terms of energy security, infrastructure projects, (counter-)terrorism, the geographic bridge between China and the West, and so forth. This strand of research involves an investigation of the ways in which the Middle East shapes and is shaped by the global geopolitical shifts in general and the Belt and Road initiative in particular.

3. Another research area, related to the themes above, that Mohammadbagher Forough is working on is the role of Iran in the context of the global geopolitical shifts, its rise as a regional power, its tactical (not strategic) alliance with China and Russia, its rivalry with Saudi-Arabia, its pragmatic (but sometimes tense) relation with Turkey, its post-sanctions foreign policy, its numerous influences on its neighbors, its influential place in the Shia world, its energy resources, its highly significant role in the Chinese Belt and Road initiative (due to its geography), and so forth. Iran is both intimately affecting and getting affected by these geopolitical dynamics at both the global and regional level and thus offers urgent research questions for academic enquiry.

Sico van der Meer | Nuclear Deals 

Sico van der Meer is a Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute. His research is focussing on non-conventional weapons like Weapons of Mass Destruction and cyber weapons from a strategic policy perspective. He also has a special interest in North Korea and relations between North and South Korea.

He graduated from the Radboud University Nijmegen in 1999 with a Master’s in History. Before joining the Clingendael Institute, he worked as a journalist and as a Fellow of a think tank on civil-military relations. In 2016 he was seconded to the Taskforce International Cyber Policies of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Sara Polak | History of US-Iran Relations

Sarah Polak’s research focus is how the stories we tell ourselves and others about ourselves shape who we are, as individuals and as groups. She is particularly intrigued by the role of memory and history in the creation of identity: how do we negotiate the interface between History and personal narratives and family histories? In that context she has written life narratives based on interviews with (usually elderly) people, and worked on oral history projects.

Her doctoral dissertation was on Franklin D. Roosevelt as a cultural icon in American memory. It analyzes FDR’s construction as an icon of America from two perspectives: first of the historical leader who autonomously fabricated his public image, consistently aligning himself with modernity and future-proof narratives and modes of rhetoric; and second, from the vantage-point of the early twenty-first century, looking at representations and negotiations of the FDR icon in cultural memory. Thus the first half of her dissertation is a cultural history of how FDR created and managed his own public image, and the second is a cultural analysis of recent FDR representations in movies, documentaries, novels, popular biographies, museums and memorials.

Currently she is moving on to research about other, less visible and ethically more problematic forms of memory than the (mostly celebratory) remembrance of iconic presidents.

Practical information

The panel is free to visit and will be followed by drinks for everyone at café North End. 

Watch Trump's announcement on the Iran deal

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