FULLY BOOKED – Media Talk: Obama on the Middle East – From Rhetoric to Reality

Talk Tuesday 27th January, 2009

As Obama prepares to take office as the 44th US president, he is set to face huge challenges in the Middle East. Will the renewed emphasis on diplomacy that he is proposing with the region pave the way for improved relations with Iran and prevent them from developing their nuclear programme? Will he be able to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace process where every US president before him has failed and how will he balance his commitment to Israel with his desire to build peace with the Palestinians? Who are his new panel of advisors and special envoys to the Middle East and what will they mean for the region? And will the man famed for his rhetoric be able to make his vision a reality?

Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King’s College, London since 1982. He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the cold war, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. His most recent book, A Choice of Enemies: America confronts the Middle East, came out in May in the United States and was published in the UK in July.

Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi is the executive director of the Transatlantic Institute. A political scientist by training, he came to Brussels in 2006 after having previously taught Israel Studies at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and at the Middle East Centre of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. He is a frequent commentator on Israeli domestic politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Europe’s Middle East policy. His columns have appeared on Newsday, the National Review Online, The Middle East Quarterly, the Jewish Chronicle, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror; and blogs on Contentions.

Sadeq Saba is the BBC’s Iranian affairs analyst.
Zaki Chehab is the political editor for the London-based broadsheet Al Hayat and a Senior Editor for the Arabic TV channel LBC. He has covered the Middle East for a variety of newsmedia and has covered numerous Middle Eastern conflicts, including the Lebanese Civil War, the 1982 Lebanon War and the First Intifada. Chehab was born in Tyre, South Lebanon and grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp Burj El Shamali. He is the author of the 2005 book Iraq Ablaze: Inside the Insurgency and the 2007 book Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement.

Dr Rosemary Hollis is director of City University London’s Olive Tree Israeli-Palestinian scholarship programme.  Dr Hollis was previously at Chatham House with three years as director of research and ten years before that as head of its Middle East Programme.  Dr Hollis has carved out a career as a leading specialist on regional political and security issues in the Middle East, and was for several years an Assistant Professor in Political Science at George Washington University in the US.