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The Middle East Studies Forum is pleased to announce its 2020 Conference: Foreign State influence in the Middle East & South Asia 2020.

Protracted conflicts continue in the Middle East and South Asia, complicated by the interference of foreign states and actors from near and far. These conflicts have witnessed the full range of external involvement, from proxy relationships to external diplomatic and political meddling, to full-blown foreign military intervention. Undoubtedly, the involvement of external players has seriously affected the course of conflicts from Syria to Yemen and Afghanistan, adding to conflict complexity, and impacting human security, political stability and economic development.

With the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Middle East Studies Forum has been working to shine a spotlight on the dynamics of foreign interference, including proxy war, and its myriad conflict implications. As our project comes to a close, we are now bringing together leading scholars and policy makers to examine the theoretical and practical aspects of foreign influence and proxy wars with the aim of spurring new debates and developing policy alternatives. Some key questions that will be asked at the conference include:

    1. What is the nature of proxy relations and how does it impact the dynamics of the conflict?
    2. How have regional and international security fears influenced proxy wars in Afghanistan to Syria?
    3. How do proxy wars affect sectarian and ethnic tensions in the Middle East and South Asia?
    4. What is the impact of proxy relations on state-building and democratization processes?
    5. What tools and measure may be helpful in resolving proxy wars?

Conference details:

You can access the Conference flyer here

Full details to be announced soon, including how to register your spot.

Confirmed Speakers:

Ms. Farkhondeh Akbari, PhD candidate at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, The Australian National University.

Farkhondeh Akbari has worked at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, monitored and investigated violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan, and  has interned at the Department of Political Affairs (Asia and the Pacific) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the 69th session of the General Assembly. Farkhondeh research focus is on actors in diplomacy – peace settlement negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Professor Seyom Brown, Brandeis University

Professor Seyom Brown teaches and does research on the causes and prevention of war and human rights issues with is writing focusing on the U.S. policy implications of changing patterns of world politics. Professor Brown’s expertise are in International relations: World politics, causes and prevention of war, alliances, collective Security, war and peace, human rights, US national security and foreign policy. Professor Seyom Brown has amassed a number of significant awards, honors and scholarships.

Associate Professor Christine Fair, Georgetown University 

Christine Fair is a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She previously served as a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation, a political officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and a senior research associate at USIP’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention. She has served as a Senior Fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, a Senior Resident Fellow at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (New Delhi), and a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship. She has published  number of books and her research focuses on political and military affairs in South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).

Dr. Vanda Felbab Brown, The Brookings Institute

Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institute. She is also the director of the Brookings project, “Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives Beyond UNGASS 2016,” and co-director of another Brookings project, “Reconstituting Local Orders.” Felbab-Brown is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa. She has also published extensively.

Dr. Nishank Motwani, Afghanistan Research & Evaluation Unit 

Dr. Nishank Motwani works at the intersection of conflict, security, and diplomacy focusing on Afghanistan and the wider region. He works on projects funded by international agencies and is responsible for strategy development and implementation, engagement and outreach, and responding to evolving programmatic challenges of working in Afghanistan. His research examines the regional dynamics of transnational conflicts centered on the conflict in Afghanistan, trust-building approaches to regional cooperation, negotiating with violent actors such as the Taliban, and nuclear strategy.

Dr. Andrew Mumford, University of Nottingham

Dr Andrew Mumford leads the Rights Lab’s work on slavery and armed conflict, as part of its Communities and Society Programme. He is currently working on the first major project to analyse how ISIS uses slavery, and working more broadly on the links between modern slavery and terrorism. His particular expertise is on how states deal with insurgencies and on the political management of warfare.

Dr. Mehmet Orhan, University of Louvain

Dr. Vladimir Rauta, University of Reading

Vladimir Rauta is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of
Reading. He holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham. He researches proxy wars and has published articles in the RUSI Journal, International Relations, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. He is currently working on a book project analysing the contemporary dynamics of proxy wars out in 2021 with I. B. Tauris.

Call for Papers:

The conference committee welcome submissions on all aspects of external involvement in conflicts (past and present) in the Middle East and South Asia. Access the call for paper document here.

You can access the individual paper proposal template here.

Conference Committee:

Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh
Dr. Dara Conduit
Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed
Mr. Abbas Farasoo

We look forward to seeing you there.

Please join our mailing list and regularly visit this page for updates on details. You can also contact mesf@deakin.edu.au with any questions.