Liangxiang Forum Lecture 23 | Negotiation and Conciliation in West Asia: the Case of Iraq

  • On the afternoon of June 7, 2023, the Institute for International and Area Studies of Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) held Lecture 23 of Liangxiang Forum in Room 205 of the Central Main Building. The lecture, titled "Negotiation and Conciliation in West Asia: the Case of Iraq", featured Mr. Gareth Stansfield, Professor of Middle East Politics and Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean (HASS) of the University of Exeter, as the speaker. Wang Tingyi, Assistant Professor of the Institute for International and Area Studies acted as the host. Attendees of the lecture, both online and offline, included doctoral candidates from the Institute, scholars and students from various Chinese and foreign universities, as well as individuals with an interest in the topic.

    Prof. Stansfield kicked off his lecture by showcasing several photographs on the basis of which he introduced the history and culture of Iraq. He underscored how Iraq is home to a diverse blend of ethnicities and religions, which has led to various sectarian clashes and civil wars. He further elaborated on the considerable challenges the Iraq society has faced, from imperialist rule and the Cold War to autocratic leadership and years of war. Despite the traumatic experiences that Iraq has gone through, the country has managed to find a path towards healing. As a negotiator, Iraq has learned from its past and transformed from a party in conflict, negotiation, and mediation to a facilitator.

    In the second part of his lecture, Prof. Stansfield provided a detailed account of his involvement in Iraq since 1995. He discussed his early humanitarian work in the Kurdistan region, providing advice and closely collaborating with the regional government. He also highlighted his role in advising Iraqi opposition groups and serving as a senior political advisor to the United Nations Special Representative for Disputed Territories and the Kirkuk Issue. He presented the audience with an overview of his diverse periods of involvement in Iraq and highlighted his primary areas of research. Additionally, Prof. Stansfield emphasized the correlation of the division of Iraq's multi-ethnic society with Western intervention and the interference of the major powers. Over a span of decades, Iraq has fought a series of wars, both within itself and with other countries. These included the Kurdish War, Iran-Iraq War, and Gulf War which sent the country to a period of sanction and invasion.

    In the final part of the lecture, Prof. Stansfield engaged in a discussion with the audience about the diverse aspects of the post-2003 Iraq society. After 2003, Iraq adopted a sectarian power-sharing system known as "Muhasasa Ta'ifia" and reevaluated the Kurdish problem and other issues. Prof. Stansfield noted that the current Iraqi government has learned from past mistakes and now views the Islamic State as a complex sociological phenomenon within Iraq. It has determined the course of action to be taken in the future. Furthermore, as a negotiator, Iraq has played a role in advancing negotiations with the Kurdistan region, facilitating the conclusion of the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, participating in talks between Iran and the United States, considering involvement in the revival of the Iran nuclear agreement, and attempting to build bridges between Iran and Egypt. Iraq is now more politically mature and is working towards playing a significant role in its region.

    After the lecture, Professor Stansfield fielded questions from both the online and offline audience regarding Iraq's role as a facilitator in West Asia, as well as the mediation role of China. In addition, he offered advice and suggestions to young scholars and students.

    Gareth Stansfield is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean (HASS) of the University of Exeter. He previously served as Associate Dean Global of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies (SSIS), University of Exeter, as well as HoD of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS).

    His recent papers include "A survey of possible political arrangements for Iraq," "Kurdish Insurgency in Rojhelat: from Rasan to the Olso Negotiations," "The Political, Cultural, and Military Re-Awakening of the Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Iran," and "UK Strategy in the Gulf and Middle East After American Retrenchment."

    Text Editor: Dong Hui

    Proofreader: Wang Tingyi

    Layout Editor: Cheng Yao