Back to All Events

The Middle East in Flames: To What End?

  • History Conference Room 6275 Bunche Hall Los Angeles, CA USA (map)

Trump’s bombing of Syria has won the enthusiastic backing of both the Republican and Democratic leaderships, putting the question of regime change in that country back on the table and helping to detonate another round of stepped-up US warfare across the region. This attack finds its counterparts in US military assaults on Afghanistan, employing the Massive Ordnance Air Blast; on Yemen, where the Saudi regime is seeking to obliterate the Houthi militias who had expelled its puppet government there via dramatic popular rebellion; and on Iraq, where the effort to crush ISIS is pursued with little concern for the skyrocketing civilian death toll. More than a decade since the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq put an end to the stability of the region, the prospects for a new order in the Middle East seem further away than ever. Rump client regimes of the region’s powers hold onto the reins of government in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, but are obliged to watch their fates decided by global and regional forces beyond themselves. Yet the underlying interests and goals of the dominant states appear more obscure than ever. The likelihood of clear-cut military victory or the possibility of a peaceful settlement seem close to non-existent. Can any rational pattern be discerned amidst the criss-crossing conflicts, fragmentation, and immanent chaos that grip today’s Middle East?


James Gelvin teaches in the Department of History at UCLA and is the author, most recently, of The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know (2015)

Toby Jones teaches in the Department of History at Rutgers University and is the author of Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia (2010) and Running Dry: Essays on Energy, Water, and Environmental Crisis (2015)

Moderator: Kevan Harris, UCLA Sociology

Co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies