Dr. Charbel Moussa, an assistant professor at the Georgetown University Medical Center, has written a new book entitled “The Ultimate Peace: America’s Challenge in the Middle East.” The book explores the current situation in the Middle East, focusing not only on politics but also on ethno-religious, socio-political and geo-strategic issues. It also proposes a new system to achieve long-term peace. Dr. Moussa spoke with The Hoya to discuss his new work and his views on promoting a peace negotiations in the region of his birth.

What inspired you to write about this topic?

This is my third book related to the Middle East region. I am of Lebanese origin and always have been fascinated by the conflicts there and the leverage the United States has there to establish peace. I’m always interested in a strategy for the U.S. and the influence it has to be a broker and a peace partner in the Middle East.

Your book discusses the Middle East and the sources of conflict there. How would you assess the situation in the Middle East?

The situation in the Middle East has some positive and negative aspects. On the negative side, we see the nuclear element, and that nuclear Iran is a major threat – and not in the interest of the United States. A nuclear Iran can exert power and dominate the region psychologically, and that’s negative since that affects the social and economic situation and impacts the flow of oil out of the region.

Iran also affects the state of Israel, as it has made multiple threats against it.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the Islamic revolution has the tenant of exporting the beliefs of Iran throughout the world. Iran is also part of a family of countries and has hijacked power. For instance, Hamas is largely controlled by Iran, which makes peace difficult for the Palestinian Authority.

Iran also wants to create a Shiite mandate through Syria and Lebanon. The capability of Iran is detrimental to not just the region, but the entire world. On the more hopeful side, we see that moderate Arab states are growing closer to Israel due to the threat of Iran. The common denominator is causing them to establish a more permanent peace.

Do you think the Iranian elections will have any effect on the situation?

Unfortunately I have no positive view of the Iranian elections. No matter who is in power, there is a degree of extremism. The ultimate authority lies in the mullah, and that regime hasn’t changed its policy in 30 years, and is even stronger now. You will see a change of faces but no change of policy.

How much of the situation in the Middle East is attributable to American foreign politics?

I think there is a lot of over-criticism of American policy. I don’t think any of the problems arise from American policy. The situation is attributable to religion. The U.S. does have interests in the region such as oil, and this cannot intersect with Middle Eastern interests. People there see themselves as the sole owners of the land and the managers of their own affairs. The U.S. is a valuable customer in the Middle East. Nationalists and extremists call the U.S. the main evil, but this is not so.

What actions must the U.S. government take?

The U.S. must stop Iran. Diplomacy may not work; we may need military intervention. Iran must be stopped before it builds a bomb. The U.S. must be more involved in the Middle East.

What other proposals do you have in terms of the Middle East?

I propose the Mediterranean System. This is a set of interlocking institutions that works from the bottom up. The common mindset is that you can have peace with governments, but not with people. We must change people’s minds. We need to work for the advancement of humankind. The Mediterranean System works through partnership and mutual engagement. It works specifically in terms of education, which leads to economic advancement and long-term peace and success.

To what extent can the U.S. government take part in this Mediterranean System?

The Mediterranean System is an intertwinement between governments and [non-governmental organizations]. For example, it would involve establishing security forms where the military forces are part of society and not a threat to the system. It would also involve a justice community and economics players. It must not rely solely on government officials. It must involve all individual organizations in the U.S. and the Middle East at educational, civil, legal, etc. levels. Governments alone cannot make peace; through diplomacy you only get ceasefires and temporary solutions. Long-term peace is a result of grassroots work. People’s minds must be spoken to, and individuals must get involved.

What other advice do you have to offer to your readers, and the public as a whole?

I think one main thing from American perspective is to understand the region and the conflicts, but also to understand more about the society. I talk about the history of the competition between [Shiites] and Sunnis, the war in Iraq, the level of influence of Iran and more. Having a deep understanding of issues in the Middle East leads to establishing peace at the core of society.

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