Syria and other Middle Eastern countries would like to make the world more peaceful, but change has to be made, according to Dr. Imad Moustapha, Syrian ambassador to the U.S.
Moustapha spoke to students and faculty at Sinclair Auditorium on Saturday night to kick off Lehigh’s International Week.
Moustapha discussed terrorism from his perspective as a Syrian politician and spoke about what it’s like being an academic in Washington, D.C.
“I observe the political scene very carefully,” Moustapha said, “and was surprised to see the reality of the American position.”
Moustapha expressed what it means to be an ambassador.
Moustapha said the U.S. and Syria have historically had an agreeable political coexistence.
When the major powers of Europe were beginning to colonize countries in the Middle East and Africa, Syria was more concerned with being colonized by the French and British than by the U.S., Moustapha said.
“The United States was still a benign power with no colonial position; it posed little threat to Syria,” Moustapha said. “The United States was initially neutral. They were trying not to interfere, but to understand.”
Moustapha said after President Eisenhower issued his 1957 doctrine, the U.S. gained a stronger position in Middle Eastern affairs.
“Syria came to the United States with a wealth of information on those terrorist groups possibly involved,” Moustapha said.
Moustapha said Syria and other Middle Eastern countries are advocating for peace.
“Try to understand that we can’t redesign the world according to what representatives in Washington, D.C., would like,” Moustapha said. “We have our own histories, our culture; we are also nations.”
After Moustapha’s speech, the ambassador answered questions pertaining to Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, nuclear proliferation and Syria’s philosophy for peace in Iraq.
“Syria proposed a resolution to the United Nations Security Council to ensure and enforce the world to be free of weapons of mass destruction,” Moustapha said. “No one knows how to dissociate themselves from this situation.”
Moustapha also discussed the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict.
“Israel is supposed to be the bastion of democracy and has displaced one quarter of the Lebanese population,” Moustapha said, “and has caused severe casualties to Lebanese civilians.”
Bill Hunter, director of the Global Union, said he thinks listening to another viewpoint is important.
“Whether you agree with the ambassador or not, it is important to have the opportunity to hear a different side of a very controversial, emotionally-charged situation,” Hunter said. “One of the Global Union’s primary goals is to localize international issues. We hope we have achieved that this evening.”
Meredith Aach, ’08, a member of the World Affairs Club, said she enjoyed hearing a different perspective on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
“I think it’s really important for international relations majors to understand a broad perspective of issues in the world today,” Aach said. “There needs to be a balance of what we hear because the situation in international relations is such a bipartisan debate. We need to get an idea of the presence of the United States in international affairs.”
Moustapha has also worked as the dean of faculty of information technology at the University of Damascus and secretary general of the Arab School for Science and Technology.
By Martina Russial