Vali Nasr is an Iranian-American political commentator and scholar of contemporary Islam. Born in Iran, Nasr and his family immigrated to the United States following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Nasr received a BA from Tufts University in 1981 and a masters from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1984. He earned his PhD from MIT in political science in 1991.
Known for his view that wars within Islam will shape the future, Nasr has testified before Congress and has advised the President and Vice-President regarding sectarian violence in Iraq. Nasr is the author The Shia Revival, Democracy in Iran, and The Islamic Leviathan.
He has taught at the University of San Diego and the Naval Postgraduate School, and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard and Professor of International Politics at Tufts. A Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Nasr has been published in Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Time, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others. He is an editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Islam and has appeared on CNN, the BBC, National Public Radio, and not least of all The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.
Question: Should the U.S. be involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Vali Nasr: Well because historically it’s been involved for a very long time. It also is a major supporter of key Arab governments and Israel. It is not as if the United States has no role in the Arab-Israeli issue, and all of a sudden getting involved in mediation is a major step.
The United States provides military support to Israel, financial support to Israel. It also provides military support and financial support to Jordan, Egypt, Palestinian government, to other Arab governments. So the United States is part of the picture.
The only question is, does the United States use its participation to also get the protagonists together? Now there are benefits for the United States, because in terms of the perception in the Muslim world, the Palestinian issue matters. For whatever reason after 60 years, it has become the signature issue in American relations with the Middle East and the Muslim world. It is a corrosive issue.
I don’t think peace with a resolution will change larger issues in the Middle East, such as Iran’s power, such as U.S.’ other interests in the region. But it will have an enormous amount of symbolic value.
Let’s put it this way. Not trying at all was quite detrimental to American image, much more so than trying and failing.
Recorded on: Dec 3, 2007