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Fareed Zakaria at Carnegie Hall

By Nita Wadhwani,
Pittsburgh, PA
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Fareed Zakaria, in his keynote address delivered at the Carnegie Hall last fall, said, “It is now a new Middle East,” and “The Persian Gulf states represent the future of the Middle East more so than countries like Egypt and Syria.”

He was in Pittsburgh last October at the invitation of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute (P.M.E.I) to talk on “The Real Solution to the Middle East Crisis” His speech at the Carnegie Music Hall on October 13, 2009.

Fareed Zakaria hosts CNN’s international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sundays that is telecast worldwide. He writes a weekly column for Newsweek and has written several books including The Future of Freedom, a New York Times best seller. His most recent book, The Post American World, is an instant best seller. Born and raised in India, Zakaria, now 45, was the managing editor of Foreign Affairs when he was barely 28.

Introduced by Paul O’Neal, the Secretary of Treasury for George W. Bush, Zakaria delivered an engaging insightful speech sprinkling it with humor. He started the evening with his assessment on the current economic situation: “We are not living in a workers’ paradise” and “the world will never be the same again.”

Zakaria felt that since 1979 there are fewer political conflicts in the world. He said places in the Middle East have linked modernity to education, citing Dubai as an example:

L to R: Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi, Lyutha Al Mughairy, officials from the Sultanate of Oman, Fareed Zakaria, Hunainah Al Mughairy, Oman’s ambassador to the US, and Simin Yazdgerdi Curtis, Founder-Presi-dent of P.M.E.I. in the meeting.

“There is plenty of money in the Middle East, and rulers there are trying to link it to education,” persuading internationally recognized education institutions “such as Carnegie Mellon Institute and other schools to open their branches in the area.”

The Middle East has prospered with diversity, he said. “The money coming from Persian Gulf is changing the world. The power of capitalism has transformed the area. … … The Persian Gulf states represent the future of the Middle East more so than countries like Egypt and Syria,” said Zakaria.

He touched on sensitive topics like Iran and Pakistan with reference to US foreign policy priorities and objectives. The biggest strategic challenge for the US would be its relationship with China, he said. He was optimistic that it would be managed well by their leaders.

This is understandable. After all, we in the US can sustain our lifestyle only with cheaper imports from China. This has led to huge trade deficit with China. And China is also financing our debt. But China’s global economic, political and military ambitions do not align with the foreign policy objectives of the US.

Discussing Pakistan’s role as a challenge for peace in the Persian Gulf area, Zakaria said, the Persian Gulf’s regimes are aware that many attacks in their area have originated from Pakistan. The regimes there are dealing with the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism in the region.

The evening ended with some questions and answers. Zakaria was candid and humorous in his responses:

Q: How would you rate Secretary Clinton’s first year as Secretary of State?

A: When the president himself is engaged in foreign affairs, it limits the role of the Secretary of State.

Q: Can Iran negotiate in good faith?

A: Yes even though it is a rigid theocracy. But it will not negotiate its nuclear policy. It is surrounded by neighbors with nuclear weapons.

The evening ended with Zakaria receiving a Steelers jersey.

The evening was organized under the aegis of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute (P.M.E.I), an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting educational and cultural partnerships between Pittsburgh and the countries of the Middle East. This was their 2nd annual meeting.

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