Home Media Mentions Local RJC talk to highlight vexing Middle East problem

Local RJC talk to highlight vexing Middle East problem

Ed Wittenberg
SOURCECleveland Jewish News

Gabriel Scheinmann, director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, D.C., will try to explain how the United States’ views in the Middle East have changed in recent years when he speaks at a meeting of the Cleveland chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Scheinmann’s talk, “Allies and Adversaries: American Interests in a Chaotic Middle East,” is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 23 at Embassy Suites – Beachwood. This will be his first trip to Cleveland.

“It’s no secret that the Middle East has been going through quite a commotion over the last three and a half years,” Scheinmann said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It seems only to have accelerated, from the civil war in Syria to the topsy-turvy nature of regime changes in Egypt to the war in Gaza this summer and the ongoing violent protests and uptick in terrorism in Israel.

“Throughout it all, you see the administration of the United States trying to wade through this change by trying to assess who are its allies and who are its adversaries. The biggest underpinning of it all is the strategic outreach to Iran over its nuclear program.”

Iran has been this country’s principal adversary in the region for more than 30 years, Scheinmann said.

“The United States in many ways is overturning a lot of its traditional partnerships or approach,” he said. “So what you have is a very strange set of circumstances where the U.S. is spending more time trying to engage with its enemies than to reassure its friends.”

As chaotic as this “commotion” in the Middle East is, it really does affect American interests, Scheinmann said.

“As much as we would love to wipe our hands clean of the region, it won’t wipe our hands clean of us,” he said. “Unlike in Vietnam, where we sort of withdrew (in the 1970s), the Middle East does follow us home.

“Number two, we have fairly extensive alliances in the region going back 70 years to World War II, and they really formed the bread and butter of our approach to the region. So I hope to give people a taste of what those alliances are and how they have changed over time.”

Scheinmann, 28, has been director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center – a national organization and think tank founded in 1985 – for about six months.

“We aim to provide timely and useful perspectives and analyses of foreign and domestic policies for the U.S. government,” he said. “We support strong American defense capabilities and strong U.S.-Israel security cooperation.”

For the past five years, Scheinmann has served as a research associate to the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He’s also a contributing analyst at Wikistrat, which he described as a political-risk, crowd-sourcing consultancy firm.

A Boston native, Scheinmann is working toward a doctorate in international relations at Georgetown University in Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.