The “Gulf Symposium” was held on “The Fluctuating Gulf Situations and Japan: Visions of an Era of Crises”

On Friday, September 18, 2020, a public symposium entitled "40 years after the Iran-Iraq War and 30 years after the Gulf Crisis and the Gulf War" was held to recollect on and analyze the "Fluctuating Gulf Situations and Japan" with Visions of an Era of Crises".
The Iran-Iraq War broke out just 40 years ago, and there was a long war in the Gulf area from September 22, 1980 until 1988. Then, 30 years ago, on August 2, the Gulf crisis broke out when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. In the next year of 1991, the Gulf War broke out and shocked the world.
Since the Gulf region supplies oil and natural gas to the world economy, Japan has responded with great interest to these crises from the perspective of energy security and world peace.
This symposium aims to recollect these two crises and wars in the Gulf, to reflect upon their subsequent developments and the present situations, and to obtain visions on the future.

Video recordings of the entire symposium can be found here.
(The link will direct you to YouTube site.)

The symposium was held jointly by JIME (Japanese Institute of Middle Eastern Economies) Center at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), the Asia-Japan Research Institute (AJI), and the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Ritsumeikan University.

It was organized in the cooperation with Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas: Relational Studies on Global Crises (Establishing a New Paradigm of Social/ Human Sciences based on Relational Studies: in order to Overcome Contemporary Global Crises) and Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A): Resurgent Islamic Jurisprudence and New Trends in Politics and Economics in Contemporary Islam.

Prof. Yasushi Kosugi, AJI Director, MC of the Symposium.

(Opening remarks)
In this symposium, we would like to look back on the history of the Gulf, especially the Iran-Iraqi War which started 40 years ago continuing for eight years, and the Gulf Crisis which occurred 30 years ago leading to the Gulf War, the first Hot War on a global scale immediately after the end of the Cold War, and consider the subsequent situations and future visions on the region as well as Gulf-Japan relations.

One of the organizers, JIME (Japanese Institute of Middle Eastern Economies) Center at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), is a prestigious institution in the field of Middle East Studies with a history of nearly half a century, and is Japan's leading center for Middle Eastern research. The other organizers are from Ritsumeikan University, which is a well-known private university in the Kansai region of Japan, which has recently been strengthening its Middle East and Islamic studies. Last year, the university established the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies (CMEIS), while the Asia-Japan Research Institute celebrates its fifth anniversary this year.

Conflicts and wars are not things of the past in the Gulf. In recent years, there have been conflicts and frictions among Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf Arab oil-producing countries, as well as conflicts within the Arab countries over Qatar. In Yemen, a civil war and the Gulf intervention are continuing. More recently, Israel has signed a peace treaty with Arab countries in the Gulf, backed by the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, something quite unforeseen.

What will happen to this area? Japan has strong relations with the Gulf countries through diplomacy, investment, business, and private relations. How will Japan's relations be with them in the future?
Let us begin to think about all these issues with the lecturers, the speakers, and you, the audience.

The first lecturer, Prof. Keiko Sakai.

Title of the lecture: 40 years after Iran-Iraqi War.

(Introduction by the MC)
First, let me introduce Prof. Keiko Sakai. She is a professor at Chiba University, and an expert on Iraqi, Middle Eastern and international politics, and so famous that she may not really need an introduction by me. Currently, she is the Director of the Center for Relational Studies on Global Crises at Chiba University, leading a huge research project to create a new academic field called "Relational Studies on Global Crises".
She conducted research at the Institute of Developing Economies and the University of Durham in England. She was also engaged in research on Iraq and Egypt for a long time. She served as a professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and the chairman of the Japan Society of International Relations. She has written many books, including Power Structures of the Saddam Hussein Regime and Modern History after 9.11, and Middle Eastern Thinking (all in Japanese).

The second lecturer, Prof. Shuji Hosaka.

The title of lecture: 30 years after the Gulf Crisis.

(Introduction by the MC)
The next Lecturer is Prof. Shuji Hosaka, an Executive Director of the Japan Institute of Energy Economics and the Director of its JIME Center. He specializes in the modern and contemporary history of the Persian Gulf region and the Media in the Middle East. He is one of the world’s leading specialists in Islamic extremism especially in cyberspace. When he was an expert researcher at the Japanese Embassy in Kuwait, he encountered the Gulf crisis. He has written many books, including Jihadism: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State and the Cyber Islam.

The first discussant, Prof. Yuzo Waki

Comments from the Perspective of Changing Oil Market and International Relations.

(Introduction by the MC)
The first discussant is Prof. Yuzo Waki, a veteran of Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has been a correspondent for Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc., covering the Middle East and the Gulf region from his base in Egypt and Bahrain. He was the head of the reporting team on the ground during the Gulf Crisis and the Gulf War. He has also served on the Editorial Board of the European Directorate General, when he was covering Europe and the Middle East from London. Especially in terms of the Middle East and the Gulf with specialty on economic aspects, I think there is no one who can beat him.
He has authored The Middle East: The Transfiguration Overture and The Middle East in Turmoil: A New World Map Created by Oil and Money.

The second discussant, Prof. Kota Suechika.

Comments from the Perspective of Contemporary Middle Eastern Politics.

(Introduction by the MC)
The second discussant is Prof. Kota Suechika, a professor at Ritsumeikan University. He also serves as Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University. He specializes in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, International Relations, and Comparative Politics.
He has written many books, including Islamism and Transformation of Modern Syria and Islam (in Japanese). Last week, his new title, Introduction to Middle Eastern Politics was published by Chikuma Shobo.

The third discussant, Prof. Kenji Kuroda.

Comments from the Perspective of Iranian Politics.

(Introduction by the MC)
The third discussant is Prof. Kenji Kuroda, a special assistant professor at the National Museum of Ethnology. He studies the religion and politics of modern Iran anthropologically. Iran has a system in which an Islamic jurist acts as the supreme leader, while Prof. Kuroda as a young, up-and-coming scholar, excels in the affairs of the Islamic jurists.
He is the author of an academic book, Religion and Society in Iran: The Realities of the Modern Shias. He has co-authored an interesting introductory book, using a comic book called Sadako and Nada, which depicts the interaction between young girls from Japan and Saudi Arabia. The title of his book is Introduction to Islam through Reflecting on “Satoko and Nada”. I think it is an introduction that is easy to understand, especially for the younger generation.

Q&A session at the end.

(Concluding Remarks by the MC)
With a wealth of local experience, 2 lecturers and 3 participants, who are knowledgeable experts on the history, politics, and economy of Middle Eastern countries, have given us some very stimulating talks. They have reflected on the Middle East, and Middle East-Japan relations over the past 40 years, and also offered foresights on future developments with great anticipation.
We also had a very good Q&A session with a substantial number of questions and a lively discussion ( some of the audience commented later that they appreciated the satisfactory Q&A session, which was unusual for such a symposium, since such academic symposiums tend to be rather inhibited at the end).

Thank you very much to the speakers and thank you so much to all of you who attended online.

The video record of the entire symposium is uploaded. Please take a look if you are interested.

(The link will direct you to YouTube site.)