IMESS Inaugurates Its First Visiting Research Fellows Program

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Director Kayhan Barzegar inaugurates the first Visiting Research Fellow Program at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran. In his introductory remarks, Dr. Barzegar maintains that the Institute’s Visiting Research Fellow Program is for the first time designed in Iran to fulfill the existing gap between academic and polic...

Director Kayhan Barzegar inaugurates the first Visiting Research Fellow Program at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS) in Tehran.

In his introductory remarks, Dr. Barzegar maintains that the Institute’s Visiting Research Fellow Program is for the first time designed in Iran to fulfill the existing gap between academic and policy-making communities in research areas, as well as training a new generation of Middle East experts. To achieve this aim, "we need to strengthen and focus on “professionalism”, “internationalism”, and “indigenous views” in Iran’s foreign policy and international relations studies."

Below are the outlines of Dr. Barzegar’s remarks:

The need for the implementation of the Program:

First, linking academic and scientific activities with policy-making affairs; This is a global necessity and aspiring nations such as Iran should implement it to build up the sources of their power and capacities. Successful nations have always fulfilled the gap between academic and scientific activities and policy-making matters in research areas. The program should be able to combine these two aspects of foreign policy and international relations studies which is not adequately addressed in Iran’s academic culture at present.

Second, considering Iran’s substantial geo-political and strategic importance, as well as the realities of the nature of its power and political structure. Iran is linked with critical international issues such as the energy security, nuclear issue, regional crises, and relations with great powers, especially with the United States. Mentioned subjects give impetus in the formation of Iran’s international relations requiring in turn the creation of a new generation of academic elites who are capable of understanding the new themes of research in international relations and politics.

Third, Iran is on the rise of its national power. In this respect, "conceptualization" and "theoratization" of the new themes and subjects is only possible through the hard works the kind of academics elites and young intellectuals who actively engage in the continued development of the country. For boosting its national-Islamic power in regional and international arena, Iran needs independent and looking forward young academics and intellectuals.

Thus, the main goal of the Visiting Research Fellows Program is to combine academic and theoretical activities with policy making issues. It is also aims at training a new generation of Middle East experts. The role of new experts is to cover and support the power of the state through introducing authoritative conceptual and theoretical frameworks in research areas. Successful countries combined these two aspects. For instance, Turkey in recent years has actively supported the activities of its academic and research institutions in order to cover its regional policy. Turkey has hosted many international conferences on regional issues. There are other examples like India, Brazil, South Africa, etc. Or the United States of the post-World War II, which conducted its foreign policy based on its extended national interests across the world and especially the Middle East. As a regional power, Iran should also follow the same path.

In this context, the Visiting Research Fellow Program has eight Study Groups: “Foreign Policy Studies”, “Persian Gulf Studies”, “Energy Security Studies”, “Nuclear Disarmament in the ME”, “Terrorism Studies”, Iran-Turkey Studies”, “Arab-Israeli Issues”, “Iran and Great Powers Studies.”

The main characteristics of the Visiting Research Fellows

First, being familiar with global and international themes; our researchers should be able to distinguish the dominant themes of international relations and foreign policy studies. Subjects such as nuclear and WMD non-proliferation, disarmament, energy security, regional crises, environmental issues, human rights, etc., are among the topical subjects in international relations. At the global level, Iranian researchers have had little research activities regarding the mentioned subjects. Meanwhile, our researchers widely analyze the regional and international issues mostly from a political-security perception and through the challenges that the dynamics of power politics pose in the Middle East. A rising power like Iran needs a new generation of young scholars and intellectuals who know how to actively present themselves at the regional and international scenes and make use of opportunities.

Second, coming to real understanding about national security and interests and the relations with foreign powers; our researchers should be able to realize the roots of Iran’s foreign policy in the region and in dealing with great powers. They should put special importance on Iran’s national interests and endeavor to conceptualize and operationalize the new themes of foreign policy studies in Iran.

Third, strengthening problem-solving, accommodative, and balanced approaches; our researchers should be able to conduct sophisticated researches with positive and looking forward characteristic, the kind of researches that do not ignore the current or previous efforts of policy-makers. In other words, our researchers should not necessarily be critical of everything, as it has been part of intellectual culture in Iran. We should also think to be problem-solving, accommodative, and conduct initiatives in our researches in order to strengthen the national-Islamic bases of power in our country.

Developing the skills of research

First, strengthening professionalism; the Iranian academic community possesses all the requirements needed to be professional. Yet, active participation in different national and international conferences, writing articles, op-eds, and comments in English and with powerful characterization and self-confidence, etc., are essential prerequisites for achieving this goal. Our researchers should not merely limit themselves to academic and educational activities. They should also link their research with pressing regional and global policy-making issues. Focusing on concrete facts and the realities on grounds will prevent us of being merely theoretical and abstract.

Second, empowering internationalism; our researchers should have active and effective presence at the international level. To achieve this goal, the researchers have to identify topical and pressing issues relating to the international system and politics on the one hand and active presence in national and global conferences physically or virtually on the other.

Third, focusing on national-indigenous views. Focusing on inside analyses based on preserving Iran’s national security and interests can provide the outside world with adequate understanding of Iran’s foreign policy attitude. Foreigners have not often proper access to real Iranian view of foreign affairs, and this would lead to wrong decision-making and conclusion about Iran’s political developments and the way to deal with Iran. As history shows, lack of sound mutual understanding has brought bout harmful consequences for both sides. In this regard, our researchers should realize that power politics has its own dynamics giving them little space to conduct their research beyond it. Therefore, a good research cannot ignore the political realities surrounding the policies of the state and the government.

Source: Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS)

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