Former Ambassador and Middle East Expert to Discuss Conflicts, U.S. Implications

News Story: March 30, 2007

A former U.S. ambassador with unique insights into the Middle East will share his expertise with Sacred Heart University students, faculty and the public during a five-day visit to campus in mid-March as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

David Dunford, who retired from a career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 1995, has worked in every corner of the world, with assignments in Finland, Ecuador and Eygpt, and pre-Foreign Service experiences in Japan and Spain. But it is his vast knowledge of the Middle East that SHU officials found most attractive, extending an invitation to Dunford, an adjunct Instructor at the University of Arizona, to share his political and economic insights with the University community as a visiting scholar.

Dunford is former Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman and deputy Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. As Senior Adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was instrumental in rebuilding that agency, beginning his work there only a month after the U.S. war with Iraq broke out in March 2003. In the last two years, Dunford has traveled to Korea and Germany and to various military bases in the U.S. to participate in the training of U.S. forces being deployed to Iraq.  

Dunford’s arrival on campus on March 18 comes at a pivotal time in U.S.-Middle East relations, as the Taliban attempts to regain control of Afghanistan, Iran threatens nuclear proliferation, tensions escalate between Israel and Lebanon, a month-long ceasefire between Israel and Palestine collapses and the U.S. Congress debates the next course of action in Iraq.

“It goes without saying that, considering everything going on in the world today and especially in the Middle East, someone like Ambassador Dunford can open the understanding of the Middle East to the American public and especially our students who are now facing a future in which the Middle East-- its politics, cultures, beliefs and values-- will figure prominently, in much the same way that the Soviet Union and the Soviet 'bloc' world figured in the consciousness and living reality of my generation," said June-Anne Greeley, director of SHU’s Middle Eastern Studies program. Greeley said Dunford’s visit will offer in-depth information about Middle Eastern history and the cultural, religious and social realities of the region.

In various public and private forums, Dunford will speak on the Arab-Israeli conflict, oil, Islam, terrorism, Iraq and Afghan reconstruction, conducting business in the Middle East, globalization, intelligence reform, United Nations issues, Foreign Service careers, and international exchanges.

Dunford, who grew up in Connecticut, will meet informally with Middle Eastern Studies students, deliver a public lecture and will spend time in several classrooms, including Political Science Professor Lesley DeNardis’s International Political Economics class. DeNardis said the experience will be “invaluable” for her students.

“To have someone of his caliber is such a unique opportunity and the fact that he’s a Middle East specialist is even more important because of the prominence of Middle Eastern politics right now. It’s always wonderful to have a practitioner to speak on any topic because in this way students get a first-hand perspective. They learn so much from that as opposed to just textbook knowledge. Sacred Heart University is all about active and engaged learning,” DeNardis said.

Dunford’s lecture, “How to Think About the Middle East,” on Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m. in the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts. It is open to the public free of charge.