Ambassador brings Syrian crisis to UH-Clear Lake
Students gathered at the UH-Clear Lake Garden Room on Tuesday to hear United States Ambassador John Craig recount his experiences serving as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service in a symposium on the Middle East. The symposium was hosted by the UH-CL Model Arab League Student Organization.
UH-CL president William A. Staples introduced Craig to approximately 120 members of the audience of mostly students. Craig’s symposium highlighted the events of the Arab Spring revolutions in the Arabian Gulf region as well as the structural, political and economic changes that impacted American interests and foreign policy in the region. A key issue addressed during the symposium was the outlook of the continuing crisis in Syria, which has been plagued by a civil war that has destabilized the country during the last few years and cost more than 130,000 lives.
“Ambassador Craig’s visit to UH-CL is a rare opportunity for students to work directly with a professional diplomat who has wide-ranging experiences in diplomacy and peace-building and a tremendous opportunity for the public who attends his Tuesday night address to the University community to gain insight into a rapidly-changing Middle East,” said associate professor of sociology and UH-CL MALSO faculty adviser Mike McMullen in a UH-CL press release.
According to Craig, the crisis in Syria serves as a “proxy war in which the United States is competing with Russia, Saudi Arabia with Iran, and militant factions with each other,” all with the objective of establishing influence throughout the region with the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Craig was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman from 1998 to 2001 and led the Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs for the State Department’s Near East Bureau. In addition to serving in Oman, Craig held diplomatic posts in Egypt, Colombia, Haiti and Syria, where he served as the deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy.
In 2003, Craig joined Boeing International Corporation as regional vice president for the Middle East and works as a partner for a consulting firm based in Abu Dhabi.
Craig advised the UH-CL team in the regional competition for the Bilateral U.S. Arab Chamber of Commerce Model Arab League, a diplomatic and leadership competition in which universities represent Arab countries and engage in policy discussion. Craig’s expertise in the region proved of valuable assistance to the UH-CL team, which represented the Sultanate of Oman and went on to win first place in the regional competition. The team will be heading to Washington, D.C., to compete at the National University Model Arab League from March 28 to 30 at Georgetown University.