I found this Clark Forum to be exceptionally informative on the events happening in Gaza. As a student of international relations I found it very clarifying of how international institutions are thinking about the topic, as well as how they are legally involved. There was a lot in the talk that stood out to me as relevant to our course. 

The first of such points was the call for international superpowers to act more responsibly in their actions. This links closely to a theory in IR called responsibility to protect, in which states are considered not just responsible for their citizens wellbeing, but also a responsibility in protecting the wellbeing of those outside of their state who are unable to protect themselves. The United Nations doctrine of erga nomes standing closely aligns with this. The Latin translates to standing for all, and it argues that states have a responsibility to the international community, whether or not they are effected. Professor Sadat talked about how currently in international institutions such as the United Nations, states and superpowers are considering their own interest before upholding the values and treaties that the organization put into place.

International institutions play a larger role in this conflict than I thought, and I appreciate that Professor Sadat provided historical examples of how the UN has responded to conflicts like this, as well as their ongoing participation in this conflict. One topic I knew more about going into this was the complicated role the veto in the security council plays in this.

It is in the veto that I see Professor Sadat’s criticism of the major powers as most important. The superpowers are limiting the ability of international organizations such as the UN to operate effectively. One key part of international institutions efficiency is participation and collaboration. One quote that effectively demonstrates this notion that “the point of international law is that the rules apply to everyone all the time.” If certain states are barred from entry to the United Nations, or certain are not held accountable for their actions then the purpose of the UN as an institution that protects all citizens is not met. 

One reason collaboration is failing is because, according to Professor Sadat rhetoric between the security council members has already degraded by other international conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.  

One thing that surprised me was learning about the use of artificial intelligence in military decision making. This point raised for me a lot of questions legally about who is held responsible if only individuals can be prosecuted. Additionally, how would international law manage artificial intelligence in considering law and war. 

One thing that I didn’t know before going into this presentation was that countries can’t be prosecuted for crimes, just individuals. However, countries can be held responsible. This made me think about our discussion of sanctions and how often sanctions do a lot more harm, and don’t affect regimes that much. Are sanctions a way of punishing countries, or limiting their state capacity? Additionally, it made me consider how powerful actors operate within their states.

This conversation then led to discussion on the reality effectiveness of an International Justice Court ruling. As I understand it, willingness to participate is also crucial to its effectiveness. 

2003 Invasion of Iraq

May 3, 2024

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a key event in the region for many reasons but most importantly, the further weakening of Iraq as a regional superpower. Such an event would have multiple outcomes, not only for neighboring countries but also the remaining powers in the region. After the Iraq-Iran war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and following sanctions, the Iraqi state was weakened not only militarily but also in terms of state capacity. As a result of this, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, which were not powerful during the Iraq-Iran war, steadily gained power. I argue that while Iraq’s regional power was already largely diminished by the end of the 1990s, if not earlier, the US invasion of Iraq was a further hit to Iraqi power. As for internal politics, the United States changed the governing structure within Iraq. The new government system meant one with more Shi’i representation, as well as more Kurdish control of Kurdish territories. This is a shift from the minority Sunnis acting as the ruling elite. In addition to the power shift, Iraqi interregional relations changed as the regime changed. 

For Iran, after the fall of Iraq as a superpower, it became a leader in Levant politics, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq (Gause 2014, 12). In particular, with Iraq so weakened it was open to outside influence (Gause 2014, 10). This seems especially the case as Iran started to form resistance to outside intervention in the Levant. According to Gause, the other regional superpower, Saudi Arabia, would take a power balancing stance in response to Iran’s growing power. 

Some scholars might argue that the significant weakening of Iraq as a state is partially responsible for a new cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Without Iraq’s weakening and Iran’s influence, Saudi Arabia might not have involved itself in regional politics in the same way. In addition, the price of oil increased post-2003 giving both Iran and Saudi Arabia increased funds. Contrary to the expected disagreement between the two states, in terms of oil both countries worked together successfully to raise oil prices (Gause 2010, chap.5).

I think Guase’s stance of a new cold war in MENA is compelling, I wonder if some scholars might go as far as to saying that a major cause of the new cold war in MENA is because of the impact of the US invasion in 2003. I’m inclined to think that while the most important outcome at least from a realist perspective, was a change in regional power that set up the current Gulf powers today. 


Gause, Gregory. 2010. “9/11, the Iraq War and the future of the Persian Gulf.” The International Relations of the Persian Gulf, New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Gause, Gregory. 2012. Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War. Doha: Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/english-pdf-1.pdf