Belmont University welcomed scholar, author and journalist Thomas Lippman to campus for two forums on the developments and current affairs in Saudi Arabia. The World Affairs Council, the United Nations Association- Nashville Cordell Hull Chapter and Belmont’s Center for International Business sponsored an event on campus Monday night that was open to the community, and Lippman spoke again in a student convocation session Wednesday morning.
Lippman began his convo by describing his background of reporting for The Washington Post in Saudi Arabia and how he finds information. “I am not an academic; I go there, I look around, I ask questions,” Lippman said.
After stating basic Saudi facts, Lippman dove into discussing the culture, commenting on the state of the government and the religious requirements Saudis respect to keep public dissension and dialogue separate from public demonstrations. This led him to his discussion of Iranian tensions among Saudi Arabians and how American issues come into play.
Saudis feel threatened by Iranian rebels and other surrounding countries causing upheaval. They see them as the “ones that make all the trouble.” Above all, they are not interested in any involvement towards reconstruction efforts.
When speaking on the rights of women throughout the country, Lippman said, “I’m not worried about the status of women, only the pace of change.” He went on to say that he knows women will ultimately be given more rights, including the right to drive, he just isn’t sure when.
As Lippman concluded his lecture he welcomed comments from the crowd answering questions that inquired about Saudi selling oil to Eastern countries and the internal religious debate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Lippman is currently a senior scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is author of numerous books on U.S. foreign policy, understanding Islam and Saudi Arabia, including the forthcoming book, Saudi Arabia on the Edge: The Uncertain Future of an American Ally. International media outlets and Washington think tanks regularly contact him to participate in discussions about Middle East affairs and provide assessments of Arab World developments especially in Saudi Arabia.