NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Global leadership changes and their potential impacts on the Texas economy will be discussed during a conference titled "The U.S. and Middle East: The Future Relationship" Oct. 18-19 at the Magnolia Hotel in Houston.

The conference is hosted by Stephen F. Austin State University, the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas, the Egyptian Consulate of Houston, and the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest.

Dr. Brian Murphy, dean of SFA's College of Liberal and Applied Arts and one of the conference organizers, said the importance of the Middle East to Texas and the United States is beyond dispute. In addition to more than half of the known reserves of oil, the area holds more than 30 percent of the known reserves of natural gas, and Morocco alone has up to 80 percent of the known reserves of phosphates.

"These resources make the region a strategic cog of economic development for the world," Murphy said.

Although the Middle East's deep cultural and scientific contributions have shaped knowledge for centuries, political relationships within and among nations have frustrated the movement toward regional harmony.

"Recent events, however, are changing the dynamics of how the Middle East operates as a partner to the United States," Murphy said. "This is a historic moment where a new understanding of the Middle East is needed by Americans, an understanding that is free from ideological bias and past perceptions."

The conference will begin with registration at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18. A session titled "The New Agenda in the Middle East" begins at 2 p.m. and includes Chase Untermeyer, an international business consultant and former U.S. ambassador to Qatar; Parvathaneni Harish, consul general of India; and Ben-Dror Yemini, opinion page editor for Maariv, a Hebrew language daily newspaper published in Israel. A reception begins at 3:30 pm.

The conference resumes at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 19 with a seminar titled "The Political Context: Governance, Regional Cooperation and Demographics." Speakers include Nader Hashemi, professor and director of the Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver; Alan G. Misenheimer, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Near East and South Asia Affairs in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research; and Thomas W. Lippman, Middle East Institute scholar.

Participants in a 10:30 a.m. session titled "The Security Context: National Defense, Regional Threats and Social Well-Being" include Roby Barrett, president of Stratplan International and a senior fellow with the Strategic Studies Department, Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida; Marvin Weinbaum, scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute; and Michael Ryan, senior fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, a network of former government officials and military officers, political scientists, and economists that provides research and analysis regarding conflict and instability in Eurasia.

A noon luncheon will feature a roundtable discussion with participating consuls general. Cost for the lunch is $40, with a reduced rate of $25 for students.

An afternoon session, "The Economic Context: Resources, Globalization and Prosperity," begins at 1:30 and features Hisham Foad, director of the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies at San Diego State University; Augustus Richard Norton, director of the Institute for Iraqi Studies at Boston University; and Riza Demirer, associate professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The day will end with a panel discussion of policy recommendations.

All events are open to the public, and with the exception of the luncheon, programs are free of charge. To register, go to or call (936) 468-2385.