Details

When

November 8, 2018
9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Where

2660 Woodley Rd NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20008

The Middle East Institute's (MEI) 72nd Annual Conference convened innovative leaders, foreign policy practitioners, and analysts from the Middle East and the United States to explain the challenges and opportunities facing the region and assess current policies. The conference was comprised of four panels examining priorities for U.S. policy, pathways to ending civil wars, and prospects for economic growth and inclusion.

Keynote Address (Video)
Ambassador David Hale
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Panel 1:  U.S.-Middle East Policy: Between Politics, Human Rights, and National Security (Video)
With escalating risks of confrontation in the Middle East between adversaries, many questions remain as to how U.S. foreign policy can effectively promote security and stability in the region. How is this administration anticipated to address issues such as proxy involvement in Middle East conflicts while maintaining relations with key allies? What have been the implications of pulling out of the JCPOA on U.S. legitimacy in the region? How are regional actors expected to react to these new strategies?
Derek Chollet
Executive vice president and senior advisor for security and defense policy, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey Feltman
Visiting fellow, foreign policy program, The Brookings Institution
Kenneth Pollack
Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Robin Wright
Distinguished scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars; correspondent, New Yorker
Courtney Kube, moderator
National security and military reporter, NBC News

Panel 2: Pathways to Ending Civil Wars (Video)
As the region’s civil wars continue to destabilize economies and devastate the local populations, how can a political process be established to end these conflicts?  What are the crucial steps to ending the civil wars that plague the region? What are the roles of governments and international actors in pursuing a solution?
Amin Awad
Director for the Middle East and North Africa Bureau, UNHCR
Ambassador (ret.) Gerald Feierstein
Director of Government Relations, Policy, and Programs, MEI
Ambassador (ret.) Ramzy Ezzeldine Ramzy
Deputy special envoy for Syria, United Nations
Randa Slim
Senior fellow and director for Conflict Resolution and the Track II Dialogues Program, MEI
Ishaan Tharoor, moderator
Foreign affairs reporter, The Washington Post

Panel 3: New Powers, New Roles (Video)
Relationships within and outside of the Middle East are in flux, and these changes have given rise to new centers of power.  Reduced U.S. engagement and the Trump Administration’s emphasis on a short-term, transactional approach to the region has opened the door for competing influences. China’s increased diplomacy with Gulf countries, Iran, and Egypt, expanded military presence, and robust trade deals with and development packages to Middle Eastern countries indicate a more active Chinese approach to the region. Meanwhile, Russia seeks to build on its newly restored engagement in the region to reinforce its “great power” ambitions and ensure a seat at the Middle East decision-making table.
Christina Lin
Visiting research fellow, Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, University of California, Irvine
Paul Salem
President, MEI
Elena Suponina
Advisor to the director, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies
Ariane Tabatabai
Associate political scientist, RAND Corporation
Gonul Tol
Director of Turkish Studies, MEI
Suzanne Kianpour, moderator
Foreign affairs correspondent, BBC

Panel 4: Economic Innovation, Inclusion, and Resilience: A Key to Growth (Video)
With the impact of conflict in some countries and diversification initiatives in others, the economic future of the MENA region remains uncertain. Initiatives such as Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021 reflect the pursuit of economic diversification and energy innovation. Women and youth have played a larger role in diversifying Middle Eastern economies.  Meanwhile, countries impacted by conflict and economic stagnation face a much bleaker economic outlook. How are some local and international investment efforts being implemented to promote economic growth in the region? What are the priorities for regional economic integration, and what are the challenges brought about by corruption, conflict, and lack of access?
Jihad Azour
Director of the Middle East and Central Asia department, International Monetary Fund
Ferid Belhaj
Vice president, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank Group
Nahed Taher
Group president of Middle East & director of Islamic finance, National Standard Bank
Dina Sherif
CEO and Co-founder, Ahead of the Curve
Christopher Schroeder, moderator
Co-founder, Next Billion Ventures

 

BIOGRAPHIES

Ambassador David Hale
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Ambassador David Hale took the oath of office as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on
August 30, 2018. Previously, he was the ambassador to Pakistan (2015-18), ambassador to Lebanon (2013-15), special envoy for Middle East Peace (2011-2013), deputy special envoy (2009-11), and ambassador to Jordan (2005-8). Earlier, he had multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and served in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN. In Washington, Hale was deputy assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant (2008-9) and director for Israel-Palestinian affairs (2001-3). He held several staff posts, including executive assistant to Secretary of State Albright. Hale joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and holds the rank of Career Ambassador. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, a Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service, and several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards.

Amin Awad
Director, Middle East and North Africa Bureau, UNHCR
Amin Awad’s distinguished service with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spans more than 25 years, including service in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and UNHCR’s Headquarters. His UN career assumed managerial functions and serving in countries at the peak of crises, such as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Yemen, Tajikistan, Macedonia, Northern Iraq, the Jordanian-Iraqi border and the Kenya-Somalia Cross Border operation and the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine, among other field assignments. During his four-year tenure in Macedonia, Awad went on to become the coordinator of the Iraq subregion operations for the Bureau for Central Asia, Southwest Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, based at UNHCR headquarters. In August 2009, Awad returned to UNHCR Headquarters as the director of the newly-created Division of Emergency, Security and Supply. Starting from 2013, Awad became the director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau at UNHCR headquarters and the regional refugee coordinator for Syria and Iraq.

Jihad Azour
Director, Middle East and Central Asia department, International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Jihad Azour is the director of the Middle East and Central Asia department at the IMF, where he oversees the Fund’s work in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Caucasus. Azour served as Lebanon’s finance minister from 2005-08, during which time he coordinated the implementation of important reforms, including modernizing the country’s tax and customs systems. Before and since his time as finance minister, he held a wide range of positions in the private sector, including at McKinsey and Booz and Co. where he was vice president and senior executive advisor. Prior to joining the IMF in March 2017, he was a managing partner at investment firm Inventis Partners. Azour has published several books and articles on economic and financial issues and taught extensively.

Ferid Belhaj
Vice president, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank Group  
Ferid Belhaj took up the position of World Bank Group vice president for Middle East and North Africa on July 1, 2018. Prior to this, Belhaj served 15 months as chief of staff of the president of the World Bank Group. From 2012 to 2017, Belhaj was director for the Middle East, in charge of programs in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. In this capacity, he led the bank engagement on the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on the region, including the creation of new financing instruments to help countries hosting forcibly displaced people. Before taking up his Mashreq assignment, Belhaj served as director for the Pacific Department (2009-2012), where he developed a regional strategy that scaled up bank engagement in small and fragile states, and tripled lending operations of the International Development Agency. Belhaj was the World Bank’s special representative to the United Nations in New York, where he engaged with various UN agencies on a range of programs, mainly climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, fragile and post-conflict states and more. Belhaj also served as country manager for Morocco and developed a new and multifaceted dialogue with one of the best performing middle income countries.

Derek Chollet
Executive vice president and senior advisor for security and defense policy, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
Derek Chollet is executive vice president and senior advisor for security and defense policy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).  He is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, where he coedits “Shadow Government,” and is a regular contributor to Defense One. Prior to joining the Pentagon, Chollet served at the White House as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council staff.  From 2009 to 2011, he was the principal deputy director of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning staff. From November 2008 to January 2009, he was a member of the Obama-Biden presidential transition team. During the Clinton Administration, Chollet served as chief speechwriter for UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and as special adviser to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.  From 2002 to 2004, Chollet was foreign policy adviser to U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC), both on his legislative staff and during the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign.

Abdullah al-Dardari
Senior advisor on reconstruction, The World Bank
Abdullah al-Dardari leads the World Bank’s flagship program, “Building for Peace:  Reconstruction in the MENA region.” Previously, he was chief economist at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA) and director of the economic development and globalization division, supporting Arab efforts to deepen regional economic integration, and assisting member states in designing policies that would lead to inclusive growth, job creation, and human security. Prior to UN ESCWA, he was deputy prime minister for economic affairs (2005-11), and minister of planning and chairman of the State Planning Commission (2003-05), in the Syrian government. He also served as assistant resident representative in UNDP Syria (2001-03).

Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein
Director of Government Relations, Policy, and Programs, MEI
Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein is director for government relations, policy and programs at MEI. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in May 2016 after a 41-year career with the personal rank of Career Minister. As a diplomat he served in nine overseas postings, including three tours of duty in Pakistan, as well as assignments in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Tunisia. In 2010, President Obama appointed Amb. Feierstein U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, where he served until 2013. From 2013 until his retirement, Amb. Feierstein was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. In addition to his career-long focus on the Near East and South Asia, Amb. Feierstein also played a prominent role in developing and implementing State Department policies and programs to counter violent extremism.  As Deputy Coordinator and Principal Deputy Coordinator in the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism bureau, Amb. Feierstein led the development of initiatives to build regional networks to confront extremist groups as well as to counter terrorist financing and promote counter-terrorism messaging.

Amb. (ret.) Jeffrey Feltman
Visiting fellow in foreign policy, The Brookings Institution
Amb. (ret.) Jeffrey Feltman joined the Brookings Institution in June 2018 as a visiting fellow in Foreign Policy. Before joining Brookings, he served for nearly six years as the under-secretary-general for political affairs at the United Nations in New York. As part of his U.N. responsibilities, Feltman was the chairperson of the U.N.’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the executive director of the U.N. Counter-Terrorism. Feltman was a U.S. foreign service officer for over 26 years, focusing largely on the Middle East and North Africa. Feltman was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2009 until his retirement from the State Department, with the rank of career minister, in May 2012. Before his 2004-08 tenure as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Feltman also served in Erbil, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Amman, Budapest, and Port-au-Prince.

Suzanne Kianpour
Foreign affairs and political journalist, the BBC
Suzanne Kianpour is a foreign affairs and political journalist for the BBC. An Emmy nominated news reporter and producer, she’s currently covering foreign policy and national security issues, leading the Washington side of the BBC’s investigation into Russia’s role in US politics, foreign influence and the Special Counsel’s probe. You can find her work on the BBC’s multiple television, radio, online and digital outlets. With previous postings in Beirut, London and Los Angeles, her reporting has taken her around the world: from various conflict zones in the Middle East, to Europe traveling with then-Secretary of State John Kerry in a front row seat to the Iran nuclear negotiations, to Latin America and the US detente with Cuba. In 2016, she criss-crossed America – covering presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately returned to Washington, the Trump White House and the corridors of Capitol Hill. Over the course of her career, she has landed multiple high profile exclusive interviews including Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif – the BBC’s first interview with an Iranian official since being banned from the country in 2009 and Khaled Meshaal – Hamas leader in exile in Doha – during the Gaza War of 2014. Suzanne also played a leading role in securing the first sit down TV interview with President Obama post the Iran Nuclear Deal being agreed. With a specialty and expertise in Iran and the broader Middle East, Suzanne contributes analysis to Atlantic Council’s Iran Source blog, moderates foreign policy panel discussions at think tanks and guest lectures at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

Courtney Kube
National security and military reporter, NBC News
Courtney Kube is an NBC News national security and military reporter, who regularly breaks exclusive reporting on the Trump administration. In just the last months, Kube was the first to report on White House Chief of Staff John Kelly eroding morale in the West Wing, Chinese spying ahead of the Singapore summit, multiple details surrounding the Niger ambush, new CIA report concluding North Korea does not intend to denuclearize, and Russia jamming U.S. drones over Syria. For the past decade, Kube was NBC News’ Pentagon producer, covering wars in the Middle East, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, and reporting from U.S. military bases around the world. She has been embedded with troops from across all branches of government and travelled alongside secretaries of defense, secretaries of state, vice presidents, and other senior U.S. military officials.

Christina Lin
Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, University California, Irvine
Christina Lin is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies (CGPACS) at the University of California, Irvine, focusing on China-Mediterranean/Middle East relations. Specific areas of interest include the Belt and Road Initiatives, security and development nexus in conflict management, and the interplay between regional security architectures such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe. She was a Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy and Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University, and has extensive US government experience working on China security issues including policy planning at the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and Department of State.

Kenneth M. Pollack
Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Kenneth Pollack is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, focusing in particular on Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf countries. Before AEI, Pollack was affiliated with the Brookings Institution, where he was a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Before that, he was the center’s director and director of research. Pollack served twice at the National Security Council, first as director for Near East and South Asian affairs and then as director for Persian Gulf affairs. Pollock began as a Persian Gulf military analyst at the CIA. Among other recognitions, Pollack was awarded the CIA’s Exceptional Performance Award twice and the Certificate of Distinction for Outstanding Performance of Duty. Pollack has also worked on long-term issues related to Middle Eastern political and military affairs for the joint chiefs of staff when he was a senior research professor at the Institute for National Security Studies at National Defense University. Pollack is the author of Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy; A Path out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, and more.

Ambassador (ret.) Ramzy Ramzy
Deputy special envoy for Syria, United Nations
Ambassador (ret.) Ramzy Ramzy assumed his position as deputy special envoy for Syria with the United Nations just over four years ago. Ramzy was formerly head of mission for the League of Arab States to Austria. He later served at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt concurrently to being the Ambassador of Egypt to the Federal Republic of Germany (2008-2012). Ramzy has served as ambassador to Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, Austria, and the Slovak Republic. As a permanent representative to the UN, Ramzy has served as the head of the Egyptian delegation in multiple conferences, committees, and organizations such as the African Union and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Ramzy has previously served as Egypt’s governor in the International Atomic Energy Agency. At the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs his positions also included deputy assistant minister for disarmament and international security affairs ( 2000- 2003), and director for United Nations affairs ( 1991-1993).

Christopher Schroeder
Co-founder, Next Billion Ventures
Christopher M. Schroeder is an entrepreneur, advisor, and investor in interactive technologies and social communications.  He co-founder of Next Billion Ventures, a venture capital and advisory group for rising markets, backed by leaders in Silicon Valley.  He is author of the 2016 best-seller Startup Rising -- The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East. Schroeder was the CEO and publisher of washingtonpost.newsweek interactive and co-founder of HealthCentral.com. He is an investor in disruptive enterprises including Vox Media, Skift, iBotta, Zignal Labs, and fin tech enterprise Segovia, and a limited partner in several venture capital funds. Schroeder serves on the board of advisers of the American University of Cairo School of Business, American University School of International Service, Endeavor Global, 500 Startups, the Global Entrepreneurship Network, and 1776, and on the boards of directors of the American University of Beirut, the German Marshall Fund, and the American Council on Germany. He is on the investment committee of Wamda Capital and Saudi Telecom Ventures, and has co-led the economic recovery and revitalization working group of the Atlantic Council's Middle East strategy task force.

Dina Sherif
CEO and co-founder, Ahead of the Curve (ATC)
Dina Sherif co-founded ATC in 2012 to build sustainable societies through the application of a more “conscious” form of capitalism. As CEO of ATC, Sherif is responsible for business strategy and development, and oversees all research-related activities within the firm. Sherif serves as an advisor to the president of Egypt on economic development and is currently an associate professor of practice, holding the endowed Willard Brown Chair for International Business at The American University in Cairo, where she is also director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. Sherif is also an angel investor with a specific focus on healthcare businesses, and is an avid supporter of civil society, previously serving as the chair of the board for the Arab Foundations Forum and currently a member of the board of EduateMe and Ruwwad, in addition to Jordan-based Nakhweh. Moreover, she was recently recognized as a UN Global Compact Local SDG Pioneer for her work on social entrepreneurship, as part of an inaugural class of only 10 sustainable development leaders from across the globe. Sherif is an Eisenhower fellow as part of the 2015 Women's Leadership Program. In 2016, she was awarded Egypt's “Best Woman Entrepreneur” by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

Randa Slim
Senior fellow and director for Conflict Resolution and the Track II Dialogues Program, MEI
Randa Slim is a senior fellow and Director of Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute. She is also a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute. A former vice president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, Slim has been a senior program advisor at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a guest scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, a program director at Resolve, Inc, and a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. A long-term practitioner of Track II dialogue and peace-building processes in the Middle East and Central Asia, she is the author of several studies, book chapters, and articles on conflict management, post-conflict peace-building, and Middle East politics.

Elena Suponina
Advisor to the director, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies
Elena Suponina is the advisor to the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. Previously, she was the founder and director of the Institute’s Middle East and Asia Center. Her research interests include cooperation between Russia and the Middle East, mediation and conflict resolution, and counterterrorism. For 15 years she worked for the Russian foreign ministry. She has met and interviewed eminent world leaders, including presidents, heads of governments, foreign ministers and ministers of petroleum and energy industries, heads of intelligence agencies and political parties. Suponina has received many international awards for best publications in the areas of Islam in Russia, Russian–Arab cooperation, and international policy. She was also given an award for courage from Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its previous president Evgeny Primakov.

Ariane Tabatabai
Associate political scientist, RAND Corporation
Ariane M. Tabatabai is an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Previously, she served as the director of curriculum and a visiting assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, as well as a consultant for NATO. She has held positions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she was a senior associate, and the Center for A New American Security (CNAS), where she was an adjunct senior fellow. She held appointments as Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow and a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. Tabatabai is the co-author of Triple Axis: Iran’s Relations with Russia and China and her work has appeared in International SecurityThe New York TimesThe Financial TimesThe AtlanticForeign Affairs, and Foreign Policy.

Nahed Taher
Group president of Middle East & director of Islamic finance, National Standard Bank
Nahed Taher is president of the National Standard Finance SEEDS (GCC) in Saudi Arabia. Taher represents National Standard to GCC regional governments, banks and the region's largest corporations and policy makers. Taher is the prior founder and a board of directors member of Gulf One Investment Bank. Taher served as the CEO until 2017 to join the National Standard Finance. She is the first female CEO of a Gulf-based investment bank. Prior to that, Taher was a managing partner of Compass Consulting, a financial advisory company and was the first female to get a financial advisory license in Saudi Arabia. Prior to Compass, she was chief economist and chairman of risk and portfolio management committee at the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, being the first female hired in a senior management position. Taher has represented the Saudi Arabian government and the private sector in many high level international business and banking events. Taher has been ranked by Forbes magazine as number 72 of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Gönül Tol
Director of the Center for Turkish Studies, MEI
Gönül Tol is the founding director of MEI’s Center for Turkish Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. After three years of field research in Germany and the Netherlands, she wrote her dissertation on the radicalization of the Turkish Islamist movement Milli Gorus in Western Europe. She was also an adjunct professor at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University. She has taught courses on Islamist movements in Western Europe, Turkey, world politics, and the Middle East. She has written extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, Turkish domestic politics, and foreign policy and the Kurdish issue.

Robin Wright
Distinguished scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars; Correspondent, The New Yorker
Robin Wright is a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace. She is a contributing writer for The New Yorker and a former diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post. She has reported from over 140 countries in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Wright has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Yale and Duke. Her awards include the U.N. Correspondents Gold Medal for international affairs, Journalist of the Year from the American Academy of Diplomacy, National Magazine Award for her Iran reportage, and Overseas Press Club Award for “best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative” for covering African wars. She is the author of eight books, including “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World.”