How does Iran define its strategy toward the Arab world? How will its role in the fight against ISIS impact its standing in the region? And how is the regional rivalry between Iran and the Gulf shaping its political calculations? The Middle East Institute hosted Harith al Qarawee (Harvard University), Richard LeBaron (The Atlantic Council), Alireza Nader (RAND Corporation), and Randa Slim (The Middle East Institute) for a panel discussion about Iran's engagement in the Middle East's key conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Richard LeBaron is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council and a career diplomat with a special focus on the Gulf region. Most recently, he served as founding Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in London from August 2007 to August 2010, and chargé d'affaires from February to August 2009. Prior diplomatic postings include U.S. ambassador to Kuwait (2004 to 2007), deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of the United States in Tel Aviv, Israel (2001 to 2004), and minister-counselor for political and economic affairs at the Embassy of the United States in Cairo, Egypt (1998 to 2001). He served in Washington, DC from 1991 to 1998, where he held three Middle East related positions.
Alireza Nader is a senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and author of The Days After a Deal With Iran: Continuity and Change in Iranian Foreign Policy (2014). His research has focused on Iran's political dynamics, elite decisionmaking, and Iranian foreign policy. His commentaries and articles have appeared in a variety of publications and he is widely cited by the U.S. and international media.
Harith al Qarawee is a political scientist whose research focuses on the state-society relations, political transitions, and identity politics in Iraq and the Middle East. He has written extensively for various English and Arabic academic publications and journals. He also worked as a political commentator and consultant. As a Radcliffe fellow, Al-Qarawee is writing a book titled End of Diversity: Nationhood and Religious and Sectarian Exclusion in the Arab World which will examine and discuss the relationship between sociopolitical conflict and identity and cultural exclusion in the Arab world. Al-Qarawee earned a Ph.D in political science from Scuola Superiore Sant‘Anna, in Pisa, Italy, a master’s degree in political communication from the University of Leeds, and a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Baghdad.
Randa Slim is director of the Initiative for Track II Dialogues at The Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies' 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, and a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. A long-term practitioner of Track II dialogue and peacebuilding processes in the Middle East and Central Asia, she co-founded in 2007 the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy, a group of academics and civil society activists from eight Arab countries. She is a member of the advisory committee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's Peacebuilding program and a member of the board of the Project on Middle East Democracy. The author of several studies, book chapters, and articles on conflict management, post-conflict peacebuilding, and Middle East politics, she is completing a book manuscript about Hezbollah.
Alex Vatanka is a scholar at The Middle East Institute where he focuses on Iran. He also lectures as a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS). From 2006 to 2010, he was the managing editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, based in Washington. From 2001 to 2006, he was a senior political analyst at Jane’s in London where he mainly covered political developments in the Middle East. His forthcoming book is Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy and American Influence.