July 8, 2024
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Zoom Webinar

To read the full report, please click here

As tensions between Israel and Hezbollah escalate, the specter of full-scale war with the potential to draw in the United States and Iran demands Washington’s immediate attention. Yet while the US actively tries to prevent Lebanon from becoming a theater of regional war, a durable solution to the crisis will additionally need to address not only Iran’s entrenched influence and destabilizing role inside Lebanon and across the region but also the Levantine country’s governance vacuum. Lebanon’s descent into a quasi-failed state following a financial collapse engineered by its governing elites has indeed reinforced the need to prioritize improved governance and accountability. Accordingly, a determined approach to dissuading parties from provocation together with a more comprehensive roadmap for lasting stability are essential to warding off a potentially catastrophic Hezbollah-Israel war and ensuring the survivability and recovery of the Lebanese state. Prioritizing diplomacy to avert a full-scale war offers an opportunity for the US and other friends of Lebanon to confront these pressing issues, including the country’s erosion of sovereignty, its corrupt system of governance, and the collapse of its formal economy.  

The latest policy brief written by a group of experts from the Middle East Institute (MEI) and the American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL) proposes a framework for robust diplomacy designed, first and foremost, to steer Lebanon away from the precipice of war, and then help establish a direct and sustainable path to stability and recovery. 

To launch this important policy document, MEI and ATFL are co-hosting a panel of experts who will discuss the key elements of the brief’s framework, including the pressing need to secure Lebanon by stabilizing the Lebanese-Israeli land border, addressing Lebanon’s leadership vacuum, as well as reviving its economy. Additionally, the assembled panelists will outline what an optimal multi-faceted US strategy and policy toward Lebanon and the region should look like. 


Paul Salem
Vice President for International Engagement, Middle East Institute

Amb. Ed Gabriel
President and CEO, American Task Force on Lebanon   
Former US Ambassador to Morocco

Patricia Karam
Senior Advisor, American Task Force on Lebanon

Fadi Nicholas Nassar
US-Lebanon Fellow, Middle East Institute

Amb. David Hale
Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center
Former US Ambassador to Lebanon

Hiba Nasr (Moderator)
Bureau Chief, Asharq News


Extended Speaker Biographies

Paul Salem is the Vice President for International Engagement. He served previously as MEI’s President and CEO.  He is currently based in the Middle East and focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East. Salem is the author and editor of a number of books and reports including Escaping the Conflict Trap: Toward Ending Civil Wars in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2019); Winning the Battle, Losing the War: Addressing the Conditions that Fuel Armed Non State Actors (ed. with Charles Lister, MEI 2019); From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2017), Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013), "Thinking Arab Futures: Drivers, scenarios, and strategic choices for the Arab World", The Cairo Review Spring 2019;  “The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam” (CSIS, 2015),  Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994), and Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997).  Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013.  From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.

Ambassador Edward Gabriel has an extensive background in international affairs, having convened multilateral policy forums involving national security, trade, and energy issues. He has been involved in matters of Russian nuclear non-proliferation, and he has been active in advising the US government on Middle East concerns. In 1997, he became the 16th US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco. Currently, Ambassador Gabriel is the volunteer President and CEO of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a nonprofit organization that seeks to build greater understanding and cultural ties between the United States and Lebanon. In August 2022, the US Senate confirmed the nomination by President Biden of Ambassador Gabriel to become a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace. 

Patricia J. Karam is senior advisor to the American Task Force for Lebanon and a non-resident fellow at Arab Center Washington DC. She held multiple senior managerial positions in nongovernmental organizations over the past 20 years, working at the nexus of problem analysis, policy formulation, and impactful program implementation aimed at social and policy change in a range of complex, conflict-ridden settings across the globe. Most recently, Karam was Middle East North Africa (MENA) Regional Director at the International Republican Institute, where she was responsible for the strategic oversight and leadership of a multimillion-dollar portfolio of programs focused on citizen-responsive governance, political party development, legislative strengthening, and civil society capacity-building.

Fadi Nicholas Nassar is U.S.-Lebanon Fellow at the Middle East Institute and Director of the Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution and Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Lebanese American University (LAU). He is also a Research Fellow at the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, the oldest Lebanese-based think-tank, and a Fellow at The Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation (SEPAD) project based at Lancaster University's Richardson Institute. His work focuses on international humanitarian and relief interventions in fragile and conflict settings, democratization, and U.S. foreign policy and Middle Eastern politics.

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.

Hiba Nasr joined Asharq News since 2020 as a Senior Correspondent in Washington, DC, and is now the current Bureau Chief of Asharq News.  She covers the White House, State Department and Pentagon, mainly on matters related to American foreign policy and the United States’ role in the world. She was one of a few to interview Secretary Blinken in June 2023 during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Secretary Pompeo in March 2019 during his visit to Lebanon, as well as the Special Advisor to the President Jared Kushner after the rollout of the peace plan and following the announcement of the normalization agreement between Israel and UAE. She also interviewed Under Secretary Victoria Nuland, and several former and current senior US officials, and covered the United Nations General Assembly 6 times, as well as the American Elections in 2016 & 2018, 2020 & 2021 . Moreover, Hiba covered the Singapore Summit and G20 in Buenos Aires with White House Press Corps.




(Photo by Daniel Carde/Getty Images)