February 15, 2024
11:00 am - 12:00 pm


Zoom Webinar

For the first time in four decades, a core US interest — freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce — is increasingly at risk in the Middle East region. By enabling the Yemeni Houthis to attack international vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with armed drones and sophisticated anti-ship missiles, Iran, as it did in the Gulf in the late 1980s, is causing tremendous harm to commercial activity in one of the world’s most crucial waterways.

In a memorandum entitled “A Strategy for Countering the Houthi Threat at Sea” and addressed to US President Joe Biden, the Middle East Institute’s Defense and Security Program members Bilal Y. Saab, Kevin Donegan, Mick Mulroy, Sam Mundy, and Joseph L. Votel offer recommendations for the United States on how to effectively degrade the capabilities of the Houthis and protect international shipping in regional waters.

To discuss in greater detail the Defense and Security Program’s proposed strategy and the likely future trajectory and implications of the US campaign against the Houthis, MEI is pleased to host Bilal Y. Saab and Kevin Donegan.

Read the memo here


Kevin Donegan
Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI, and former US Fifth Fleet Commander

Bilal Y. Saab
Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program, MEI

Nancy Youssef (Moderator)
National Security Correspondent, The Wall Street Journal

Detailed Speaker Biographies

Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan (USN, ret.) is a Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security at MEI. He served as Commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Commander of the 32-nation Combined Maritime Forces in the Middle East. He also served as Director of Operations for U.S. Central Command where he managed combat operations for all U.S. Joint military forces in the Middle East. In the Pentagon, he served as Deputy Chief of the US Navy for operations, strategy, and planning, leading the development of the US Maritime Strategy and was the service lead for the guiding strategy for the Department of Defense. 

Bilal Y. Saab is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense and Security Program at MEI. In addition, he is an Associate Fellow with Chatham House in London and an Adjunct Professor with Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service. He is the author of Rebuilding Arab Defense: US Security Cooperation in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, May 2022). Prior to MEI, Saab served as Senior Advisor for Security Cooperation in the Pentagon’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, with oversight responsibilities for CENTCOM. 

Nancy Youssef is a national security correspondent whose reporting has focused largely on the U.S. military and the Arab world. A Washington, D.C.-native, she is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Georgetown University. 


Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Keith Nowak (Department of Defense)