Image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Derek Seifert

The MEI-CENTCOM Annual Conference is a flagship event of MEI’s Defense and Security Program

It convenes top CENTCOM leadership and staff as well as some of the world’s leading Middle East scholars and practitioners to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the United States and its regional partners. Unique in the U.S. public policy and think tank communities, this two-day conference features speeches by CENTCOM leaders in addition to multiple policy-relevant panels on a range of strategic, political, military, and economic issues in the region.

2023 Conference

The third MEI-CENTCOM annual conference on March 29 & 30 will feature multiple panels over two days as well as a keynote address by CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael E. Kurilla at MEI’s headquarters on March 29. Closing remarks will be issued on March 30 by CENTCOM Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot.

Please note that, except for Gen. Kurilla's keynote, attendance for the conference is by invitation only, and the sessions will be held under Chatham House Rule.

Day 1 Agenda

March 29, 2023

8:30 – 9:00 am 

Breakfast & Registration

9:00 – 9:10 am

Introductory Remarks and Overview

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

9:10 – 10:15 am

Keynote Address

General Michael E. KurillaCommander, CENTCOM

Bilal Y. Saab (moderator)
Senior Fellow and Director, Defense and Security Program, MEI

10:30 – 11:30 am

Session I: Post-Afghanistan Withdrawal: US Priorities in the Middle East

Anne Patterson Kissinger Senior Fellow, Jackson School of Global Affairs, Yale University

Ellen Laipson Professor and Director of the Center of Security Policy Studies, George Mason University

Paul Salem President, MEI

Deborah Amos (moderator) Reporter, NPR

11:30 – 11:45 am 

Coffee Break

11:45 am – 1:00 pm

Session II (Lunch): Ukraine and the Middle East: Lessons Learned

Joanne Held Cummings Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI 

Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr. Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI

Martin Indyk Lowy Distinguished Fellow in US-Middle East Diplomacy, Council on Foreign Relations

Brian Katulis (moderator)  Vice President for Policy, MEI

1:10 – 2:10 pm

Session III: A US China Policy in the Middle East?

Michael K. Nagata Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI

Jon B. Alterman Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Yun SunSenior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program, Stimson Center

Eric Schmitt (moderator)
Senior Correspondent, New York Times

Day 2 Agenda

March 30, 2022

8:30 – 9:00 am


9:00 – 10:00 am

Session IV: Combating ISIS and Addressing the al-Hol Challenge in Syria

Charles Lister Senior Fellow and Director of the Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism Programs, MEI

Joseph Votel Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI

Mona Yacoubian Senior Advisor, Executive Office and Middle East and North Africa Center, USIP

Courtney Kube (moderator) National Security Correspondent, NBC News

10:10 – 11:10 am

Session V: Innovation in US Middle East Security Cooperation

Kevin Donegan Distinguished Senior Fellow on National Security, MEI

Katie Crombe Non-Resident Scholar, MEI

Melissa Horvath Non-Resident Senior Fellow, MEI

Alexander Ward (moderator) National Security Reporter, POLITICO

11:10 – 11:25 am

Coffee Break

11:25am – 12:25pm 

Session VI: The Future of Iran

Karim Sadjadpour Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Alex Vatanka Director of Iran Program and Senior Fellow, Frontier Europe Initiative, MEI

Sanam Vakil Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House

Missy Ryan (moderator) Reporter, The Washington Post

12:25 – 1:40 pm

Closing Lunch & Remarks 

Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot (invited) Deputy Commander, CENTCOM

Bilal Y. Saab (moderator) Senior Fellow and Director, Defense and Security Program, MEI