Biden and the GCC: A New Start, or More of the Same?
The Biden White House and his allies in the Senate have called for a realignment in its engagement with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Gulf region. Rather than a transactional relationship centered around oil, weapons sales, and the containment of Iran, themes of human rights, diplomacy, and reducing regional tension have been offered as new priorities of this administration.
Qatar and Oman, for example, have sought to translate their relations with Iran into positive steps toward reopening the dialogue between Washington and Tehran about the JCPOA and other topics concerning the region. Meanwhile U.S.-UAE relations are strained as Biden has halted the F35 sales to Abu Dhabi. Yet the main juncture is in the U.S.-Saudi relations which experience a redefining with Biden centering it around human rights issues and pushing Riyadh to end the war in Yemen through halting offensive weapons sales but keeping the U.S. commitment to defend Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty against missiles and drones’ attacks launched toward the kingdom by Iran-aligned Yemen’s Houthis.
What are the pillars for Biden’s policy in the Gulf with Washington’s Arab partners in the Gulf? How fruitful can the US-GCC partnership be in accomplishing not just what appeases American interests, but also advances regional prosperity? And what does the future of weapon and oil sales look like in a world where the mightiest superpower no longer upholds financial interests above all others?
Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator), Ambassador Susan L. Ziadeh, Dr. Steven Cook, Dr. Hesham Alghannam, and Dr. Dania Thafer.
Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator)
Strategic Advisor, Gulf International Forum
Ambassador Theros has held such positions as Political Advisor to the Commander in Chief, Central Command; Deputy Chief of Mission and Political officer in Amman; Charge D’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi; Economic Counselor in Damascus; and U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar. In a career spanning almost 36 years, he also has served in diplomatic positions in Beirut, Managua, Dharan and Abu Dhabi, as well as in the Department of State. During that period, he earned four Superior Honor Awards. After retirement Ambassador Theros served as President of the U.S. Qatar Business Council in 2000-2017.
Ambassador (ret.) Susan L. Ziadeh
Ambassador Susan L. Ziadeh enjoyed a 23-year career with the U.S. Department of State where she most recently served as the acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Peninsula Affairs (2014-2016). She served as the U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar from 2011-2014. She held senior leadership positions in Riyadh, Baghdad, and Bahrain as well as postings in Kuwait, Amman and Jerusalem. Currently a Middle East strategic advisor based in Washington, Ambassador Ziadeh is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. Ambassador Ziadeh is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, a member of the Middle East Institute’s Board of Governors, a member of the International Advisors Council for the American University of Beirut, Lebanon and a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy. A recipient of the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor Award, she also received the Department of State’s 2007 Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy and the 2014 Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award for Leadership. In 2015, she was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Department’s highest civilian award. She was nominated for the White House Presidential Meritorious Service Award for her service in Qatar and was decorated by HH Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with the State of Qatar Emiri Sash of Merit (First Class). A Fulbright scholar in Egypt and Lebanon, Ambassador Ziadeh earned a PhD in History from the University of Michigan, an M.A. from the American University of Beirut, an M.S. from the National War College, National Defense University, and a B.A. from the University of Washington.
Dr. Dania Thafer
Executive Director, Gulf International Forum
Dr. Dania Thafer is the Executive Director of Gulf International Forum. Her area of expertise is on the Gulf region’s geopolitics, US-Gulf relations, and the political economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. She is also a Professorial Lecturer at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.
Dr. Thafer been widely published on matters concerning the Arab Gulf states including several articles and publications. She has co-authored two edited books “The Arms Trade, Military Services and the Security Market in the Gulf States: Trends and Implications” and “The Dilemma of Security and Defense in the Gulf Region”. Dr. Thafer is currently writing a book focused on the effect of state-business relations on economic reform in the GCC states. Previously, she worked at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.
Dr. Thafer has a master’s degree in Political Economy from New York University, and PhD specialized in the Political Economy and International Relations of the GCC states from American University in Washington, DC.
Dr. Hesham Alghannam
Senior Research Fellow, Gulf Research Centre (GRC), Cambridge
Hesham Alghannam is a Saudi political scientist and a Fulbright scholar. He has a doctorate from the University of Exeter. He is also a senior research fellow at the Gulf Research Centre (GRC), Cambridge, as well as a geopolitical expert and strategy adviser to senior executives operating globally. Alghannam is a regular speaker at international conferences and provides analysis for leading international media outlets on the topics of policy and strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and abroad. He has also worked with the major research centers of the Middle East on issues such as conducting fieldwork in conflict zones, ballistic missiles, the political economy of the GCC, Social movements, the Arab upheavals, political Islam, war strategies and crisis management. He is also one of the most prominent Arab experts and analysts in international media including the Washington Post, Reuters, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Le Figaro, Foreign Policy, The Chicago Tribune, Aljazeera (Arabic, English), France 24, The National and Monte Carlo International, AFP, BBC English, Arabic, Farsi, and others.
Dr. Alghannam was recently nominated as a regional specialist to provide expert testimony for several International Relations Committees around the world. He authored and contributed to various research studies on GCC, Arab world, International Relations, Nuclear Weapons, and political economy. In addition to several lengthy articles and influential studies he has written on political economy of GCC States, Iran’s nuclear program, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, study of Radicalisation, Political Islam, as well as the political conflict between the GCC States and Iran, most of them have been translated into more than one language, Persian and Turkish as an example.
Additionally, he presented numerous papers for various European, Asian and American think tanks on the structural reforms in the Kingdom, as well as extremism and role of the Kingdom in influencing the Muslim and immigrant communities in Europe, the Arab upheavals, the Iranian nuclear program, as well as the conflict between the GCC states and Iran.
Dr. Steven A. Cook
Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies and Director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars, Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Steven Cook is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S.-Middle East policy. Cook is the author of False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East; The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, which won the 2012 gold medal from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Ruling but Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey. Oxford University Press is publishing his next book, The End Of Ambition: America’s Past, Present, and Future in the Middle East in 2022.
Cook is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine. He has also published widely in international affairs journals, opinion magazines, and newspapers, and is a frequent commentator on radio and television. His work can also be found on CFR.org.
Prior to joining CFR, Cook was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution (2001–02) and a Soref research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1995–96).
Cook holds a BA in international studies from Vassar College, an MA in international relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and an MA and a PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He speaks Arabic and Turkish and reads French.