Fourth Annual Conference
The Gulf in Transition: New Factions, Shifting Foundations, and an Uncertain Future
Day One – Monday, November 1, 2021, 12:00 PM – 1:15 PM; “The GCC at 40: Continued Rivalry or Shared Interests?”
Day Two – Tuesday, November 2, 2021,
11:30 AM – 12:15 PM; “Special Conversation with Dr. Ayad Allawi”
12:15 PM – 1:30 PM; “Elections, Power and Parliaments in the Gulf”
Day Three – Wednesday, November 3, 2021, 12:00 PM – 1:15 PM; “Biden, Iran, and the GCC: The Return of Diplomacy?”
Day Four – Thursday, November 4, 2021, 12:00 PM – 1:15 PM; “Youth Social Contract: Economic Uncertainty and Future Opportunities”
This year, 2021, marks forty years since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Since then nothing in the Gulf is static, and nothing is disconnected from its past. Today, the region faces an increasingly uncertain future. External factors such as American oil production and climate change pose a major threat to the Gulf’s long-term economic future. This threat exacerbates the effects of a wave of educated youth looking for jobs that do not yet exist. Efforts to diversify GCC economies away from dependence on oil remain in their infancy, and some fear the diversification will make dealing with youth unemployment even more difficult. The Biden Administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has underlined America’s growing reluctance to become involved in foreign conflicts – and the consequences of that withdrawal have reverberated throughout the Gulf. More meaningfully, the US has unilaterally withdrawn a significant portion of its air defense forces from Saudi Arabia, and made moves to withdraw troops from Iraq.
In the meantime, the chances that the U.S. will negotiate with the new government of Iran to rejoin the JCPOA appear increasingly slim while conservatives in Iran are consolidating more power. Important political players in the United States pressure the Biden Administration to continue Trump’s “maximum pressure” despite its ineffectiveness to pressure Tehran to change its behavior. For its part, Tehran has increased the size and scope of its nuclear program to unprecedented levels, but at the same time started a dialogue with Riyadh hosted by Baghdad. Away from the public eye, the war in Yemen drags on without visible sign of resolution, while its civilian population suffers from an onslaught of war, famine, and Covid-19.
The Gulf International Forum seeks to shed light on the future of the region at its Fourth Annual Conference, to be held over four days starting Monday, November 1st. We will discuss whether the Gulf Cooperation Council will remain relevant as a vehicle for coordinating the Arab Gulf states’ reactions to the manifold challenges they face, or become increasingly moribund in the face of insuperable problems. We will attempt to shed light on the many diplomatic engagements between individual GCC states and Iran, and whether they may lead to a coordinated GCC attempt to resolve problems broadly, all in the context of the unknown future of the JCPOA negotiations. We will discuss the region’s burgeoning youth crisis and how it is intertwined with the future of the Gulf economies. Finally, we will discuss elections taking place at the end of 2021, and the impact they will have on the Gulf parliaments’ future.
Due to safety concerns associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will be held virtually.
Dr. Ayad Allawi
Former Prime Minister and Vice President, The Republic of Iraq
Ayad Allawi was born to a prominent merchant family in Iraq where he studied at Baghdad Medical School and graduated from Baghdad University with MBChB. He also completed his MSc at London Medical University and his Ph.D. in Medicine at Guys Hospital, London University. He was politically active since 1968 founding the Iraqi National Accord (INA) in opposition to Saddam’s regime and survived several assassination attempts, one of which left him hospitalized for nearly two years and as a result of the attack, Allawi was unable to practice rheumatology but instead initiated private trade and worked at the UNDP, UNICEF, and WHO. Allawi continued being politically active working against Iraq’s dictatorship and for internal regime change. In 2004, Allawi served on the Governing Council and was unanimously elected by it to become Iraq’s first post-war Prime Minister. He held both executive and legislative powers, conducted the first elections which were fair and transparent, and transferred power peacefully in 2005. In 2010, Allawi won the elections despite gross fraud. He continues to lead the INA, a national political party that promotes a civil state serving democracy and stability in the wider Arab and Islamic region. Allawi is well engaged in the Middle East and was appointed the First Deputy-Chairman of the Arab and International Relations Council in 2011. Furthermore, he has supported many international institutions, he is a trustee of the American University of Iraq, led an Islamic Summit Conference in Malaysia, and initiated the Sharm Sheikh Conference, an endeavor to increase global support against terrorism. In addition, Allawi holds memberships in a number of associations and has contributed to numerous studies in the forms of research, books, journals, and news articles. Allawi currently leads Watania Coalition, a national cross-sectarian political bloc that advocates equality, justice, and rule of law.
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. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi
President and Founder, Emirates Policy Center
Dr. Ebtesam Al-Ketbi is the President and Founder of the Emirates Policy Center, which is one of the most important think tanks in the Arab World. Dr. al-Ketbi is a Professor of Political Science at the United Arab Emirates University. In recognition of her role and the great respect she enjoys as part of the distinguished elite in the UAE and the Gulf region, Dr. al-Ketbi was appointed in 2015 as member of the Consultative Commission of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). She was also chosen in 2018 in the list of 50 Most Influential Women in the Arab World. In 2019, Dr. al-Ketbi received the Women Super Achiever Award during the World Women Leadership Congress. In 2021, she was chosen as an advisor in the Global Commission for Post-Pandemic Policy.
Dr. Mohamed Ghanem Alrumaihi
Former Advisor for Kuwait’s Council of Ministers and Professor at Kuwait University
Professor Alrumaihi has written extensively on political sociology, social change in the Gulf region, and the cultural changing of Arab world. He has published more than twenty five books. He served as the Editor in Chief of Awan, a daily Kuwaiti newspaper. Before that Editor in chief of AlArabi Magazine. Served as the General Secretary of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) of Kuwaiti Government 1998-2011, founder and editor in chief for daily and monthly publications, an Advisor on various Committees on Education, Information, Culture and politics, for the Kuwaiti government, and private institutions in the Gulf region, member of the board of (diplomatic institute – Kuwait foreign affairs Ministry), Doha institute for graduate studies, Babtain Cultural foundation.
Dr. Alrumaihi has served as a member of various Committees within the Kuwait Government, (1994 – 1997) member of the Advisory board for the Council of ministers headed by Kuwait Prime Minister, member of a number of working commissions on general education and higher education, member of the boards on information, culture policies and planning, member of the Gulf Studies Center Advisory Board at the American University of Kuwait and member of the Austrian College in Kuwait, as well serving in prize and publication committees of KFAS.
Dr. Hend Al Muftah
Qatar’s Majlis Al-Shura; Academic, Researcher and Professional Executive Leader and consultant.
Academically, Dr. Hend Al Muftah is an Associate Professor of Human Resources Management at Qatar University since (2004-present) and Public Administration at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (since 2015-present). Her main research interests include human capital issues in the perspective of human resources, mainly training and education, Qatarization, leadership, labor turnover, female employment and empowerment, migration and “Kafala”. In addition, she is also interested in institutional effectiveness, and public administration. She participated in many national, regional and international conferences and published many research papers and articles in local, regional and international journals. She also conducted and delivered many training courses and workshops in the management and administration areas, and strategic planning, locally and regionally.
She is also the author of “Human Capital Formation in Qatar in 2010 (in English) and “Issues in the Management (in Arabic) in 2012. In addition, she had participated in writing some chapters in some international books covering Qatar’s case in terms of human capital, training, education, and demographic changes and challenges. In addition, she published many papers in different areas in international journals.
Professionally, Dr. Hend Al Muftah has over 15 years of leadership and consulting experience in educational, governmental and NGOs organizations. She served as the Director of Human Resources Department at QU (2004-2008), Consultant for the VP&CFO at QU (2009) and Consultant for the Minister of Business & Trade (2010), HR Director at Rail Company (2012), and Executive Director of Childhood Cultural Centre (April 20012-Sep 2014). Currently she serves as the VP, Administration & Finance at Doha Institute since January 2015. During her leadership roles, she mainly served in developing re-structured or institutionalizing newly established organizations. Her role in those organizations included building or reviewing administrative and finance policies and procedures, system, organizational culture, and strategic plans. She is the Chair of Library and information Association in Qatar, under establishment, the Chair of Arab HEUG, and a member at the international advisory board of HEUG (Higher Education Users Group based in the USA), and VP at The International Organization for Women’s empowerment (based in UK).
In terms of community services, she was involved as a member in tens of local task force and committees, most recognized are: QU Reform Project (2004-08), QU Strategic Plan Committee, “Selatek Project” (2007-08) with Qatar Foundation (QF), and Labor Market Strategy (2005-07), National Development Strategy (2009-10) & Economic Diversification and Economic Development with General Secretary for Development Planning (GSDP) in Qatar and some Human Development Reports.
She is also social activist and columnist in some local and regional newspaper. She has been acknowledged during 2015 and 2016 as the most influential 50 people in the Qatari social media, and ranked 53 amongst the Top 100 leaders from Multilateral organizations in October 2018.
Dr. Sanam Vakil
Deputy Director of the Middle East North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Dr. Sanam Vakil is the deputy director of the Middle East North Africa programme, where she leads project work on Iran and Gulf Arab dynamics. Sanam’s research focuses on regional security, Gulf geopolitics, and on future trends in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy. She is also the James Anderson professorial lecturer in the Middle East Studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS Europe) in Bologna, Italy.
Before these appointments, Sanam was an Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at SAIS Washington. She served as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations also providing research analysis to the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa department. Sanam is the author of Action and Reaction: Women and Politics in Iran (Bloomsbury 2013). She publishes analysis and comments for a variety of media and academic outlets.
Sanam received her BA in political science and history from Barnard College, Columbia University and her MA/PhD in international relations and international economics from Johns Hopkins University.
Ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein
Senior Vice President, the Middle East Institute
Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein is senior vice president and a distinguished senior fellow on U.S. diplomacy at MEI. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in May 2016 after a 41-year career with the personal rank of Career Minister. As a diplomat he served in nine overseas postings, including three tours of duty in Pakistan, as well as assignments in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Tunisia. In 2010, President Obama appointed Amb. Feierstein U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, where he served until 2013. From 2013 until his retirement, Amb. Feierstein was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
In addition to his career-long focus on the Near East and South Asia, Amb. Feierstein also played a prominent role in developing and implementing State Department policies and programs to counter violent extremism. As Deputy Coordinator and Principal Deputy Coordinator in the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism bureau, Amb. Feierstein led the development of initiatives to build regional networks to confront extremist groups as well as to counter terrorist financing and promote counter-terrorism messaging. He continued to focus on defeating terrorist groups through his subsequent tours as Deputy Chief of Mission in Pakistan and as Ambassador to Yemen.
Dr. Nasser Alsane
Former Member of Kuwaiti Parliament
Dr. Nasser Alsane is a former member of the Kuwaiti parliament. He was elected several times to the parliament representing the third district. He took several positions in the parliament’s committees, Member of the Advisory Committee of His Highness the Emir in 1992, Chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the Assembly in 1996, Rapporteur of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the Council 1999, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Employment in 2003. Dr. Alsane published several research papers. He was decorated with a medal of honor from the Nicaraguan Parliament.
Dr. Hesham Alghannam
Senior Advisor and Program director of the International Studies Program, Gulf Research Centre (GRC) Cambridge
Dr. Hesham Alghannam is a Saudi political scientist and a former Fulbright fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where he received a master’s degree in international policy studies. He holds PhD from the University of Exeter. He 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. Dr. Alghannam is a regular speaker at international media outlets, think tanks and research centers.
Alghannam is currently interested in developing research centers and training specialized cadres and programming electronic tools capable of analyzing advanced data using PHP and Python. Alghannam also has advanced degrees in technology, decision making process, automation of electronic models, electronic maps, automated publishing, visual modelling and content management.
He authored and contributed to various research studies/projects on GCC, Arab world, International Relations, nuclear weapons, and political economy. In addition to several lengthy articles and studies, he has written on political economy of GCC States, Iran’s nuclear program, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons, radicalization, 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. Alghannam also presented numerous papers for various European, Asian and American think tanks on the structural changes in the Kingdom, extremism and role of the Kingdom in influencing the Muslim and immigrant communities in Europe, the Arab upheavals, and the GCC-Iran relations.
Dr. Abdullah Baabood
Omani Expert and Scholar
Dr. Abdullah Baabood has taught at different universities and institutions throughout Europe. His teaching and research interests are focused on international relations and international political economy, especially as it relates to globalization and regionalism. His area of focus is on the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including their economic, social, and political development, as well as their external relations. Previously Dr. Baabood was a visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. He also held the position of the Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University and the Director of the Gulf Research Center at the University of Cambridge. Baabood has published widely and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences and seminars, and in the media. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2004.
Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
Baker Institute Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Ph.D., is a Baker Institute fellow for the Middle East. Working across the disciplines of political science, international relations and international political economy, his research examines the changing position of Persian Gulf states in the global order, as well as the emergence of longer-term, nonmilitary challenges to regional security. Previously, he worked as a senior Gulf analyst at the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies between 2006 and 2008 and as co-director of the Kuwait Program on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 2008 until 2013.
Sir Richard Dalton
Former British Ambassador to Iran
Sir Richard Salton was a British diplomat from 1970 to 2006. From 1993-1997 he was UK Consul General in Jerusalem, responsible for dealings with the Palestinian Authority after the signing of the Oslo Accords. He re-established UK diplomatic relations with Libya in 1999 as the first Ambassador to Tripoli for 17 years. From 2002-2006 he was UK Ambassador in Tehran, playing a part in European negotiations with Iran. He has been an Associate Fellow of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House, and co-wrote their Research Paper of September 2014: “Iran’s Nuclear Future.” He has been President of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce.
Rubin Family Fellow in the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Elana DeLozier is the Rubin Family Fellow in the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where she specializes in Yemen, the Gulf states, and nuclear weapons and proliferation. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She spent eight years in the Middle East (2011-2018) as a political analyst and trainer, including six years in the Gulf and two years in Lebanon. While abroad, she founded The Sage Institute for Foreign Affairs to train political analysts and make political analysis more accessible. She has taught graduate courses on nuclear proliferation, Gulf politics, and counterterrorism at New York University in New York City and at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. From 2006-2010, she served as the right hand to the commissioner of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau as well as an intelligence analyst on nuclear issues and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. She started her career at the Brookings Institution.
Ms. DeLozier appears frequently in the media discussing the internal dynamics of Yemen, events in the Gulf, and Iran’s nuclear program. She was recently selected as a member of the 2019 Mid-Career Cadre for CSIS’s Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI).
Dr. Mark C. Thompson
Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Socioeconomics Unit, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies
Dr. Mark C. Thompson is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Socioeconomics Unit at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was previously Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Mark has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia since 2001 for diverse institutions such as Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Saudi Arabian National Guard, and Prince Sultan University. Mark holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK. His principal research areas are Saudi socioeconomic development and societal transformation, and he has published on topics such as Saudi youth issues and challenges facing Saudi women leaders in publications such as the Journal of Arabian Studies; Asian Affairs; Middle Eastern Studies; Middle East Policy; POMPES Studies, Chatham House, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and Gulf Affairs. In addition, he published a book with I.B. Tauris ‘Saudi Arabia and the Path to Political Change: National Dialogue and Civil Society’ (2014). Mark is also the co-editor of the I.B. Tauris book entitled ‘Policy-Making in the GCC: State, Citizens and Institutions’ (2017) with Dr. Neil Quilliam, as well as providing chapters on Saudi Arabia for edited books such as ‘Public Brain Power: Civil Society and Resource Management’ Palgrave Macmillan (2017). In October 2019 Mark published his Cambridge University Press book ‘Being Young Male and Saudi: Identity and Politics in a Globalized Kingdom’ about societal issues and change from the perspective of young Saudi men. He is also the co-editor of the forthcoming I.B. Tauris book ‘Governance and Domestic Policy Making in Saudi Arabia: Transforming Politics, Economics, Society and Culture (2021).
Host of The Capitol Hill Show
Tim Constantine is in charge of Diplomacy and External Affairs for The Washington Times. He also serves the national publication as a writer and podcast host. He is the owner and host of the national talk radio show, The Capitol Hill Show.
Constantine has lived and worked in a variety of places worldwide including West Africa, South Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He recently visited the Hungary / Serbia border to investigate how the Central European countries are handling illegal migrants and border protection. Tim was recently invited to join the Gulf International Forum’s Advisory Board.
Ambassador Patrick Theros
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.
Non-Resident Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Shaikha Al-Hashem is a writer and researcher from Kuwait focusing on women, migrant workers and the political economy. Shaikha is also a PhD Candidate at The European Graduate School, in the Philosophy, Art and Critical Theory (PACT) Program. Her specialization is in women and gender studies.
Sara Ayad Allawi
Member of Al-Watania Coalition, Iraqi Parliament
Sara has been politically active in Iraq since 2010 with the Iraqi National Party headed by Former Prime Minister and Vice President Dr. Ayad Allawi which promotes a civil state serving democracy, equality, and justice and constitutes the core of Al-Watania Coalition, a national parliamentary bloc of which she is in the leadership committee. In her continued efforts to promote civil and free Iraqi society, Sara works with national and international civil society actors including NGOs, Iraqi trade unions, and foreign missions within Iraq. Sara’s programs have been effective in mobilizing citizens, empowering youth and women through capacity building to engage them in policy building and participation in the political process. Sara plans to run for the general elections in October 2021 representing the Mansour District within Baghdad and has vast experience in campaign management from 2010, 2014 and 2018 elections which resulted in the aftermath of sectarianism, violence, and instability.
Sara undertakes various charity work through her organization, Together for Humanitarian Relief and Development, to help vulnerable groups, past activities include visiting refugee camps and orphanages as well as raising issues of social concerns. Sara studied BA International Relations and Arabic, and graduated in MSc International Management from Royal Holloway, UK.
Dr. Daniel L. Tavana
Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) at Université Toulouse 1 Capitole
Dr. Tavana’s research interests include a focus on elections, identity, and comparative political behavior, as well as the dynamics of political opposition in authoritarian regimes. He studies these issues in the Middle East and North Africa, where he uses a variety of methods and sources of data to study electoral politics. His research is motivated by a broader interest in understanding the origins of contemporary patterns of mass politics across the region. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in September 2021.
Dr. Hanaa Almoaibed
Research Fellow, KFCRIS; Associate Fellow, Chatham House
Hanaa Almoaibed is an associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme. She is also a research fellow with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, and a visiting fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre. She researches the influence of social dynamics on youth attitudes toward work, education and careers in the GCC, with an emphasis on vocational education in Saudi Arabia. Since 2005, she has worked with different private, public and not-for-profit entities in Saudi Arabia and the MENA.
Hanaa has managed several curriculum research and development initiatives with Saudi schools, expanding social science, entrepreneurship and careers education opportunities in collaboration with entities such as the British Council, UNESCO, American University of Beirut, Saudi Chambers of Commerce and multiple think-tanks. From 2010-2015, Hanaa was the corporate social responsibility manager of a large Saudi organization where she worked closely with government, private sector, and civil society, managing multi-stakeholder initiatives in education and development. She currently consults for the executive committee of Zadk Culinary Academy, working to enhance employment opportunities of the young trainees through various partnerships and programmes.
Ph.D. Researcher, UCL Institute of Education
Ibrahim Alhouti is a researcher in the comparative politics of education, he is currently doing his Ph.D. study at UCL Institute of Education in London focusing on the politics of education reforms in the Arab Gulf States. He holds two master’s degrees from UCL Institute of Education, MA Leadership and MA Comparative Educations. He published several articles about the education system in Kuwait and MENA region and worked on several academic projects.
Partner, Al Hussam Holding
Aya Abuissa is a passionate, creative, and highly-driven professional with extensive experience across a broad range of management and business development sectors – ranging from healthcare and hospitality to food & beverage. Aya has a proven ability to combine her vision, ingenuity and strong business acumen with best practices in project management and leadership to support go-to-market efforts and business growth.
Having received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Management and Business Administration respectively, Aya has been leading Al Hussam Holding through a variety of projects in the aforementioned sectors since 2012, and has more recently been playing an active role in Salam’s transformation with a vision that’s more inclusive of Qatar’s youth and reflective of globalization and current trends.