Upcoming Event

Details

Date:
April 18
Time:
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm
Event Category:

Venue

Online

Organizer

Gulf International Forum

Synopsis

On April 1st, an Israeli airstrike in Syria notably escalated tensions by targeting an annex of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus. This strike resulted in the deaths of seven leaders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), among the casualties were Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Quds Force commander for Lebanon and Syria, and his deputy, Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi. Their deaths represent the highest-level IRGC losses since the killing of Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. This incident intensifies the longstanding tensions between Iran and Israel, adding to a history of targeted assassinations that include high-ranking officials from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas by Israel, exacerbating hostilities while stopping short of sparking a full-scale conflict. In retaliation, Iran and Hezbollah have vowed to retaliate against Israel and the United States, with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promising retribution.

On April 14, Iran responded by launching hundreds of drones and missiles aimed at Israel. With the help of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, Israeli defense forces successfully intercepted all incoming projectiles, effectively thwarting the Iranian attack. Israel’s war cabinet is now deliberating potential retaliatory measures in response to what they perceive as an unprecedented aerial offensive. However, the consequences of any such retaliation are unclear and could potentially escalate tensions, risking a broader regional conflict.

Is conflict between Iran and Israel inevitable, or are strategies being employed by both nations to deter direct military confrontation and prevent an escalation? In response to the killing of IRGC leaders in Damascus, what strategies and means are available to Iran for retaliation? In what ways could Iran utilize its proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen to retaliate? How can the GCC states and other countries in the region contribute to de-escalating tensions and potentially mediate to prevent a regional conflict? How could an escalation between Iran and Israel affect Lebanon, Syria and Iraq? In the event that Iran attacks the United States military bases in the Middle East, what range of responses might be anticipated from President Joe Biden’s administration?

Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros, Dr. Kenneth Katzman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Dr. Ali Vaez and Natasha Hall.

Bios

Ambassador Patrick Nickolas Theros

Strategic Advisor and Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum

Ambassador Patrick Nickolas Theros is Strategic Advisor and Senior Fellow at Gulf International Forum. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar from 1995-1998. Prior to his appointment, he served as Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, responsible for the coordination of all U.S. Government counterterrorism activities outside the United States. From 1991-1993, Ambassador Theros served as the Political Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of Central Command (CENTCOM).

Ambassador Theros joined the Foreign Service in 1963, and served in a variety of positions in Washington D.C., Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Syria, including charge d’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

In 1999, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al-Thani awarded Ambassador Theros the Qatar Order of Merit for his efforts in service of the U.S.-Qatar bilateral relationship. His commitment to national service also earned him the President’s Meritorious Service Award and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service (1992). Ambassador Theros has also earned four Superior Honor Awards, the highest awards for distinguished service given by the Foreign Service.

After his retirement from the Foreign Service Ambassador Theros assumed the office of President of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council in March 2000 until his retirement in 2017. Ambassador Theros’ personal commitment to community and public service earned him the rank of Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (1999), as well as the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom (2005).

In addition to his duties as President of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council, Ambassador Theros is also active in the following organizations: The Middle East Policy Council, Board of Directors; The Council of Foreign Relations, Member; The Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, Member; and The American Academy of Diplomacy, Member.

Ambassador Theros graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1963. He has done advanced studies at the American University in Washington, D.C., the Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua, the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He is married to Aspasia (nee Pahigiannis) and has three children. He speaks and reads Spanish, Arabic and Greek professionally.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret.)

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans at US Central Command, Deputy Director of Operations for Coalition Forces in Iraq and significant command assignments worldwide. He currently leads a private consulting business for US clients in the Middle East and provides regional security commentary on Arabic, Turkish and English-speaking media channels worldwide.

Dr. Kenneth Katzman

Senior Fellow, The Soufan Center; Senior Advisor, the Global Insights Group; Senior Non-Resident Fellow, Gulf International Forum

Dr. Kenneth Katzman is a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at Gulf International Forum. Dr. Katzman is a Senior Fellow at The Soufan Center and Senior Advisor at the Global Insights Group. His work focuses on geopolitical and regional dynamics in the Middle East—with a focus on Iran—as well as United States strategy. In late 2022, Dr. Katzman retired from his longtime position as a Senior Analyst with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an arm of the U.S. Congress that provides analysis and advice to members of the U.S. Congress in their legislative and oversight responsibilities. In that post, Dr. Katzman served as a senior Middle East analyst, with special emphasis on Iran, Iran-backed groups operating in the Middle East and South Asia, the Persian Gulf states, Iraq, and Afghanistan. During his more than 30-year tenure at CRS, he provided reports and briefings to Members of Congress and their staffs on U.S. policy on these countries and issues, and provided analysis of related legislative proposals. On about a dozen occasions, he has testified before various Committees and Subcommittees of Congress on his areas of expertise. He also participated in several congressional delegations to the region at the Member and staff level. During 1996 and again during July 2001—March 2002, he was assigned to the majority staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to work on Middle East issues, including organizing hearings and helping to draft legislation such as the Iran Sanctions Act (1996).

As a well-known expert on the region, Dr. Katzman has delivered numerous presentations and briefings at conferences and meetings in Washington D.C. as well as throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia. He has also written numerous articles in various outside publications, including a book entitled The Warriors of Islam: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (Westview Press, 1993) which was the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation. Since 2017, he has been a contributor to The Soufan Center, including serving as a key drafter of several of the Center’s reports on U.S. policy toward Iran. Dr. Katzman has been quoted frequently on the region and appeared in many regional media, including Al Jazeera, Al Hurra, Al Arabiya, Sharq News, Al Araby, and Al Ghad TV.

In recent years, Dr. Katzman has worked with numerous region-related think tanks and institutions. He has authored scholarly articles for organizations including The Atlantic Council, the Gulf International Forum, the Arab Gulf State Institute of Washington, and the Arab Center D.C. Among his earlier outside publications, during 1998, he wrote expert working papers on the ballistic missile capabilities of Iran and Iraq for the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (“Rumsfeld Commission”). In late 1999, and again in 2010, the Atlantic Council published his detailed monographs on U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Dr. Katzman holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from New York University (1991).  During May 1985—June 1989, Dr. Katzman was an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he prepared written reports for U.S. Middle East policymakers on leadership dynamics in Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf states. Two years in the private defense consulting industry followed his tour at the CIA.

Dr. Ali Vaez

Iran Project Director, Crisis Group

Ali Vaez is Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director and Senior Adviser to the President. He led Crisis Group’s efforts in helping to bridge the gaps between Iran and the P5+1 that led to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Previously, he served as a Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and was the Iran Project Director at the Federation of American Scientists. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Trained as a scientist, Vaez has more than a decade of experience in journalism. He has written widely on Iranian affairs and is a regular contributor to mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs. He is a frequent guest on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and NPR. Vaez was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University from 2008 to 2010 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Geneva and a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Natasha Hall

Senior Fellow at the Middle East Program, Center for Strategic International Studies

Natasha is a senior fellow with the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Natasha has over 15 years of experience as an analyst, researcher, and practitioner in complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict-affected areas with a specialty in the Middle East. Most recently, she has worked on the Syrian conflict with The Shaikh Group, GIZ, Mayday Rescue, Center for Civilians in Conflict, and the U.S. government’s Refugee Affairs Division. She has lived and worked in over 15 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Southern Caucasus, and Europe. Her work has focused on conflict resolution, governance, displacement, environmental issues, resilience, and civilian protection. Her reports have spurred congressional hearings and high-level donor responses on Syria. As a director with Mayday Rescue, she led these responses, working with the White Helmets to reinforce critical civilian infrastructure and protect civilians from explosive weapons and other consequences of the war. She is a commentator and contributor for a number of media outlets and think tanks, including CNN, BBC, and MSNBC. She has written articles and in-depth analyses for the Washington Post, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, the Atlantic Council, the United States Institute for Peace, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, among others. Natasha is also the founder of Art in Exile. She earned her master’s from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and her B.A. from the University of Virginia in foreign affairs and Middle East studies. She did a Fulbright Fellowship in Jordan from 2006-2007 and a Boren Fellowship in Syria in 2010.

Details

Date:
April 18
Time:
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm
Event Category:

Venue

Online

Organizer

Gulf International Forum
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