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Third Annual Gulf International Conference


October 20, 2020 @ 1:00 pm
October 23, 2020 @ 12:00 pm
Event Category:

Conference Schedule:

Day One – Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM; “The Changing Dynamics of Gulf Security in 2020Click here to RSVP

Day Two – Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM; “National Visions: Diversification, Development, and the Future of the GulfClick here to RSVP

Day Three – Thursday, Oct 22, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM; “Between Trump and Biden: What is the Impact on the Gulf?Click here to RSVP

Day Four – Friday, Oct 23, 2020, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM; Special Conversation with General Joseph Votel, “Realities of U.S. Presence in the Gulf” Click here to RSVP

Featured Speakers: Professor David Des Roches (moderator), Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Professor Daniel Serwer, Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, and Dr. Cinzia Bianco.


The pandemic of 2020 has brought to a head the accumulating security challenges to the Gulf region, reflecting similar developments worldwide. What appears to be a permanent decline in fossil fuel prices, combined with intra-GCC divisions, rising intra-Gulf tensions, and conflicting signals from Washington have all raised the perception of a threat to Gulf stability. The accumulated crises disrupted long-standing economic models and supply chains raising acute awareness, for example, of the need to ensure food and water security. New types of threats have reinforced the conventional challenges to Gulf security, such as the hostility – including a catastrophic proxy war in Yemen – between Tehran and Riyadh, political and economic instability in Iraq and a large and dissatisfied youth population.

In the past few years, cyber threats have increased exponentially and regional states, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in particular, have developed strong cyber warfare capabilities. These capabilities are not only directed at regional rivals but also allow regional governments to neutralize domestic discontent manifested through social media. Regional states have also employed cyber capacity against external targets, e.g., Iran against the United States and some GCC countries against exile dissidents.

Some Gulf states increased both their intelligence and cyber warfare capabilities with countries outside the region, most notably Israel. This cooperation involves both fairly well known GCC state relationships with Israeli security companies and more covertly with Israeli security agencies. These unofficial relationships have in part been driven by a shared perception of Iranian aggression and influence in the region.

What role did the Iranian threat perceptions of Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain play in the “normalization” of relations? How did other factors, e.g., Turkey, Libya, and internal GCC rivalries, play a role in the changing security dynamics of the Gulf? How did 2020 alter power dynamics within the Gulf region as a result of U.S.-Iran tension, normalization with Israel, and the continued GCC rift and Yemen war? Will cybersecurity warfare take new dimensions in 2021?

Featured Speakers: Rachel Zeimba (moderator), Ambassador Anne Paterson, Anthony Livanios, Mr. Adnan Albahar, Dr. Jaime de Pinies Bianchi, and Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala.


All the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council have announced remarkably similar but very ambitious “Vision” plans to achieve sustainable economies and provide an opportunity for youth in the future. All the “Visions” seek to aggressively reduce dependence on fossil fuels through economic diversification. All outline in some detailed development plans incorporating a move towards a: “knowledge economy” and enact benchmarks for their achievement. The “Visions” depend to a large degree on the region’s reputation as a politically and economically safe place for investment. The volatility in the oil and gas markets — induced by overproduction and the pandemic — upon which that reputation rests, raises questions about the success of the “Vision” plans.

Are the “Visions” as realistic today as they were when enacted? Or, were they overly ambitious even then? To what extent are various Gulf states on track to meet the benchmarks of their “Visions”? Would failure to achieve the “Visions” undermine regional economies in the light of what most agree is an irreversible long-term decline in fossil fuel revenues?

Featured speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator), Dr. Dania Thafer, Congressman Ted Yoho, Congressman Jim Moran, and Barbara Slavin.


American foreign policy has often been described as a “residual” of U.S. domestic policy. This year’s election pits two widely polarized domestic constituencies against one another. This polarization will certainly affect American policies towards the Gulf region. Within the past four years, a multitude of changes have occurred and consequently altered the potential directions that the Trump or Biden administrations can take. This poses a challenge to the foreign policy calculations of Gulf states, who have long relied on long-term assessments of United States strategy – assessments that appear to be useless in America’s current political environment. The Trump administration has partially continued the gradual disengagement from the region initiated by the Obama administration. However, President Trump has sent mixed signals by breaking with Obama’s vision of reducing tensions in favor of a more aggressive posture that could potentially provoke war. While paradoxically doing its utmost to avoid war.

Trump began his presidency by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement with Iran and imposing crushing sanctions on Tehran. The balance of the Trump first term has seen a steady escalation between Washington and Tehran. The chances of war began started with Iran downing an American drone and ended with Iran striking U.S. bunkers in Iraq, and in between the U.S. killed Iran’s most prominent military commander. Since then, small-scale attacks on the U.S. presence in Iraq have been shrugged off. Trump added sprung a last-minute surprise by, taking credit for the September normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. Gulf states policymakers must now puzzle out the contradictions as a guide to a second term Trump Presidency.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s lengthy public career should, in theory, makes it possible to predict his policy towards Gulf issues if he wins the presidency. During his career in the Senate, Joe Biden regularly voted to condemn Iran’s regional policy but, as Vice President, strongly supported President Obama’s JCPOA. He has pledged to put the JCPOA back into force and build on it to strengthen nuclear safeguards and restrict Iran’s capacity to threaten the neighborhood. Mr. Biden voted in favor of the resolution for the “use of force” against Iraq in 2002 and did not publicly acknowledge that his vote authorizing force in Iraq was “a mistake” until November 2005.

More recently, however, Biden has vehemently criticized Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni Civil War and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Few doubts that Riyadh has apprehensions about a Biden Presidency. On the larger question of the American military presence in the Gulf, his record – and his support for Obama’s buildup in Afghanistan – would indicate that he would continue America’s traditional involvement in the region. However, American politics has changed, and many Americans (and, in particular, many left-wing Democrats) could well push him towards disengagement. His reputation as a peacemaker and a strong supporter of Israel could indicate that he would continue Trump’s policies on “normalizing” Gulf relations with Israel.

Although both candidates have policy differences, the incumbent and the nominee are both subject to the same historic trends that have seen the U.S. slowly reduce its role as the region’s primary security guarantor.

How can Trump sort out the inconsistencies in “maximum pressure” on Iran, his opposition to war and his stated intention to reduce the U.S. military presence? What could four more years of President Trump mean for the U.S. – Gulf relationship? How might the Gulf respond to Joe Biden’s victory? Will campaign rhetoric or reality play a greater role in determining the foreign policy actions of either Trump or Biden? Will the direction of U.S. policy cause some Gulf nations to look elsewhere for security? If so, where?

Featured Speakers: Dr. Dania Thafer and General Joseph Votel.


Join us for a Conversation with General Joseph Votel to discuss the future of U.S. presence in the Gulf region. Biden and Trump have each enunciated intentions to reduce America’s military footprint in the Gulf. What are the consequences and how will realities on the ground affect such a decision?

Gen. Votel first served as a general officer during the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq war as the director of the Army and Joint IED Defeat Task Force, and later as the Deputy Director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Gen. Votel served as Deputy Commanding General for Operations of CJTF-82 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Gen. Votel was subsequently made the Deputy Commanding General of JSOC, Fort Bragg; and then Commanding General of the JSOC.

After the conclusion of the Iraq War, President Barack Obama nominated Gen. Votel to serve as the commander of US SOCOM, where Gen. Votel assumed command in August 2014, and remained until his appointment as the commander of US CENTCOM in March 2016. As Commander of US CENTCOM, Gen. Votel oversaw the United States’ operations through the Middle East as part of the War on Terrorism, including Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, to combat the Islamic State. Gen. Votel was the leader of the U.S. led the international task force to defeat the Islamic State, and retired on March 28, 2019; five days after the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, which led to the territorial collapse of the Islamic State.

Speakers bios:

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.

General Joseph L. Votel

General Joseph L. Votel is a retired U.S. Army Four-Star officer and most recently the Commander of the U.S. Central Command – responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant and Central and South Asia. During his 39 years in the military he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level. His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Notably, he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. He preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Votel was recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council; the U.S. – Arab Defense Leadership Award from the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations; the Distinguished Service Award from the National Medal of Honor Society; the SGT James T. Regan Lifetime Achievement Award from the “Lead the Way” Foundation; and the Freedom Award from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

In July of 2019 Votel was announced as the prospective President / CEO of Business Executives for National Security. He is a Strategic Advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation as well as a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA; and an advisor to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, NY. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Service to School – a non-profit organization that helps military veterans transition and win admission to the Nation’s best graduate and undergraduate schools. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Votel is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned Master’s Degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College. He is married to Michele and they have two grown sons; a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. The Votels reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

Congressman Ted Yoho

Representative of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District


Congressman Yoho represents North Central Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. He was elected to the 113th Congress in November 2012, and won re-election for his fourth term in the 116th Congress.

His approach to government is guided by constitutional principles, limited government, fiscal conservatism, Personal Responsibility, and free enterprise. These principles keep Congressman Yoho focused on supporting bills that help make American strong.  Ted has been known to stand up and challenge the status quo for the better.

Prior to serving in Congress, he was a small business owner who operated several large animal veterinary practices for 30 years. During his successful career, he established a reputation of accountability and service.

Born in Minnesota, Ted moved to South Florida where he met his wife Carolyn in the fourth grade and married her at age 19. After completing his AA degree at Broward Community College, Ted and Carolyn moved to Gainesville where Ted enrolled at the University of Florida. He graduated in 1983 with his bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, while Carolyn had created her own very successful court reporting agencies.

Ted and Carolyn are the proud parents of three children: Katie, Lauren, and Tyler.

Ambassador Anne Patterson

President of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council

Ambassador Anne Patterson retired in January, 2017, after 43 years in the Foreign Service, with the rank of Career Ambassador. When she retired, she was Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern and North African Affairs at the State Department. She served as the US ambassador to Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia and El Salvador. Ambassador Patterson was also Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Deputy Permanent Representative at the US mission to the UN in New York, and Deputy Inspector General. Post-retirement, Ambassador Patterson heads the US-Qatar Business Council and has taught as a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute at Yale. She is also a Senior Advisor at the Middle East Project.

Ambassador (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine

Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and concurrent Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University

Ambassador Bodine is a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and concurrent Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Prior to joining Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she taught and directed policy task forces and policy workshops on US diplomacy in the Persian Gulf region, including Iraq and Yemen for seven years at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and served as Director of the School’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative, a fellowship program for students pursuing careers in federal service.

Ms. Bodine’s over 30 years in the US Foreign Service were spent primarily on Arabian Peninsula and greater Persian Gulf issues, specifically US bilateral and regional policy, strategic security issues, counterterrorism, and governance and reform. Her tour as Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen, 1997-2001, saw enhanced support for democratization and increased security and counterterrorism cooperation. Ms. Bodine also served in Baghdad as Deputy Principal Officer during the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait as Deputy Chief of Mission during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of 1990-1991, and again, seconded to the Department of Defense, in Iraq in 2003 as the senior State Department official and the first coalition coordinator for reconstruction in Baghdad and the central governorates. Her first assignment in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was as Country Officer for the two Yemens and security assistance coordinator for the peninsula. She later returned to that office as Deputy Director.

In addition to several other assignments in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, she was Deputy for Operations, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism and subsequently acting overall Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Director of East African Affairs, Dean of the School of Professional Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, and Senior Advisor for International Security Negotiations and Agreements in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Ambassador Bodine is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Secretary’s Award for Valor for her work in Occupied Kuwait. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of American Diplomacy, co-chair of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training, an associate fellow of The Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and a member of The Council on Foreign Relations.

Since leaving the government, Ambassador Bodine has been founding Director of the Governance Initiative in the Middle East and Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and the Robert Wilhelm Fellow at MIT’s Center for International Studies. She is a past president of the Mine Awareness Group, America, a global NGO that provides technical expertise for the removal of remnants of conflict worldwide.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Ms. Bodine is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and East Asian Studies and earned her Master’s at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. A recipient of distinguished alumni awards from both UC Santa Barbara and the Fletcher School, she is a Regent Emerita of the University of California. She resides in Alexandria, VA.

Congressman James P. Moran

The Honorable James Moran served in the U.S. Congress for 24 years, retiring in January 2015. He currently is the Senior Legislative Advisor in the Washington, DC offices of McDermott Will & Emery. In Congress, he represented the Northern Virginia parts of the Washington, DC metropolitan area which includes the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and the counties of Fairfax and Arlington. The Congressman was Mayor of Alexandria prior to his election in 1990. Congressman Moran is currently the Chair of the World Affairs Council-Washington DC and served on the Board of Sister Cities International.

Professor Daniel Serwer

Director of American Foreign Policy and Director of Conflict Management, Jons Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies


Also a scholar at the Middle East Institute, Daniel Serwer is the author of Righting the Balance (Potomac Books, November 2013), editor (with David Smock) of Facilitating Dialogue (USIP, 2012) and supervised preparation of Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction (USIP, 2009). Righting the Balance focuses on how to strengthen the civilian instruments of American foreign policy to match its strong military arm. Facilitating Dialogue analyzes specific cases and best practices in getting people to talk to each other in conflict zones. Guiding Principles is the leading compilation of best practices for civilians and military in post-war state-building.

As vice president of the Centers of Innovation at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Serwer led teams working on rule of law, peacebuilding, religion, economics, media, technology, security sector governance and gender. He was also vice president for peace and stability operations at USIP, overseeing its peacebuilding work in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Iraq and Sudan and serving as executive director of the Hamilton/Baker Iraq Study Group.

As a minister-counselor at the U.S. Department of State, Serwer directed the European office of intelligence and research and served as U.S. special envoy and coordinator for the Bosnian Federation, mediating between Croats and Muslims and negotiating the first agreement reached at the Dayton Peace Talks; from 1990 to 1993, he was deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, leading a major diplomatic mission through the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War. Serwer is a graduate of Haverford College and earned master’s degrees at the University of Chicago and Princeton, where he also did his Ph.D. in history.

Dr. Shafeeq N. Ghabra

Professor of Political Science, Kuwait University


Shafeeq Ghabra is a Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University and founding President of Jusoor Arabiya which focuses on youth leadership programs and strategic planning. He is the founding president of the American University of Kuwait (2003-2006). He also directed the Kuwait Information Office in Washington, DC (1998-2002) and the Center of Strategic Studies at Kuwait University (2002-2003). Dr. Ghabra is a regular columnist and guest of international and Arab media outlets since 1988. Dr. Ghabra is the author of 8 books and scores of studies, among his books, Palestinians in Kuwait: The family and the politics of Survival, Westview Press, Boulder Colorado, 1987; Kuwait and the dynamics of State and Society, Afaq Books( Arabic, 2011); Hayat Ghayr Amina (Unsafe life: The Generation of dreams and disappointments (a personal memoir), Beirut, Saqi books, 2012; Alnakbha wa Noshou’ al Shatat al Filistini fi al Kuwait. (The Nakbah and the Emergence of the Palestinian Diaspora  in Kuwait) Beirut and Doha: The Arab Center, November 2018; Al-Thawrat al-Arabiyyah wa A’da’oha. (The Arab Revolutions and their Enemies) Al-Rayyes publishing, Lebanon: Beirut, November  2018.

Ghabra earned his BA from Georgetown University in 1975, his MA from Purdue University in 1983, and his PhD in Political Science from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987. He is the author of five books and numerous studies.

Anthony Livanios

International Economist and the CEO of U.S. Energy Stream

Anthony Livanios is an international economist and the CEO of U.S. Energy Stream. He founded US Energy Stream in 2011 with a mission to bring the highest intelligence to empower business and government leaders to thrive. He is a business owner who promotes entrepreneurship and industry thought leadership. He has over thirty years of international experience in living and working in four countries and seven cities. He has implemented international projects in fifty countries and has a proven track record in delivering shareholder returns. He is one of the industry’s most networked entrepreneurs.

He advised, negotiated, and achieved agreements on behalf of gas pipeline consortia, LNG companies, and high net worth individuals. He successfully accomplished FIDs on gas pipelines, LNG trading, geopolitical risk assessments, and market intelligence. He is passionate about teaching entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and government leaders sustainable oil and gas investments and the geopolitics of oil and gas. He is teaching the American oil and gas business in Houston, Washington, London, and Frankfurt. He has published economic policy and energy geopolitics papers at the Jamestown Foundation, Washington, DC, and the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Paris, France.

He was President of Poseidon Offshore Natural Gas Pipeline in Milan, Italy, Managing Director LNG Trading at M&M Gas in Athens, Greece, and CEO of Energy Stream in Frankfurt, Germany. During the 1990s he founded three firms, American  Research, Impact, and Alpha Metrics, to offer innovative services on market research and marketing campaigns.

Anthony has a Master’s in International Affairs, Columbia University, New York City, and a B.A. in Economics, American University, Washington, D.C. He speaks German, Greek, and some French. He lives with his wife Peggy a mechanical engineer in Houston, and have four children.

Mr. Adnan AlBahar

Mr. Al Bahar has served as the Chairman and Managing Director of The International Investor – Kuwait, a regional investment bank in Kuwait, since 1992. Mr. Al Bahar began his career with Burgan Bank, before becoming the General Manager of KFH from 1986-1990. Subsequently, he pursued his career in London for two years from 1990 to 1992 as the Managing Director for Al Rajhi Bank of Saudi Arabia. In 1992 he established The International Investor – Kuwait.

Throughout his career, Mr. Al Bahar has served on many national and regional Boards & Committees. He has been a member of the Higher Planning Board, served as Advisor to the Kuwaiti Parliament’s Finance Committee, was a Board Member of Kuwait Stock Exchange, a Board Member of the Kuwait Investment Authority, and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Unit Investment Trust -Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah among others.

Mr. Al Bahar holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business from the American College in Switzerland and a Banking Studies Diploma from Kuwait.

Dr. Jaime de Piniés Bianchi

Program Manager, Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions (EFI), MENA at the World Bank

Dr. Jaime de Piniés Bianchi is Program Manager, Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions (EFI), MENA at the World Bank dividing his time between operations with the Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment (MTI) Global Practice and supervising the quality of MENA’s Advisory Services & Analytics, including Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS).  In previous positions, de Piniés served as the Client Engagement Manager of the World Bank’s Global RAS Unit, as well as a Lead Economist working in MTI focusing on GCC countries.  He has also led regional studies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Prior to the Bank, de Piniés worked for over 25 years in the private sector both in banking and consulting; including Banco Santander where he was Head of Research, Chase Investment Bank as Chief Economist and Risk Manager and The Global Consulting Group as a Managing Director.  He has also worked in other international organizations, including the IMF and the United Nations, and has taught at The University of Texas at Austin and New York University. In addition, de Piniés has served as a board member of the American Management Association, The Global Consulting Group and Santander Investment.

de Piniés holds a PhD and MA in Economics from Princeton University, a BA from Harvard University and a Law degree from the UNED, Spain.  He has authored numerous articles and books on the economic and business climates.

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.

Barbara Slavin

Director of the Future of Iran Initiative and a Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council


Barbara Slavin is the director of the Future of Iran Initiative and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a lecturer in international affairs at George Washington University and a columnist for Al-Monitor.com, a website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. The author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation (2007), she is a regular commentator on US foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, and C-SPAN.

A career journalist, Slavin previously served as assistant managing editor for world and national security of the Washington Times, senior diplomatic reporter for USA TODAY, Cairo correspondent for the Economist, and as an editor at the New York Times Week in Review.

She has covered such key foreign policy issues as the US-led war on terrorism, policy toward “rogue” states, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. She has traveled to Iran nine times. Slavin also served as a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she wrote Bitter Friends, and as a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace, where she researched and wrote the report Mullahs, Money and Militias: How Iran Exerts Its Influence in the Middle East.

Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala

Director of Research and Content Development at WISE, an initiative of Qatar Foundation


Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala is the Director of Research and Content Development at WISE, an initiative of Qatar Foundation. She was a visiting fellow in the Department of School Education and Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois from 2018-2019, and served on the program committee of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s School of Public Policy.

Dr. Al-Fadala has twenty three years of professional experience in K-12 education and higher education inside and outside Qatar. In her current work at WISE, Dr. Al-Fadala is leading the research team in support of the QF CEO’s Office in a number of projects and initiatives, including the Empowering Leaders of Learning Program (ELL), which supports school leaders in navigating school improvement processes; the Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network (ALL-IN), an international network of school leadership experts and practitioners aimed at raising awareness of educational leadership policy globally through research and advocacy; and the WISE Innovation Lab Project, a K-12 education research initiative of Qatar Foundation focused on learner and educator development in progressive school settings.  Dr. Al-Fadala’s research interests include leadership for learning, school improvement, entrepreneurship education, teacher professional development, educational reform, innovation in education and SDGs.

Prior to joining WISE in 2014, Dr. Al-Fadala was an associate policy analyst at the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute. She has also taught in the College of Education at Qatar University, and worked at Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education as a teacher and then as the head of the science department. She is also a fellow at Qatar Leadership Centre (QLC), an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar. She is widely published in the field of educational leadership and policy, and author of the book Qatari School Leadership Portraits: Lessons Learned from Education for a New Era Reform (HBKU Press, 2019).

Dr. Al-Fadala is a member of the Comparative International Education Society (CIES), and the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI). She also serves as an advisor for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s education strategy and is a board member at Qatar Academy Sidra school in Doha. She is also a jury member for Riyada award, the Entrepreneurship Award in Oman. She is a board member at the Diplomatic Courier and a board member at the College of North Atlantic in Qatar. Dr. Al-Fadala holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Cambridge University, UK, in Educational Leadership and Policy, and an M.A. in science education from Brighton University.

Professor David Des Roches

Associate Professor, Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum


David Des Roches is currently Associate Professor of at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies. Prior to this, he was the Defense Department director responsible for policy concerning Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Prior to this assignment, he has served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, as senior country director for Pakistan, as NATO operations director, and as deputy director for peacekeeping. His first job in government was as a special assistant for strategy and later as the international law enforcement analyst in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He graduated from the United States Military Academy and obtained advanced degrees in Arab Politics from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, in War Studies from Kings College London, and Strategic Studies from the US Army War College. He has also attended the Federal Executive Institute, the German Staff College’s Higher Officer Seminar, the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and the US Army Command and General Staff College.

Dr. Cinzia Bianco

Visiting Fellow, the European Council on Foreign Relations


Dr. Bianco is a Visiting Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, based in Berlin, where she is working on political, security, and economic developments in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region and relations with Europe. Additionally, she is a senior analyst at Gulf State Analytics. Previously, Bianco was a research fellow for the European Commission’s project on EU-GCC relations ‘Sharaka’ between 2013 and 2014.

She holds an MA degree in the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King’s College London and a Ph.D. in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, where she worked on threat perceptions in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Rachel Ziemba

Founder, Ziemba Insights – Non-Resident Fellow, GIF


Ms. Ziemba is the founder of Ziemba Insights, a macroeconomics and policy due-diligence advisory firm. Additionally, Ms. Ziemba is an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and an Adjunct Lecturer at NYU, Center for Global Affairs. Ms. Ziemba is also a Strategist at Alpha Z Advisors and Advisor at Globalwonks. Her research focuses on the interlinkages between economics, finance and security issues. Her research topics include coercive economic policies such as sanctions, economic resilience and the role of state-owned investors including sovereign wealth funds.


October 20, 2020 @ 1:00 pm
October 23, 2020 @ 12:00 pm
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