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Why Has the Gulf Failed to Form a Sustainable Defense Structure?


May 18, 2020
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm



Event’s Video:


Since the British withdrawal from the Gulf in 1971, the Arab Gulf states have failed to forge a successful mutual security arrangement for protection against external threats nor capable of resolving internal disputes. Gulf States had security concerns about both regional and global powers such as Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and especially Iran. The Arab Gulf states have long feared Iranian hegemonistic ambitions but the 1979 Islamic Revolution added the additional threat that revolutionary change might spill over to undermine monarchical rule in the six Gulf states. The event became the inflection point for the United States, which had until then attempted without much success to create defense arrangements for decades based on Iran, Iraq, and Turkey confronting the USSR such as the Baghdad Pact or the Reagan Administration’s attempt to strike an accord between the region and Israel. However, even the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981 excluded a defense pact, a concept unachievable even after the 1990 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The common perception of an Iranian threat to regional security today has still failed to mobilize the region. In fact, the 2014 Riyadh Agreement originally considered an attempt to bring the GCC States together to face a common enemy, sparked a row that culminated in the ongoing GCC crisis. Current American efforts to revive the concept of an Israel – Sunni Gulf States alliance seems to have foundered once again.

Speaker’s Bio:

General Anthony C. Zinni

The United States Marine Corps (ret.)

General Zinni was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1943 and raised in the Philadelphia area. He attended Saints Cosmos and Damian grade school and Saint Matthew’s High School in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Williamsburg, Virginia. His military, diplomatic, business, and academic career has taken him to over 100 countries.

Military Experience

General Zinni joined the Marine Corps’ Platoon Leader Class program in 1961 and was commissioned an infantry second lieutenant in 1965 upon graduation from Villanova University. He held numerous command and staff assignments that included platoon, company, battalion, regimental, Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Marine Expeditionary Force command. His staff assignments included service in operations, training, special operations, counter-terrorism, and manpower billets. He has been a tactics and operations instructor at several Marine Corps schools and was selected as a fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group.

General Zinni’s joint assignments included command of a joint task force and a unified command. He has also had several joint and combined staff billets at joint task force and unified command levels.

His military service includes deployments to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Western Pacific, Northern Europe, and Korea. He has also served tours of duty in Okinawa and Germany. His operational experiences included two tours in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded; emergency relief and security operations in the Philippines; Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey and northern Iraq; Operation Provide Hope in the former Soviet Union; Operations Restore Hope, Continue Hope, and United Shield in Somalia; Operations Resolute Response and Noble Response in Kenya; Operations Desert Thunder, Desert Fox, Desert Viper, Desert Spring, Southern Watch, and Maritime Intercept Operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf; and Operation Infinite Reach against terrorist targets in the Central Region. He was involved in the planning and execution of Operation Proven Force and Operation Patriot Defender during the Gulf War and noncombatant evacuation operations in Liberia, Zaire, Sierra Leone, and Eritrea.

He has attended numerous military schools and courses including the Army Special Warfare School, the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. General Zinni retired from the military in 2000 after commanding the US Central Command.

Military Awards

General Zinni’s 23 personal awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters; the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and Gold Star; the Purple Heart; the Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star; the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and Gold Star; the Navy Achievement Medal with Gold Star; the Combat Action Ribbon; and personal awards from Vietnam, France, Italy, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, and Bahrain. He also holds 37 unit, service, and campaign awards.

Diplomatic and Foreign Policy Experience

General Zinni has participated in presidential diplomatic missions to Somalia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and State Department missions involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and conflicts in the Persian Gulf region, Indonesia and the Philippines. He has worked in mediation and negotiation efforts with the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the US Institute of Peace, and the Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva. He has also been President of UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development, a Distinguished Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Honorary Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the Council’s Middle East Forum, a board member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, Chairman of the Board of the Institute of World Affairs, Co-Chair of the American Security Project, member of the board of the Henri Dunant Centre, member of the board of the Atlantic Council, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Policy Advisory Group, Chairman Emeritis of the Board of the Middle East Institute, a Camden Conference Fellow, member of the board of the Peace Research Endowment, member of the board of Inter Mediate, and Co-Chair of The Center for U.S. Global Engagement’s National Security Advisory Council.

Business Experience

General Zinni was Chairman, CEO, and President of a major defense company, Executive Vice President of an international government services company, and  President of International Operations for a manufacturing company. He has held positions on several boards of directors and advisors of major companies in the fields of government services, manufacturing, telecommunications, electronics, hospitality and hotels, defense industries, software development, financial services, shipbuilding, mining, cybersecurity, film making, energy, engineering design, and capital investment. He has also had his own consulting business working with companies in strategic planning, business development, international marketing, customer relations, communications, and leader development.

Academic Experience

General Zinni was the Terry Sanford Lecturer in Residence and Visiting Professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University and held the Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professorship at Cornell University. General Zinni has held academic positions that include the Stanley Chair in Ethics at the Virginia Military Institute; the Nimitz Chair at the University of California-Berkeley; the Hofheimer Chair at the Joint Forces Staff College; the Weisberg Chair at Beloit College; the Harriman Professor of Government Chair and membership on the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary; membership on the board of Villanova University’s Center for Responsible Leadership and Governance; membership in Villanova’s President’s Club and President’s Inner Circle Executive Committee; selection as a Carter O. Lowance Fellow in Law and Public Policy at the William and Mary Law School; Scholar in Residence at Villanova University, and selection as a Hedrick Fellow by the U. S. Coast Guard Academy. He is a Professor of Military Science at Old Dominion University. He has also lectured at numerous colleges and universities in the U. S. and abroad.

Public Service and Membership Experience

General Zinni was appointed by the Governor as a member of the Virginia Commission on Military Bases and as a Military Aide-de-camp to the Governor of The Commonwealth of Virginia. He was also a member of the Duke of Gloucester Society of Colonial Williamsburg, the Board of Trustees of Colonial Williamsburg, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Marine Corps League, the Marine Corps Association, the Board of Directors of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the board of the Marines Memorial Foundation, the Comptroller General’s Advisory Board of the Government Accountability Office, The National Constitution Center Board of Trustees, the Board of Trustees of Benedictine College Preparatory, Honorary Campaign Chair for the McMahon Parater Foundation, the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Legal Clinic, and the Defense Analysis Committee for the Center for Naval Analysis.

Civilian Education

General Zinni holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Villanova University; a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Salvae Regina College; a Master of Arts degree in Management and Supervision from Central Michigan University; a Master of Science degree in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University, and honorary doctorates from Villanova University, William and Mary College, and the Maine Maritime Academy. Currently, he is working on his doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Leadership at Creighton University.

Civilian Awards

General Zinni’s civilian awards and honors include the Papal Gold Cross of Honor; the Union League’s Abraham Lincoln Award; the Italic Studies Institute’s Global Peace Award; the Distinguished Service Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars; the Chapman Award from the Marine Corps University Foundation; the Commodore Barry Distinguished Citizen Award from the Navy League of the United States; the Penn Club Award; the Marconi Award from the Order of the Sons of Italy; the Saint Thomas of Villanova Alumni Award; the Creighton University Graduate School Alumni Merit Award; the George P. Shultz Award for Public Service from the US State Department; the UNICO Grand Patriot Award; The UNICO Freedom Award; the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Semper Fidelis Award; the Avon Old Farms School  Founder’s Award; the National Italian American Foundation’s Basilone award; the Villanova Loyalty Award; the Wallach Peacemaker Award; the Sons of the Revolutionary War Society Gold Good Citizenship Medal, the Civil Affairs Association General John H. Hilldring Award, and the Legacy Impact Hall of Fame..

Studies and Publishe Work

General Zinni has participated on a number of studies on subjects that include environmental security, national security, diplomacy, genocide prevention, and leadership issues.  He has written numerous articles, oped pieces, and monographs. He has also co-authored a New York Times Best seller book on his career with Tom Clancy entitled Battle Ready and a foreign policy book entitled The Battle For Peace that was also a New York Times Best Seller and a Foreign Affairs Bestseller. He has written a book on leadership, Leading the Charge, published in 2009 and a national security policy book, Before the First Shots are Fired, published in 2014.

Moderated by:

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 Visiting Scholar 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.


May 18, 2020
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


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