Bilal Y. Saab

Resident Senior Fellow and Director of Middle East Peace and Security Initiative,
Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security

Saab Bilal

Expert Connect

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Arab transitions, Arms control, Counterterrorism, Defense industry, GCC, International Security, Middle East Security, Religious extremism, Syrian Conflict, US Defense Policy, US policy in the Middle East , US-Gulf relations


Gulf, Levant


Arabic, French
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Full Bio

Bilal Y. Saab is a subject matter expert on Middle East security and politics with a particular focus on the countries of the Levant (primarily Lebanon and Syria) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). Currently, he is senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, where he chairs the Gulf Policy Working Group and Middle East Crisis Simulation Series. He also is a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of several research organizations in the United States and the Middle East. A monthly columnist with The National, Bilal has fluency in both written and spoken French and Arabic.

A recipient of the Thought Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council and of the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Award from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Saab has more than 14 years of experience working as a political-military analyst, advisor, and corporate manager on the Middle East. He is often called upon to brief various executive and legislative agencies in the US Government. He also has testified in public hearings in the US Congress. In addition, he has lectured at various universities in the United States and spoken at a number of high-level terrorism and security conferences in Europe. He is part of a Track 2 network of scholars, scientists, and diplomats who focus on arms control, nonproliferation, and regional security in the Middle East and meet three times per year. His extensive writing has been published in reputable academic journals and policy outlets including Middle East Journal, Nonproliferation Review, Middle East Policy, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Washington Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, National Interest, and New Republic. Saab has written for global newspapers and magazines including New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and Christian Science Monitor. He appears regularly on various shows and editions of CNN, BBC, NPR, France 24, Al Jazeera, and Al Arabiya.

Saab served as the founding executive director and head of research of the Washington D.C. office of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, responsible for directing the strategic operations, research programs and growth activities of the Dubai-based company. For more than seven years, he was a regular senior contributor on the Middle East to various IHS Jane's publications. With the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, he was a non-resident scholar (previously also a visiting fellow), advising CNS on a number of large projects pertaining to arms control, regional security, nonproliferation, and military affairs in the Middle East. From 2006 to 2009, he was a research analyst at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Despite his relatively young age and junior position during his time at Brookings, Saab often assumed the responsibilities of a senior fellow, conducting research independently, speaking at US and international forums, briefing US Government agencies, publishing analyses and papers, planning high-level trips to the region, and providing commentary to US and international media. Prior to joining Brookings, Saab served as chief officer and editor of the Middle East Desk at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom, where he was a british council scholar. At the CSTPV, he led a team of twelve researchers who tracked down and analyzed terrorist incidents in the Middle East. Previously, he worked at the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut and managed numerous research projects on good governance in the Arab world, including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Before that, he conducted research on political and economic development in the Middle East at the Middle East Institute and on post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq at the Post Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), both think tanks based in Washington D.C.

Saab holds an M.A. in International Security Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park; an M.Litt in International Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland; and a B.A. in Political Science and Public Administration from the American University of Beirut.