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Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The mission of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is to honor the life and legacy of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by framing policy options for the transatlantic community aimed at encouraging and facilitating political legitimacy in the states of the Arab World. Pursuit of this mission rests on the following assumptions: that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; that political legitimacy exists when citizens agree on a political system embodying rules of political interaction; and that those rules prevail even as leaders and governments come and go and even as governmental performance and policies enjoy popularity or suffer rejection.

A Two-Pronged Strategy: End the Civil Wars and Unlock the Region’s Potential

The November 2016 final report of the Middle East Strategy Task Force (MEST), put forward by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, recommends a two-pronged strategy to break the cycle of conflict in the region. The Rafik Hariri Center builds off this strategy with original analysis and actionable recommendations focused on “Prong One” (largely top-down ending of current conflicts) and “Prong Two” (largely bottom-up unlocking of human potential) efforts. The Center works closely not only with both Washington-based experts and members of the US government, but also partners in the region—governmental, nongovernmental, and civil society—to lead more effective US-regional engagement.

Impact on the Transatlantic Community

The Rafik Hariri Center, with resident experts in the lead, examines the issues of conflict resolution, economic reconstruction/reform, and societal change, and offers rich opportunities for following up on the findings of MEST in ways that can produce timely, pertinent, and impactful policy recommendations for transatlantic decision makers. The Rafik Hariri Center develops policy options centered on three countries whose respective futures weigh heavily on the collective security prospects of the Middle East and North Africa and the transatlantic community: Syria, Libya, and Egypt. In all three countries, state failure would destabilize the security of neighbors, economic failure would unleash massive migration in the direction of Europe, and political illegitimacy would promote transnational terrorism. Indeed, instability in Syria and Libya has already begun to generate these dire consequences. Although Egypt’s current condition is nowhere near the disarray of the Arab conflict states, a failed Egyptian state—with a population of over ninety million—would dwarf the combined impacts of state failure in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen.

World-renowned Libya scholar Dr. Karim Mezran leads the Prong One effort in examining the challenges to stability in Libya and their spillover effects in North Africa. Faysal Itani addresses the ongoing conflict in Syria, and has launched a two-year project on Syria reconstruction to identify options that exist now and to develop a long-term plan to rebuild the country. Nonresident experts under the leadership of former Egyptian journalist Mirette Mabrouk seek to address the daunting economic, security, and societal challenges that Egypt faces through Prong Two strategies.

Advancing Global Engagement Since

complex regional issues cannot be solved in isolation, Rafik Hariri Center resident and nonresident experts also assess challenges from cross-border perspectives. Dr. Aaron Stein analyzes Turkish security, energy, and political interests in the Middle East region, to include Iraq and Syria. Dr. Stephen Grand leads a set of dialogues among US and Saudi mid-career policy experts and opinion leaders on the Saudi reform agenda. The Rafik Hariri Center seeks to also launch projects that explore other Prong Two topics including entrepreneurship and innovation, political Islam, Islamic revitalization, and establishing a regional development fund.