Recent Events

On October 10, 2017, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a panel discussion on the recent Kurdish referendum and the state of Iraqi-Kurdish relations. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, the director of the Hariri center, moderated the event. Ambassador Stuart Jones, Dr. Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee, and Dr. Denise Natali contributed to the discussion as panelists. Ambassador Jones is currently the vice president of The Cohen Group and has extensive experience with Iraqi affairs from his former career at the US Department of States. Dr. Al-Qarawee, a nonresident senior fellow at the Hariri Center, previously a lecturer at Baghdad University and was a member of the Atlantic Council’s Task Force on the Future of Iraq chaired by Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Dr. Natali is the director of the Center for Strategic Research at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) and is an expert on the Kurdish regions of Iraq.

During the discussion, each of the panel participants highlighted different issues regarding the Kurdish crisis. Dr. Al-Qarawee began by examining the various motivating factors behind the Kurdish push for independence. He pointed out the ineffective, oil-dependent Iraqi government institutions, the prevalence of de facto politics over constitutional politics, and the continual failure of the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to agree on borders and oil resources. Furthermore, Dr. Qarawee discussed how Sunni Muslims share some of the grievances of the Kurds and noted that the Kurdish situation serves as both a challenge and opportunity for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Dr. Natali emphasized that the road to Kurdish independence is not a “one way street” and was influenced by many complex variables. She noted that although the leadership such as Prime Minister al-Abadi and KRG President Masoud Barzani will attempt to be rational in negotiations, some of the militias and other groups present in Iraq may try to take advantage of this sensitive situation. Furthermore, Dr. Natali emphasized the complex nature of the situation, pointing out the numerous other countries, such as Iran and Turkey, involved in the conflict and the many differences that exist within the KRG and other Kurdish groups.

Ambassador Jones touched on the inevitability of the referendum and the role that the United States should play going forward in the Kurdish crisis. In particular, he recommended that, for the time being, the United States continue to adopt a policy of “wait and see,” allowing things to play out on the ground as long as conflict is not imminent. Additionally, Ambassador Jones mentioned the moderate, restrained position that Prime Minister al-Abadi has taken toward the conflict and the role that he has played in developing ties separate from Iran. Ambassador Jones closed by voicing hope for the development of a positive atmosphere of negotiation in Iraq that prevents violence and conflict.
On June 20, 2017, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East launched a new report, The Origins and Evolution of ISIS in Libya. The report is authored by Jason Pack, Rhiannon Smith, and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Karim Mezran.

Jason Pack is the Founder and Director of Eye on ISIS in Libya and Rhiannon Smith is the Managing Director of Eye on ISIS in Libya. Mezran moderated a discussion between Pack, Smith, and Associate Director at the RAND Corporation Christopher Chivvis. Hariri Center Deputy Director and Director for Research & Programs Mirette F. Mabrouk introduced the event. 
On May 10, 2017, Rafik Hariri Center Deputy Director and Director for Research & Programs Mirette F. Mabrouk moderated a discussion with women leaders from the Gulf about progress and challenges for Gulf women.

Amal Almoallimi is assistant to the secretary general of the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue and a board member of the Saudi Human Rights Commission. Hamda Al-Sulaiti is secretary general of the Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture, and Science. Lubna Al-Kadi is founder and director of the Women’s Research and Studies Center in Kuwait. 
On April 24, 2017, Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Faysal Itani moderated a discussion with Syria’s White Helmet’s Jehad Mahameed and Manal Abazeed on the war on civilians, the use of chemical weapons, and the case for a no-fly zone in southern Syria.

Jehad Mahameed is the liaison officer of the Syria Civil Defense (SCD). He is from Deraa and was one of the original founders of the local civil defense committee in Deraa in 2011. Manal Abazeed is a Syria Civil Defense (SCD) volunteer in Daraa. She joined the White Helmets in April 2015 and specializes in public safety education and awareness. Her training covers explosive weapons, trauma counseling, and childbirth. Faysal Itani is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, where he focuses primarily on the Syrian conflict and its regional impact. The Syria Campaign’s Kenan Rahmani was an interpreter for the event.
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion with Dr. Osama Kadi, president of the Syrian Economic Task Force; Mr. Todd Diamond, Middle East director of Chemonics International; Ms. Mona Yacoubian, former deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development; and Mr. Bassam Barabandi, former Syrian diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change. Hariri Center Senior Fellow Mr. Faysal Itani moderated the discussion. Mr. Omar Shawaf, chairman and founder of BINAA, gave opening remarks.

Shawaf introduced the two-year Syrian reconstruction initiative in his opening remarks. He reminded the audience that the future of the Middle East and its people is at stake in Syria, and that the conflict will continue to have implications that reach far beyond the Levant. Shawaf also touched on international engagement in Syria, saying that Russia should rethink its Syria policy and Iranian expansion in the region should not go unchallenged. He urged for the construction of a framework, comprised of relevant expertise, to help rebuild Syria.
On March 17, 2017, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center hosted a discussion with Congressman Adam Kinzinger to discuss America’s role in the Middle East and the world. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, director of the Hariri Center, moderated the event.

Kinzinger began by emphasizing that self-governance should be one of America’s mission statements for the world. He said that the Soviet Union’s dissolution was mainly due to the change in ideas among its citizens: the Soviet people saw Western life as a model and started to demand their freedom from the Soviet government. Kinzinger noted, however, that unlike during the Cold War era, there are now multiple “iron curtains” such as ISIS, authoritarian regimes, and discrimination. He explained that another mission statement of America should be to recognize those curtains and pull them down, and underscored that America’s most important goal in the Middle East should be to bring freedom.
On Monday, March 13, 2017, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion featuring Dr. Kristin Smith Diwan, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington; Dr. H.A. Hellyer, nonresident senior fellow at the Hariri Center; Dr. Haykel Ben Mahfoud, nonresident fellow at the Hariri Center; and Dr. Karim Mezran, senior fellow at the Hariri Center. Ms. Mirette F. Mabrouk, deputy director and director for research and programs at the Hariri Center, moderated the event. The panelists, representing different regional backgrounds, discussed their perspectives on US foreign policy in the Middle East. Please find the video recording below, as well as an exclusive interview with Dr. H.A. Hellyer about the future of US-Egyptian relations. 
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion on March 9, 2017 with Ms. Nebras Attia, human rights activist; Dr. Federica Saini Fasanotti, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Ms. Azza Maghur, senior lawyer at Maghur & Partners; Dr. Jason Pack, executive director of the US-Libya Business Association; and Amb.Jonathan Winer, former US special envoy for Libya at the US Department of State. Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Dr. Karim Mezran moderated the discussion and Hariri Center Director Amb. Frederic Hof gave opening remarks.
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion on February 13, 2017 with H.E. Khaled Alyemany, permanent representative of Yemen to the United Nations; Ms. Nadwa Al-Dawsari, nonresident senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy; and Hariri Center Nonresident Fellow Mr. Mohammed Alyahya and Nonresident Senior Fellow Dr. Nabeel Khoury. Ms. Mirette F. Mabrouk, deputy director and director for research and programs at the Hariri Center, moderated the event.
On Thursday, January 12, 2017 the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion on a strategy for the next administration for combating al-Qaeda in Syria. The panel included Jennifer Cafarella, lead intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War; Sasha Ghosh Siminoff, president and co-founder of People Demand Change; Hassan Hassan, senior fellow at the Tahrir Insitute for Middle East Policy; Faysal Itani, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; and Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. The discussion was moderated by Margaret Brennan, foreign affairs and White House correspondent for CBS News, and featured introductory remarks by Nancy Okail, executive director at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. The panelists discussed the contents of a new report sponsored by the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Combating Al-Qaeda in Syria: A Strategy for the Next President, which they and other experts contributed to.


    

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