On April 15, 2015 the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security hosted a private, off-the-record strategy session with Dr. Robert Malley, newly-appointed White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region. Middle East experts with experience in government, military, think tanks, and the private sector attended the strategy session, which covered major issues confronting the region, including the potential Iran nuclear deal, ongoing developments in Yemen, and soft security issues.

Implications of a potential nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran was at the forefront of the discussion, and many participants discussed whether a deal could really be “transformative” for the Middle East. The experts also addressed core US priorities in the region and the importance of deepening relationships with partner countries in the Gulf. Participants discussed the crisis in Yemen and Saudi-led airstrikes against the Houthis, highlighting the challenges the United States faces in negotiating the difficult political and military landscape in that state. The session also highlighted the struggles of Middle Eastern youth and the impact of damaging socioeconomic trends like high unemployment rates and the youth bulge that drive instability in the region.

Malley was appointed Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region last month after serving as Senior Director at the National Security Council. Prior to holding that title, he was Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, Assistant to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger (1996–1998), and the Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council (1994–1996).