Annual Report July 21, 2020

Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East Programs

By The Atlantic Council

Advancing security and unlocking human potential in the Middle East.

As the region undergoes significant political and socioeconomic change, the council’s Middle East programming provides a forum for galvanizing the transatlantic community to work together to address the range of challenges and support opportunities for growth in the region. Through sub-regional, country- specific, and functional initiatives, the council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

2019 accomplishments

As the Middle East approaches the tenth anniversary of the Arab Spring, several countries across the region are witnessing popular protests demanding an end to corruption and foreign intervention and calling for improved economic opportunities. At the same time, the US withdrawal from Syria and perceived withdrawal from other parts of the region have reinvigorated a debate on the role of the United States in the Middle East. As China and Russia threaten to fill the international leadership void in the region, the Atlantic Council’s Middle East and North Africa team is at the forefront of helping policy makers navigate these complex dynamics.

In response to China and Russia’s expanding roles in the Middle East and North Africa, the center convened a full-day conference to release a report on the implications of great power competition in the region.

Additionally, the council’s Middle East experts have steered the conversation in Washington regarding the future of US-Iraq relations via its Iraq Initiative and various public and private events featuring the Iraqi foreign minister, the Iraqi speaker of parliament, the Iraqi finance minister, and the Iraqi ambassador to the United States.

In February, on the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the Future of Iran Initiative convened a day-long conference to examine the legacy and trajectory of the revolution and its impact on regional and transatlantic relations with Iran. In the lead-up to the conference, the intiative published a series of blogs on related issues on its IranSource blog. The program’s Iraq and Iran Initiative Directors Abbas Kadhim and Barbara Slavin also collaborated on a timely issue brief on succession scenarios for senior Shiite leaders in Iraq and Iran.

In June, the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative led a delegation of Middle East and Africa think tank experts to explore the rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics surrounding the Red Sea.

In addition to covering the ongoing security challenges across the region, the Rafik Hariri Center is laser-focused on spotlighting economic and human development issues. In April, the center hosted 2015 Nobel Peace Laureate Ouidad Bouchamaoui to discuss progress and challenges in Tunisia’s ongoing democratic transition. In the fall, in collaboration with the United Nations Regional Bureau of Arab States, the center previewed the forthcoming Arab Human Development Report.

2020 preview

2020 began with escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, quickly followed by a Russia–Saudi Arabia oil price war, and a global pandemic that hit parts of the region especially hard. All of this will have a major impact on the future of the US role in the region. Faced with an imminent withdrawal of US troops in Iraq and the continued withdrawal of US troops from Northern Syria, Council experts will remain purposeful in their efforts.


Annual Report

Jul 21, 2020

South Asia Center

By The Atlantic Council

Fostering partnerships with institutions and creating a forum for dialogue between decision makers in South Asia.

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Image: Image: An Iraqi demonstrator pastes a note with his wish at a wall of wishes, during ongoing anti-government protests, in Baghdad, Iraq November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousil