WASHINGTON—The Atlantic Council today named Michele Dunne, a former White House and State Department official, as the director of its new Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The center will begin its operations this week in Washington, D.C.

“Michele brings to the Council both a rich understanding of the Washington policy process and of the forces driving the Arab awakening,” said Frederick Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council. “She is the perfect person to lead our efforts to galvanize a transatlantic response, working as well with other global partners, to the historic upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Dunne has served in the White House on the National Security Council staff, on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and in its Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and as a diplomat in Cairo and Jerusalem. She most recently worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she was editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin and co-chair of the Working Group on Egypt. A fluent Arabic speaker, she is one of America’s leading specialists on the region and holds a doctorate in Arabic language and literature from Georgetown University.

Named for the late Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated in 2005, the Atlantic Council’s new center will reflect Hariri’s efforts to rise above the Middle East’s sectarianism and promote innovative policies to advance economic, social, civil and political liberalization and sustainable conflict resolution. The center will cooperate with experts and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Russia, and North America to advance closer economic and political cooperation among the three regions.

“My father believed that many of the answers to our region’s problems would come over time through greater political, social, civil and economic convergence with Europe and the United States,” said Bahaa Hariri, the late prime minister’s eldest son and a prominent business leader, whose founding gift made this new initiative possible. “No organization can better capture that mission than the Atlantic Council.”