In the Gulf region, increasing Iranian interference in the air and maritime domains, the proliferation of combat arms to non-state actors, violent extremist activity, and strategic competition with Russia and China represent serious and persistent threats to regional security. These issues, coupled with a US shift in focus to the Indo-Pacific, bring to the fore an old question of how to best protect US and partner interests in the region, particularly as America reduces its presence. The military capabilities to protect oil tankers and other vessels have improved vastly since the re-flagging of Kuwaiti tankers in 1987 and 1988. However, through its threat network and asymmetric capabilities, Iran is poised to remain an enduring threat to regional stability. Policymakers must seriously consider a leading role for Gulf states in providing for their own security, with US support. Despite considerable investments in defense and security, it does not appear that Gulf states are yet prepared to take on this responsibility. It is in the United States’ best interest to work more effectively with its Gulf partners to fundamentally change this. Our team of experts, whose US government experience includes senior roles at the Department of Defense, Department of State, White House, and Intelligence Community, seeks to shape this new, enduring strategy, with an eye on sustainable success in protecting both US and partner interests in the Gulf.

LTG (Ret.) Mick Bednarek
Former Chief of the US Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq; Former Commander of the US First Army
Simone Ledeen
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East Policy
Dr. Michael S. Bell
Professor, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University
Hon Mary Beth Long
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Hon R. Clarke Cooper
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
VADM (Ret.) Fozzie Miller
Former Commander
US Naval Forces Central Command/Combined Maritime Forces/US Fifth Fleet
VADM (Ret) Kevin M. Donegan
Former Commander
US Naval Forces Central Command/Combined Maritime Forces/US Fifth Fleet
RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery
Former Policy Director
US Senate Armed Services Committee
Andrew Exum
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy
VADM (Ret.) Peter Neffenger
Former Vice Commandant
US Coast Guard
Former Administrator
US Transportation Security Administration
Amb (Ret.) Tom Krajeski
Former US Ambassador to Bahrain and Yemen
CSM (Ret.) Cynthia A. Pritchett
Strategic Planner and CENTCOM Liaison, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies
National Defense University
Amb (Ret.) Greta Holtz
Former US Charge d’Affaires in Qatar and former US Ambassador in Oman
Norm Roule
Former National Intelligence Manager for Iran
LTG (Ret.) Charles Hooper
Former Director
Defense Security Cooperation Agency
Amb (Ret.) Justin Siberel
Former US Ambassador to Bahrain
LTG (Ret.) Michael Nagata
Former Director of Strategy
National Counterterrorism Center
Former Commander
Matt Spence
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy
Amb (Ret.) Richard LeBaron
Atlantic Council Nonresident Senior Fellow; Former US Ambassador to Kuwait
Atlantic Council Team
Kirsten Fontenrose
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
Atlantic Council
Former Senior Director for the Gulf
National Security Council
Tom Warrick
Non-Resident Senior Fellow
Atlantic Council
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Counterterrorism
William F. Wechsler
Director, Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs
Atlantic Council
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combatting Terrorism
Commander Daniel Vardiman
Senior US Navy Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security
Atlantic Council
Caroline Donnal
Former Consultant, Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
Atlantic Council

The future of counterterrorism: Twenty years after 9/11

National security experts examine how the United States and its allies and partners must reimagine their counterterrorism strategies to counter the next terrorist threat.

Explore the series Watch the launch

Issue briefs and reports

Oct 20, 2020

Improving counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the Arab Gulf States

By Thomas S. Warrick, Joze Pelayo

Thomas S. Warrick and Joze Pelayo present recommendations to improve and increase cooperation in civilian counterterrorism, law enforcement, border security, and aviation security between the United States and the Arab countries of the Gulf.

Defense Industry Defense Policy

All content

New Atlanticist

May 23, 2024

General CQ Brown, Jr., on the US role in Gaza, Ukraine, and other crises around the world

By Katherine Walla

It’s time to plan for the long term in the Middle East, the general said at an Atlantic Council event.

Conflict Crisis Management

New Atlanticist

May 21, 2024

Congress should save the Sentinel ICBM—its true value is more than simply its cost

By James McCue

The value of the new intercontinental ballistic missile program should be measured over its full lifetime and not just by its current price tag.

Defense Technologies National Security

In the News

May 20, 2024

Polymeropoulos on a Cipher Brief podcast about Havana Syndrome

On May 20, Forward Defense nonresident senior fellow Marc Polymeropoulos spoke on a Cipher Brief podcast titled “Is Russia Attacking U.S. Government Employees Using High-Energy Weapons?” about Havana Syndrome.

Conflict Intelligence

New Atlanticist

May 17, 2024

NATO must ‘win up front but be ready to win long’ in modern warfare, says General Christopher Cavoli

By Katherine Walla

At an Atlantic Council Front Page event, Cavoli spoke about the war in Ukraine, NATO’s modernization efforts, the China challenge, and more.

Defense Industry Defense Policy

In the News

May 5, 2024

Polymeropoulos cited in The Spectator “Is Havana Syndrome real?”

On May 5, Forward Defense nonresident senior fellow Marc Polymeropoulos was cited in a Spectator article by John Foreman about Havana Syndrome.

Intelligence Non-Traditional Threats

In the News

May 5, 2024

Starling and Gen. Cartwright publish in Defense One emphasizing the value of a new image for special operations forces

On May 5, Forward Defense Director Clementine Starling and Atlantic Council Board Director General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), published commentary in Defense One about the value that special operations forces (SOF) have in today’s great power competition. They argued that SOF should reinforce not only their direct-action capabilities, but also the indirect competencies—special reconnaissance, […]

Conflict Crisis Management

In the News

May 2, 2024

Vinograd on CBS about President Biden’s comments on university campus protests for Palestine

On May 2, Forward Defense Nonresident Senior Fellow Samantha Vinograd appeared on CBS News commented on the public safety factors in President Biden’s comments about student protests for Palestine on university campuses.

Civil Society Conflict

In the News

Apr 25, 2024

Brooks interviewed for History Channel “The Great War”

On April 25, it was announced that an interview with Forward Defense nonresident senior fellow Max Brooks will be included in The History Channel’s upcoming two-part documentary series “The Great War” premiering on May 27-28. “The Great War” explores the critical years of 1917 and 1918, weaving together the stories of three different groups showcasing […]

Conflict Defense Policy

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic 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.

Sign up for all the latest updates!

Sign up for the MENASource newsletter, highlighting pieces that follow democratic transitions and economic changes throughout the region.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.