Recent Events

On June 26, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East in collaboration with Arab Barometer held a public event to release the Arab Barometer's latest public opinion survey data from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. The data covered topics such as the state of the economy, institutional trust, migration, government performance, media consumption, corruption, and foreign relations. Following their presentation, Arab Barometer experts Dr. Mark Tessler and Dr. Kathrin Thomas joined Iraq Initiative Director Dr. Abbas Kadhim and Nonresident Senior Fellow Faysal Itani for a panel discussion moderated by Wall Street Journal reporter Vivian Salama.

IMG 0051

Watch the event here.

On Monday, June 10, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a public discussion on the economic challenges facing the region.

Hariri Center Deputy Director Tuqa Nusairat welcomed guests and framed the discussion. Dr. Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia department at the International Monetary Fund, then presented the findings of the IMF’s 2019 Regional Economic Outlook (REO) for the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Dr. Azour emphasized four major factors impacting the region’s economics: slowed global growth (projected to drop from 3.6 to 3.3 percent this year); lower and more volatile oil prices; lower external demand, particularly from key trading partners (China, Europe, and Russia); and uncertain global financial conditions. Slow progress in improving employment rates since 2011 has fueled rising discontent as well as hindered growth. Dr. Azour outlined several fiscal and structural policy recommendations for both oil-exporting and oil-importing countries in the region. He advised that the former resume gradual consolidation, insulate the economy from oil shocks, strengthen fiscal institutions, improve business environment and governance, increase SME access to finance, and invest in human and physical capital. He advised that the latter also pursue growth-friendly consolidation, initiate targeted social transfers and restructuring and digitization of SOEs, increase exchange rate flexibility, improve access to credit and the business environment, and undertake product and labor market reforms. 

This recap originally appeared in The New AtlanticistWatch the video.

While the United States and China grapple over trade, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, and geopolitical tensions in East Asia, open competition has not yet extended to the Middle East, a region where Washington remains a major player and Beijing has rapidly expanded its influence.

This recap originally appeared in The New Atlanticist. Watch the video

Russia’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is just the beginning of Moscow’s designs on the wider Middle East, Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, warned on May 30.

On Wednesday, April 10, the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs hosted a discussion with Nobel Laureate Ouidad Bouchamaoui for a roundtable discussion on Ms. Bouchamaoui’s experience during the Tunisian revolution, current affairs, and hopes for Tunisia’s future. The discussion, moderated by Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson, touched on how Libya’s conflict can potentially affect Tunisia’s security, the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, and the role Ms. Bouchamaoui believes Tunisia should play in the region moving forward.

This recap originally appeared in The New Atlanticist

The eventual goal of the mainly-Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) should be “to become part of the fabric of a changed Syrian society,” US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on December 17. Distancing the United States from the prospect of supporting SDF or other Kurdish groups as autonomous from a future Syrian government, Jeffrey said “we do not have permanent relationships with substate entities. That is not the policy of this administration and has not been the policy of other administrations.”

On Tuesday, October 9th, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a conference to discuss the nature of foreign involvement in ongoing conflicts in the region as well as the resilience of Jihadism in the post-2011 period. The conference coincided with the launching of a report, “The Arc of Crisis in the MENA Region: Fragmentation, Decentralization, and Islamist Opposition,” which explores a number of trends in governance that have emerged since the Arab Spring.
On Thursday, September 6th, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a conference to discuss the universe of Islamic tradition and the reality on the ground for people who exist in the human rights discourse, including the abuses of it. The panel coincided with the launching of a report, “The Islamic Tradition and the Human Rights Discourse,” in which scholars, practitioners, and activists explore the questions of Islamic tradition and human rights discourse by presenting new stories of minorities, analysis of law, and geographies beyond the question of compatibility.
On April 25, Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion of experts on the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election, post-election dynamics, alliances to form a new government that may emerge, what political and constitutional reforms the next government needs to adopt, and how the election may impact US-Iraq elections. The panel featured Ambassador Feisal al-Istrabadi, Ambassador Rend al-Rahim, Dr. Harith Hasan al-Qarawee, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and was moderated by Vivian Salama of NBC News.
On February 13, 2018, the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a panel discussion on Iraq’s energy potential. Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar, chairman and founding director of the Council’s Global Energy Center, gave opening remarks. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, the director of the Hariri Center, moderated the event. Dr. Luay Al-Khatteeb, Dr. Harith Hasan, and Ms. Ellen Scholl contributed to the discussion as panelists. Dr. Luay Al-Khatteeb is the founding director of the Iraq Energy Institute and a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Dr. Harith Hasan is nonresident senior fellow at the Council’s and leads its Iraq Initiative. Ms. Ellen Scholl is deputy director at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and has an extensive background in energy issues and energy-related legislative work.

During the discussion, each of the panel participants highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing Iraq’s energy potential. Ellen Scholl acknowledged that Iraq has achieved significant production increases in the past, but addressed the current need to create certainty for future and continuing investments. To achieve this, resource development and revenue sharing need to be considered and Iraq needs to address the unresolved political issues between the central government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to eliminate political risk for investors. Addressing these obstacles is extremely important at a time when the country is being rebuilt, as the resources from the oil industry would be essential to those efforts.