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HomeIndo-PacificEvan Feigenbaum: The U.S. and the Indo-Pacific Region

Evan Feigenbaum: The U.S. and the Indo-Pacific Region

The following are the opening remarks of Evan Feigenbaum, Vice President of Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, during a keynote session for the 2022 East Asia Strategy Forum hosted in Ottawa by the Institute of Peace & Diplomacy and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. The dialogue, moderated by APF Canada’s CEO Jeff Nanikvell, featured Feigenbaum’s perspectives on Washington’s foreign policy towards the Indo-Pacific and great power competition.

First, I want to thank the Institute and I want to thank the Foundation. I want to thank Jeff and Jeff. It was easy to have two Jeffs. It’s very good to be back in Ottawa. I haven’t been here since before the pandemic. It’s been for me, as I’m sure it’s been for you, a very strange few years. About four months into the pandemic, my then boss, Bill Burns, called me and he said, “How’re you doing? You’re hold up okay?” And I said, “There are a lot of things I could have done with my life, and I picked international affairs, and I haven’t left my kitchen in about four or five months.” And so, it’s good to be back on the road and to see Canadian colleagues and friends. Thanks for having me.

I’ve been asked to talk to you about the United States and the Indo-Pacific. If you have spent more than two minutes and 27 seconds in Washington, D.C., where I hail from, anytime in the last few years, you will know that that story, generally speaking, begins with security balancing of China. The middle of the story is security balancing of China. And then the end of the story is security balancing of China. If you all want to talk about security balancing of China, I am very happy to do that in the conversational part of this. But if, by contrast, you’ve spent more than two minutes and 27 seconds out in the region rather than just in Washington, D.C., you will, of course, know that this part of the world is not just complex, which is a bit of a cliché, but it is multifaceted, it is multidimensional, and in a lot of areas that matter to governments and firms and market participants and people, it is increasingly multipolar.

And so, that’s what I thought I would use the setup to talk about how the United States in the Indo-Pacific is or is not navigating what I would call three collisions that I think reflect the region that actually exists rather than the ones of American wishes, dreams, and fantasies. The first of those is the collision between economics and security. The second is the collision between coalition building and some of the realities of fragmentation, not least among democracies in this part of the world on issues and functions that matter, as I said, greatly. And then third, the collision between America’s approach to strategic competition with China and, with a few exceptions, what I would characterize as pretty much everyone else’s approach to the same. You asked me to talk for about 15, 20 minutes. I’ll take about five minutes on each of those three, and I’ll try and provoke you a little bit.

And then if you want, we can just ignore it all and go back to security balancing of China and talk about Taiwan. Okay? All right. On the first, to my mind, the central strategic dynamic in this part of the world, other than the obvious one, which is the increasingly confrontational relationship between the U.S. and China, is what I would call the collision between economics and security. Or to put that another way, between economic integration and security fragmentation. 10 years ago, I wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine with a colleague of mine, a guy named Bob Manning, called “A Tale of Two Asias.” And essentially what we did was we told a kind of Jekyll and Hyde story about this part of the world, and how it had evolved over the previous couple of decades. On the one hand, you had… we called it economic Asia.

This is a region with, however you count who’s in or out, $25, $30 trillion regional economy, countries that are growing together, trading together, investing together, building together in many areas. They’re innovating together. And they’re building an Indo-Pacific with East Asia as the anchor that is really, in many ways, the most economically successful part of the world over the last several decades. But then, and now I can tell you the story of the same region in a completely different way, security Asia. The same countries that are trading, building, investing, growing, and innovating together are, in many cases, beset by powerful nationalisms. They have territorial disputes, they’re building blue water navies, they’re arming for conflict. And pathologies that a lot of people thought were frozen in time have essentially roared back front and center with a vengeance. And so, in that dynamic and the push and pull between those, there’s the question of how major countries that have both economic and security interests navigate that duality.

Now, from the 1990s until, I’d say 2010-ish, I would’ve told you that economic Asia was decidedly winning this contest. The reason for that was really twofold; one is the Asian financial crisis. When a lot of governments and frankly a lot of people looked at each other and said, “What the hell is security if your economy can just be blown up in an afternoon?” Maybe security and conceptions of security need to be broader than just military security. But then second, American policy had something to do with this. And in fact, bad American policy had something to do with this, and particularly to the turn by many Asian countries to one another to navigate some of these challenges. You remember, the United States bailed out Mexico in 1994, then refused to bail out Thailand three years later and paid a price. I would argue among many Southeast Asians for that.

That’s been the dynamic. But from 2010 on, a lot of security issues really roared back front and center. You heard a little bit about it from Ariana. I understand it was front and center in a lot of your discussion yesterday. We hear about it, as I said, in Washington, D.C., and in Beijing, China on a daily basis. And so, this security fragmentation threatens to overwhelm a lot of the economic integration that had been so important to people, firms, markets, governments, and the future of that part of the world. Now, that’s a challenge for the United States, despite all the talk about security balancing, because the region has evolved a lot in the face of that push and pull. If I think about American leadership in this part of the world, particularly in the period after the Cold War, the United States was a leader because it was the principal provider in the first instance of security-related public goods through its alliances, its forward deployed military presence, carrier battle groups.

It was the security provider either directly for its security allies or indirectly for those countries who basically were taken a free ride off the security of public goods that the U.S. presence provides, except for who? China, which, in a lot of ways, objects to elements of that presence. When I project out over the next five or 10 years, there’s really no challenge to that American role. Because until China and Japan have a moment that is analogous to the one that France and Germany have had in Europe, there’s no basis for collective security in the Pacific. And if there’s no basis for collective security in the Pacific, then the United States was, is, and as far as my eyes can see, going to continue to be an important, and in many cases, principle provider of security for nearly everybody, but who? China. And so, the security questions involve investing in alliances and partnerships, modernizing platforms, ensuring access.

These are operational issues. They’re not fundamental existential strategic issues because there’s no basis for collective security. But that security role, as Kevin, Alice, and others know, that was not the whole story of the American role in the region. The United States was also a leader because it was the principal source of demand for a lot of Asia’s export-led economies to power their way to prosperity, and it was a leader on standard setting and across and behind the border liberalization as that became a major issue on the agenda. So, there’s no basis for collective security, and the United States will continue to be a major security provider. But if I look down the road, I see the U.S. demand profile in many areas shrinking, not in absolute terms, but in relative terms, U.S. trade with every country in Asia has gone up in absolute terms. It’s declining almost everywhere in relative terms.

And if your role as a demand driver is shrinking, then you need to fall back for economic leadership on what? On that other pillar to be a standard-setting nation. The last panel talked a little bit about some of the trade agreements and packs that are setting standards in this part of the world. So, there are three, for example, that people tend to focus on: the regional comprehensive economic partnership; the comprehensive and progressive transpacific partnership; the digital economy partnership agreement. Three agreements that will help to set standards for the next generation in this region. Guess who’s not in any of those three? The United States is on the outside looking in. And guess who else is not in any of those three? India. So, the United States premises its strategy for this part of the world on, as I said in the setup, the Indo-Pacific. But in this area, the largest economy in the Indo, and the largest economy across the Pacific are both missing in action.

And if you ain’t got no Indo and you ain’t got no Pacific, you’re back to the centrality of Asia. And that is not a region or a set of challenges that American strategy or policy has figured out how to navigate. Now, the good news is that there are a lot of issues and functions that are beyond the scope of those agreements or other existing patterns of agreement between powers and players in this part of the world. Digital trade’s a good example. There’s a lot of bad cross-border data that is in play.

But the bad news, and this comes to my second point, is that a lot of the countries that the United States wants to lean most heavily on to counterbalance Chinese power actually are not on the same page as American policy in a lot of those areas. Data governance is a good example. Okay? In 2019, Prime Minister Abe of Japan was in the chair of the G20, and he had something called the Osaka Track, the Osaka Initiative on Data Governance, which he called free flow of data with trust. And guess who refused to sign up to it? India in the first instance, Indonesia in the second instance. Two successful consolidated Asian democracies, one of which is a member of the Quad. The United States is banking heavily on India to counterbalance the rise of Chinese power. Indonesia, a country the United States would like to bank on heavily to counterbalance the rise of Chinese power. So, on a lot of these issues, not just data governance, but issues in functions that touch the interstices between economics and security, economics and technology, open data, cross-border data, online authentication, and data access control. There is no one set of rules, standards, or prevailing norms.

And in many major economies, the ones that prevail are not necessarily the ones that are to American liking. India’s the best example of this. I mean, look at the debates in India, for example, on data localization, where both the law enforcement authority and, frankly, the privacy regulator have an approach to localization that requires most data to be stored locally. And that’s a function of the Indian system, privacy regulators, law enforcement, they don’t want Indian citizens’ data stored in servers offshore.

They want to be able to access that. The point is the region is developing because of that; different models, and rules, and standards, and is heading, in many areas, for something that I would characterize more as fragmentation than as integration. Why do I say the United States needs to struggle with that collision? Because it’s beyond the scope of the way a lot of American strategists talk about this part of the world, where the only possibilities are Chinese unipolarity, American unipolarity, or some sort of Cold War-like bipolarity, where the United States and China will be the poles, and everybody will line up on one side or the other.

If you want to see that kind of thinking in action, let’s just look at an interview that President Obama gave in, I think, 2016 with Gerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal. President Obama was trying to make the case for the TPP. Remember when the U.S. was interested in the TPP? It’s back in the Jurassic era. He argued it this way, partly for political effect domestically, but I think it’s instructive. He was asked, “Why should the United States join the TPP?” And the president said, “Well, because if we don’t write the rules, China’s going to write the rules out in that part of the world.” But if President Obama had been right about that, then when President Trump withdrew the United States from TPP, what should have happened? Logically, China should have come in and become the rule rider.

But as we all know, that’s not actually what happened. What happened, the other 11 got together, solidified the agreement, albeit influenced by the United States, and the text the United States wanted, but with neither the United States nor China in a room. So, clearly there’s something going on in a region that belies these very straightforward notions of bipolarity or unipolarity. I think, in a lot of ways, the region is heading for what I would call fragmentation on things that are meaningful for the interest of the United States. And that’s the second collision that the United States has not really figured out how to navigate through a prism that’s focused almost exclusively on balancing Chinese power.

So, that brings me to the third point, which is American policy toward China. I don’t know how much you’ve noticed the change in Washington over the last several years. But I’ve worked on U.S.-China relations for 25 years, and I will tell you there has been a sea change in the last seven or eight years in the thinking about China in that capital city, and frankly in the American body politic, more broadly, and it’s really got a bipartisan basis. The way it’s sometimes characterized is that the U.S. is very focused on strategic competition with China. That’s not quite it. When Richard Nixon went to China in February, 1972, which is the modern inception of the relationship, the United States and China were fighting a proxy war in Vietnam, and China was just crawling out of a cultural revolution. So, from the very inception, there were clashing security concepts, and there were obvious differences of political system and ideology baked into this relationship.

But after the U.S. and China developed an economic relationship, and particularly after China came into World Trade Organization in 2001, these large-scale flows of five things; goods, capital, people, technology, and increasingly of data, happened, I would argue, largely on a parallel track. People in the markets, people in corporate C-suites, they’re not morons. They weren’t unaware of these security issues around Taiwan, the South China Sea. But the point was they didn’t impinge on most business models for China, and they rarely impinged on a trade if you were trading stuff in the markets.

So, what’s changed in the last several years is not that strategic competition is somehow brand new, and it’s a revelation, it’s that economics and security have largely collapsed together. And what’s more, and this goes to a point that Paul Evans made in a question to the last panel, not only have economics and security collapsed together, but those economic flows that I talked about, capital people, technology, data, increasingly are being refracted on both sides, but particularly on the American side through the prism of national security. And that’s what a lot of us like to talk about when we talk about securitization.

So, if everything is security, then those things will not be separable. What’s happened, particularly in the last two administrations, one Republican, one Democrat, is that the American strategic class, of which I’m a card-carrying member, the American political class on a bipartisan basis, and if I may say so, the American regulatory class has discovered that there were a lot of regulatory and administrative instruments that were sitting out there that could be leveraged and deployed in interesting, expansive, and sometimes extremely creative ways. Take a sector like artificial intelligence, I would have trouble naming for you a Chinese AI player that hasn’t landed on the Commerce Department entity list. There’s other instruments, use of the Foreign Direct Product Rule. You’ve read about these semiconductor controls that have just come out, other export controls. New and expansive notions of what constitutes national security and CFIUS.

I worked eight years for Hank Paulson. He’d been the chairman of Goldman Sachs. He had a pretty narrow definition of what constituted national security. It’s very expansive today. There’s a so-called Military Company List administered by the Department of Defense. Doesn’t have enforcement teeth, but if you land on that list, you are toxic as a Chinese company. Nobody’s going to do business with those companies. So, there’s this use of administrative and regulatory instruments in the context of securitization that I think if you pull the thread and you project out four or five years is going to define a lot of elements of American financial policy, investment policy, commercial policy.

And people in the markets are well aware of what that means for their business and the ways in which it restricts things that were easier to do five, six, seven, eight years ago. Now, why is that a collision? It’s a collision because if that’s the trajectory of American policy, it begs the question of whether it’s the trajectory of everybody else’s policy. I will tell you, the United States is increasingly extra-territorializing the application of these instruments precisely because it is not the trajectory of everybody else’s policy. If it was, ideally, what the United States would want to see is other countries deploying export controls and administrative and regulatory instruments in an identical way vis-à-vis China as a trading partner, as a capital partner, in or out, and particularly in the technology and data space.

Because that’s not happening, the United States is attempting to elicit voluntary compliance. And if it cannot, I confidently predict to you the United States is going to bring the hammer down. Going to bring the hammer down and try to coerce compliance on a lot of these controls. And it reflects this American zeitgeist on competition with China, which, by the way, is mirrored, in some respects, on a Chinese side. And the Chinese have built their own architecture to use administrative and regulatory instruments and are trying to offshore it in the same way. But it will catch other countries not called the United States and China betwixt and between. And so, that really circles me back to where I start. That’s a collision for the United States, because if American policies and strategies for strategic competition with China are not mirrored elsewhere, we’re heading for a somewhat fractious period between the United States and the very partners that it needs to navigate competition with China.

So, you often hear this talking point from Washington, the United States isn’t forcing countries to choose. We don’t want anybody to have to choose. Okay. Try putting a Huawei kit in your 5G backbone and see how the United States feels about you not making a choice. Try not complying with U.S. export controls and see whether the United States wants you to make a choice. Try making Huawei your cybersecurity partner of choice as Indonesia has. I just published a paper on this at the Carnegie Endowment. All those political tensions between China and Indonesia, guess who’s doing cybersecurity backbone solutions in Indonesia? Huawei. How does the United States feel about that? Would you prefer that you don’t make a choice?

Those contradictions are going to get sharper and sharper. And so, my very direct answer to Paul’s very direct question is that’s the trend line and trajectory. Now, the conventional Washington story is everybody needs to adjust to that because the U.S. is weighty, and big, and has power, and has scale. But what I’m trying to tell you is that quite apart from the debate about security balancing in the region that exists rather than the one of American wishes, dreams, and think tank fantasies, and I say that as the vice president of a major Washington think tank, the United States is going to figure out how to have to navigate that as well.

That’s really somewhat beyond the scope of the strategic conversation in the United States. And it’s where, if I may be blunt about it, when the United States has no better partners, Canada’s one of them, the best partners are the ones that need to speak with intellectual honesty, but also find ways to help the United States navigate that set of contradictions too. If everything was just security balancing of China, the world would be so much simpler and so much easier. But the world, as I said, it’s not simple, and it’s complex and it’s multifaceted. That’s what I wanted to say to you by way of opening because it’s not something that I think the United States has fully come to appreciate. And so, it’s probably not something you hear often from Americans. Why don’t I stop there, and if you want to just ditch it all and talk about the South China Sea, let’s talk about rocks.

Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  


Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security


Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.


Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.



Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 


Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 



Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.


Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.


Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.



Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor