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Evaluating Canada's Indo-Pacific Strategy

Ambitions and Realities in a New Geopolitical Landscape

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This commentary is published as part of ‘Charting New Waters: Assessing Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy One Year On’, a follow-up policy paper series to IPD’s 2023 Indo-Pacific Strategy Forum.


Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is a coat of fresh paint on a faltering rampart. Designed to project purpose and solidity in the face of real and perceived threats, it was also nimbly assembled to avoid substantial new commitments and costly investments. In aligning Canada closely with the United States in the Indo-Pacific, it aimed at the same time to reinforce longstanding Canadian ambitions to play a significant role in this fast-growing region.1Even the choice to name an “indo-Pacific” strategy is a bid to align with US policy with shades of “containing” China. See, the author’s “Between Two Orders in the Asia-Pacific navigating a Treacherous Reef” in Lowell Dittmer ed. New Asian Disorder: Rivalries Embroiling the Pacific Century (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2022) pp. 75-92; see also Jeffrey Reeves Follow the Leader, Lose the Region: Charting a Canadian Strategy for the Asia-Pacific (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2023) Adopting a more assertive cautionary posture towards China, it simultaneously refused to succumb to efforts to divide the region along the lines of a new Cold War. Incremental adjustments are linked together with the overall hope that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. It is nevertheless important to acknowledge the substantive meaning of the IPS.

Crafted to signal Canadian resolve to stand with the US and its Asian allies to counter China’s assertive rise, it seeks further to maintain Canada’s role as a Pacific power. Its six pillars were designed to both reinforce the value basis of our security alignment together with the economic opportunities offered by connecting with the dynamic economies of Asia.

The first part is meant to signal discontinuity with the recent past, while the latter is designed to incrementally refine and reiterate a theme that Canadian diplomacy has enthused over since the late 1980’s to muted and sceptical response in Asia. Frankly stated, the IPS was designed to recalibrate Canadian diplomacy for current challenges at a time of generally low and pusillanimous ambition for Canadian foreign policy. The first year of its operation has generally borne out its modest aims and achievements.

Its most dramatic impact has been to draw a thick line under 50 plus years of outreach to the People’s Republic of China and to signal its transformation from aspirational partner of opportunity to a global and regional “disruptive power” to guard against and restrain in concert with like-minded nations. China has not failed to respond in kind, treating Canada with disdainful hostility and thinly disguised contempt.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy followed close on the sobering and painful nearly three years long episode of the “3M’s” Canada’s detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request on December 1, 2018 and the subsequent detention by China of two Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the latter a Canadian diplomat on secondment to the International Crisis Group on apparently spurious espionage charges.2The recent revelation of Michael Kovrig’s involvement with Global Affairs Canada’ Global Security Reporting Program (GSRP) and its intelligence gathering program where Michael Spavor was an informant complicates Canadian insistence that the two Michaels were innocent hostages of a capricious Chinese state, but does not in itself prove or demonstrate “espionage”. Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Watchdog Report on Global Affairs Unit Named in Michael Spavor’s Case Still Unreleased Three Years after Its Completion,” The Globe and Mail, November 24, 2023,; See also Donald Clarke, “What Does the Report about Spavor’s Settlement Demand Tell Us?,” The China Collection, 2023, This episode soured Canadian public opinion on China and galvanized views of China as a hostile power. For years the Trudeau Cabinet had been rumoured to pursue and release a “China Strategy” with China viewed as an economic opportunity. Now the priority was to strategize about China as an emergent challenge to Canadian national security.3The ‘3M’ Affair became the wartershed in the securitization of Canada’s China policy see the author’s “How CanadaBecame Hostage to Growing Sino-American Rivalry in the Affair of Meng Wanzhou and the “Two Michaels”, in David Carment, Laura Macdonald and Jeremy Paltiel eds. Canada and Great Power Competition: Canada Among Nations 2021 (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan, 2022) pp. 257-276. Nonetheless, the Trudeau cabinet was still focused on safeguarding the multilateral trading system and the rules-based order and was reluctant to sign on unilaterally to “decoupling” or a new Cold War, especially given the sobering experience of belligerent threats to Canadian trade during the Donald Trump Presidency.

The government settled on a middle course for a middle power. On the one hand bolstering our alignment with the US and its allies in countering China’s assertiveness, while on the other still looking to build more robust trans-Pacific ties, albeit no longer with China at its centre.

The government settled on a middle course for a middle power. On the one hand bolstering our alignment with the US and its allies in countering China’s assertiveness, while on the other still looking to build more robust trans-Pacific ties, albeit no longer with China at its centre. Canada settled on building stronger ties with Japan and South Korea, as US regional allies as well as improving ties with India as a counterpoint to China. At the same time the government focused on improved trade and diplomatic links with ASEAN as a visible symbol of Canada’s continued emphasis on trade diversification and opportunities in Asia.

The Announcement of the Strategy

The strategy was announced with great fanfare by Global Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly in November 2022. With the Minister herself credited with making explicit Canada’s pivotal shift in addressing China as an “increasingly disruptive power.” In introducing the strategy the minister had this to say about the Indo-Pacific Strategy in relation to bilateral relations with the United States:

I’m grateful for the excellent relationship that I’ve been able to develop with my American counterpart, Tony Blinken, who is now, I would say, a friend who was just in Canada two weeks ago. The Secretary of State and I have frank and open discussions. By doing so, we’ve been able to further align our approaches on the issues that affect the health, the security, and the prosperity of citizens on both sides of the border. This includes on major geopolitical questions, the pandemic, Ukraine, of course, Iran, Haiti, and now the Indo-Pacific.4Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, “Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly Previews the Government of Canada’s Upcoming Indo-Pacific Strategy in Advance of Diplomatic Trip to Asia,” Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, November 10, 2022,


The policy was generally well-received by our allies and by the Canadian public, though some pointed out immediately the limited resources actually being redirected or newly invested. Predictably, the strategy was denounced both by the Chinese Embassy and in the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece the Global Times of Canada’s ‘vassalage’ to a US puppeteer.5Global Times, “Canada’s ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ Is Overambitious, Full of Confusion,” Global Times, November 29, 2022,

Highlighting significant changes in Canada’s national security strategy was increased surveillance of research links with Chinese academic institutions and technology companies, a notable redeployment of naval assets from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and increasing diplomatic resources, both to coordinate with allies in the Indo-Pacific and to reinforce ties with Asia, outside of China particularly with ASEAN.

If the Indo-Pacific Strategy was intended to by the government to seize back control of the narrative of Sino-Canadian relations following the end of ‘3 M’ affair, this effort faltered early. At the very moment when Minister Joly was preparing to release her strategy, Global News Reporter Sam Cooper released an article citing sources within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) showing that Prime Minister Trudeau was informed by Canadian Intelligence of a vast Chinese effort to influence the 2019 federal election.6Sam Cooper, “Canadian Intelligence Warned PM Trudeau That China Covertly Funded 2019 Election Candidates: Sources,” Global News, November 7, 2022, These spectacular allegations later amplified in the pages of the Globe and Mail,7Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “CSIS Documents Reveal Chinese Strategy to Influence Canada’s 2021 Election,” The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2023, that included insinuations of “elite capture” by agents of the Communist Party of Canada dominated Canadian headlines for months, and impugned the reputation of the Canadian Prime Minster to protect Canadians from interference in Canada’s domestic affairs by the People’s Republic of China.

These allegations prompted calls for a public inquiry, to which the government was forced in acquiesce, after an initial investigation by the former (Conservative appointed) Governor-General David Johnston failed to quell public anger. While this hue and cry had no direct bearing on the Indo-Pacific Strategy itself, it certainly undermined the government’s credibility in standing up to the Chinese challenge that was its major focus. That this lack of confidence was generated from within Canada’s own security agencies was a further source of disquiet.8The Globe and Mail, “Opinion: Why I Blew the Whistle on Chinese Interference in Canada’s Elections,” The Globe and Mail, March 17, 2023, Even former Canadian National Security advisor and CSIS head the noted China “hawk” Richard Fadden cautioned against rushed action based on incomplete and incompletely reported intelligence.9Richard Fadden, “Opinion: Beijing Is in Canada’s Face, and That Requires Us to Push Back. But How?,” The Globe and Mail, May 9, 2023,

Nonetheless, these allegations of election interference and intimidation of MP Michael Chong’s family prompted the expulsion of Chinese Consul-General Zhao Wei and plunged Sino-Canadian relations to a new low.10Darren Major, “Canada Expelling Diplomat Accused of Targeting MP Michael Chong’s Family,” CBC, May 9, 2023, While the IPS envisaged “promoting peace resilience and security” rather than boldly targeting China as an object of deterrence (the word does not appear in the document), the atmosphere surrounding the roll-out of the IPS has certainly coloured both its implementation and its reception.


The programs promised through the IPS have been rolling out as planned. In June, then defence Minister Anita Anand announced the revamped Indo-Pacific Defence posture.11Department of National Defence, “Defence Minister Anita Anand Announces Revamped Indo-Pacific Military Mission and Strengthens Canada’s Defence Relationships in the Region,” Government of Canada, June 2, 2023, Operation HORIZON to replace the Indo-Pacific portion of Operation PROJECTION. This involves the redeployment of HMCS Montréal from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the permanent stationing of two frigates on the Pacific. In addition, Canada took up the position of deputy commander of the UN Mission in Korea and signed an MOU on defence cooperation with the Republic of Korea.

One effect of Operation HORIZON has been an increased tempo of Canadian ships traversing the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea in US-led formations. On November 1, 2023 the Canadian frigate HMCS Ottawa transited the Taiwan Strait for the third time this year, marking the highest rate of such Canadian transits ever, this comes after the transit by HMCS Montréal in June and another transit in the opposite direction by HMCS Ottawa in September. Most significantly at a time of heightened confrontation in the waters surrounding Taiwan and the South China Sea, each of these transits involved incidents of close confrontation with Chinese vessels shadowing their US and Canadian counterparts.12David Common, “A Canadian Warship Has at Least 3 Encounters with Chinese Ships as It Patrols Contested Waters,” CBC, September 7, 2023, In addition, Canadian military aircraft taking part in Operation NEON in surveillance of ships evading UN sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, was buzzed by a Chinese fighter jet.13Radio Canada International, “Chinese Fighters Engaged in ’Unsafe’ Intercept of Canadian Surveillance Plane, Commander Says,” Radio Canada International, October 17, 2023,

Outside the security and defence arena, Canada has been able to make good on improved relations with Taiwan with the completion of a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA).14Global Affairs Canada, “Canada and Taiwan Complete Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Arrangement Negotiations,” Government of Canada, October 24, 2023,

While the Trudeau government has signaled its intent to produce further cuts to the military budget despite our ongoing failure to meet NATO targets, increased confrontation at sea will likely feed appetites for improving military preparedness in succeeding governments.

The increased tempo of the Canadian presence in the disputed seas off China, as well as the fierce Chinese response have placed a seal upon an increasingly adversarial relationship both at the official level and in the eyes of the public. Moreover, while the Trudeau government has signaled its intent to produce further cuts to the military budget despite our ongoing failure to meet NATO targets, increased confrontation at sea will likely feed appetites for improving military preparedness in succeeding governments.15Murray Brewster, “Federal Government Looking to Cut $1 Billion from National Defence Budget,” CBC, September 29, 2023,

In other areas of security the government of Canada has gradually been rolling out new regulations to scrutinize research partnerships with China and to safeguard Canadian research and innovation from industrial and military espionage.16Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, “Progress Report on the Implementation of Canada’s National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships and Supporting Research Security Efforts,” Government of Canada, January 16, 2024, Canada has also been cooperating with the United States on new ways to safeguard and redirect supply chains. While this effort predates the Indo-Pacific Strategy, its scope forms part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy mandate.17Global Affairs Canada, “U.S.-Canada/Canada-U.S. Supply Chains Progress Report,” Government of Canada, June 9, 2022,

If the Indo-Pacific strategy aimed to preserve room for cooperation with China while better engaging with non-Chinese Asian partners, the record in the first year is decidedly mixed. The only Canadian cabinet minister to have travelled to China in the past several years was the Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.18Environment and Climate Change Canada, “Minister Guilbeault to Attend the CCICED Annual General Meeting,” Government of Canada, August 25, 2023, This visit took place over opposition objections.19Olivia Stefanovich, “Guilbeault Brushes off Opposition Calls to Cancel China Climate Trip,” CBC, August 26, 2023,

The centerpiece of implementing the IPS came with the Prime Minister’s trip to Asia in September. While in Jakarta to attend the ASEAN post ministerial conference, he engaged with President Widodo and announced a new Canadian post to ASEAN in Jakarta as well as increased initiatives in trade both with Indonesia and with ASEAN as a whole. Canada’s engagement with Indonesia and the elevation of Canada as a “strategic partner” of ASEAN was the highlight of the Prime minister’s Asian tour.20Office of the Prime Minister, “Prime Minister Visits Indonesia, Welcomes a New Chapter in the Canada-ASEAN Relationship,” Office of the Prime Minister, September 5, 2023, The Prime Minister then went on to New Delhi in India for the G-20 conference. This visit was intended to put Indo-Canadian relations back on track and to bring Canada at least onto the periphery of the Quad nations in their efforts to counter Chinese influence. Instead, the entire visit fell into mutual recrimination due to the fallout of the assassination of Khalistani activist Najjar Singh in Suburban Vancouver in July.21John Paul Tasker, “Trudeau Accuses India’s Government of Involvement in Killing of Canadian Sikh Leader,” CBC, September 19, 2023,

A year after the announcement of the IPS, Canada still struggles to establish a coherent narrative matching the strategy’s aims. This was reinforced as recently as the APEC summit in San Francisco in November, when Canada found itself excluded from the US-led initiative for trade in the Indo-Pacific.22Steven Chase, “Ottawa’s Exclusion from Indo-Pacific Talks Worries Business Group,” The Globe and Mail, November 16, 2023, The balance sheet shows that, a year after the announcement of the IPS, Canada finds itself with the worst relations with China of any G-7 country and worse than those of major US allies in the Indo-Pacific.

While Canada has been able to align itself with the US on freedom of navigation, supply chains and technology export controls, it has neither gained further leverage and significance with its US ally nor established its significance to non-allied Indo-Pacific nations who are not aligned with China. A reinvigorated commitment to ASEAN remains a bright spot but it remains to be seen whether this will be sustained in a way that establishes Canada’s profile in the region. Canada remains a decidedly junior partner in the Indo-Pacific, with limited impact and significance.


The trouble with the IPS is that from the very beginning the Trudeau government has been unable to establish and keep to a consistent narrative. Beset by opposition and media insinuations of Chinese interference, the government was unable to make good on its effort to steer clear of isolation and decoupling from China. Hobbled by underperformance in the security arena, it cannot demonstrate a significant impact on deterrence in the Western Pacific. It has been able to enhance security cooperation with Japan and South Korea and therefore to integrate more closely with US alliances in the region albeit as a junior partner. Without greater investment or credible contributions to a more Asia and ASEAN-centric foreign policy, its enhanced relations with ASEAN do not seem to forecast a more substantive independent role in the region. Canada’s inability to establish its narrative also diminishes its reliability as a partner. Cold-shouldered by India, and marginalized by AUKUS and the Quad grouping, Canada remains an Indo-Pacific wannabe, clinging to its alliance coattails. Having announced an Indo-Pacific strategy, Canada has signaled its alignment and continued interest in Asia and the Pacific. However, it has yet to establish itself as a credible partner of any significance.

Written By:
Jeremy Paltiel
Dr. Jeremy Paltiel is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy and a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa. He previously taught at the University of Alberta, the University of Arizona, and the University of California at San Diego.
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