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In the fourth installment of the “Election 2012: The National Security Agenda” series, AEI, the Center for New American Security (CNAS) and the New America Foundation (NAF) convened a panel of experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities posed to the U.S. by recent events in the Middle East.

Ambassador Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy opened by suggesting specific policies the Obama administration might take to advance U.S. interests in the midst of the “Arab Awakening.” In Egypt, he said, the U.S. must possess principles to guide future conduct in the region, such as respect for minority and women’s rights, room for political participation, and follow-through on Egypt’s international obligations.

AEI’s Danielle Pletka agreed, saying that in Syria — as elsewhere — the U.S. must articulate guidelines in the area rather than deferring to regional powers such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. The U.S., she said, has an interest in the outcome of the Syrian crisis but has so far failed to articulate clear principles to guide its actions.

Marc Lynch and Douglas Ollivant of CNAS both argued that American involvement would not be productive for the region. Lynch suggested it would make the situation in Syria more violent, while Ollivant argued that the situation is vastly different from Libya’s civil war in 2011 and that America’s military options in Syria are limited.

–Mark Bennett

Join AEI, the Center for a New American Security and the New America Foundation for an in-depth conversation about the opportunities and challenges posed to the U.S. by events in the Greater Middle East. Panelists will discuss electoral transitions following the Arab Spring in Egypt and elsewhere, the ongoing civil war in Syria, the changing role of Turkey and Iran’s regional and international profile. Ambassador Dennis Ross will provide introductory remarks.
This event continues a unique collaboration among these institutions during the U.S. presidential campaign season. Past conversations have covered the U.S. role in the world, U.S. policy in East Asia and the U.S. national security budget.


12:00 PM
Registration and lunch

12:30 PM
Introductory Remarks:
Dennis Ross, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Marc Lynch, Center for a New American Security
Douglas Ollivant, Center for a New American Security
Danielle Pletka, AEI

Peter Bergen, New America Foundation

2:00 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Alex Della Rocchetta at [email protected], 202.862.7184.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.


Speaker Biographies

Peter Bergen is the director of the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program, where he leads the program’s analysis of terrorism, counterinsurgency, South Asia’s geopolitics and other national security concerns. He also serves as CNN’s national security analyst and is a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security. Bergen has written for many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs and Rolling Stone, among others. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and has worked as a correspondent for National Geographic Television, Discovery and CNN. Bergen’s books “Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden” (2001) and “The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader” (2006) were named among the best non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post, and documentaries based on his books were nominated for Emmy awards in 2002 and 2007. His most recent book is “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda” (2011).

Marc Lynch is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and edits the Middle East Channel on He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Islamist movements. He also works on public diplomacy and strategic communications. His most recent book, “Voices of the New Arab Public: Al-Jazeera, Iraq, and Middle East Politics Today,” was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book.

Douglas Ollivant is a senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation. He most recently spent one year as the senior counterinsurgency adviser to the commander, regional command-east at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Ollivant is a recently retired U.S. Army officer whose last duty assignment was as director for Iraq at the National Security Council during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. Before his posting at the White House, Ollivant served in Iraq as the chief of plans for MultiNational Division Baghdad in 2006─2007. During this time, he led the planning team that designed the Baghdad Security Plan, the main effort of which later became known as the “Surge.” He also served an earlier tour in Iraq as a battalion operations officer and is a veteran of the battles of Najaf Cemetery and Second Fallujah. Ollivant is a frequent television commentator on defense and Middle East issues. A life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Political Science Association, he advises a number of companies on strategy and political risk.

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI. Before joining AEI, she served for 10 years as a senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Pletka writes regularly on the Middle East and South Asia, U.S. national security, terrorism and weapons proliferation for a range of American newspapers and magazines. Her writings and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS News, Los Angeles Times and POLITICO among others. She has testified before Congress on the Iranian threat and other terrorist activities in the Middle East. Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011). Her most recent study, “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” was published in May 2012. She is currently working on a follow-up report on U.S.–Iranian competitive strategies in the Middle East, to be published in the fall of 2012.

Ambassador Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. A former U.S. State Department and National Security Council official, Ross was a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. He has served as the director of policy planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton and was a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As the Middle East envoy, Ambassador Ross helped the Israelis and Palestinians reach the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and brokered the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron in 1997. He facilitated the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace and also worked on talks between Israel and Syria. After leaving his position as envoy, Ross returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow. Ambassador Ross was the recipient of the Truman Peace Prize from the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace in 2008 for his worldwide human rights contributions.


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