NCUSAR’s Summer 2015 Washington, DC Internship Program – Applications Due February 27

Special Opportunity for Students:

The National Council Fellowships:
Washington, DC Summer Internship Program

May 25 – July 31, 2015

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Washington, DC Summer Internship Program offers undergraduate and graduate students a ten-week professional, academic, and career opportunity internship in the nation’s capital. The program features a demanding mix of professional involvement, intellectual challenge, career exploration, and cultural encounters designed to provide interns with a rich and varied experience during their time in Washington.

  • Professional workplace experience: Interns are placed with one of over a dozen Near East and Arab world-related organizations in Washington, D.C., where they are expected to work 35-40 hours/week under the direct supervision of their host organizations.
  • Academic seminars: Interns take part in twice-weekly seminar sessions designed to provide them with greater depth of knowledge about the Arab world, to underscore the cultural, economic, and political diversity of Arab states, and to explore the intricacies of Arab-U.S. relations. There will be a particular emphasis, though not exclusively, on Arabia and the Gulf.
  • Site visits: Interns receive a behind-the-scenes look at many of the central institutions of federal government, national security policymaking, international diplomacy, and international business.

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Gulf Cooperation Council Establishes Unprecedented Joint Military Command

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Leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE meet for the Gulf Cooperation Council's 35th Ministerial and Heads of State Summit in Doha, Qatar.

Leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE meet for the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 35th Ministerial and Heads of State Summit in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Qatar News Agency.

In a significant development at the 35th Ministerial and Heads of State Summit in Doha, Qatar, all six Gulf Cooperation Council member-states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) agreed to the establishment of a unified armed forces command. This major breakthrough is not to be confused with the quite different Dir Al-Jazeerah (Peninsula Shield). That force, based at Hafr Al-Batin in northern Saudi Arabia and established in 1984 during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, is the one that dispatched several of the member-states’ defense units to Bahrain in 2011.

The new joint military command will, prudently, be based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The kingdom, beyond being the only GCC country with strategic geographic depth other than Oman, has the largest economy and armed forces as well as a populous citizenry numerically greater than all the citizens of the other five member-states combined. It is also the site of the GCC’s General Secretariat, the largest and oldest of the pan-GCC think tanks dedicated to precisely the kinds of greater cooperation that the member-states seek to achieve, sustain, and protect. 

Dir Al-Jazeerah in Context

Dir Al-Jazeerah presently consists of 4,000 land-based forces. All six countries, including those of Oman and Qatar – which over extended periods earlier had reservations regarding the force’s capabilities, readiness, overall effectiveness, and utility – are represented in the force.

Critics have frequently pointed out that the force lacks credibility. That is, one ought not to expect it to be able to protect against an invading force that is battle-hardened and better equipped, or of any significantly larger size. To view it from that prism, though, is a recipe for misunderstanding. The force’s real position and role can be likened to a neighborhood fire brigade – a metaphor, so to speak, for the kind of assistance it rendered Bahrain. It is also much more than that. Symbolically, strategically, and geopolitically it serves as an important linkage for all six countries not only to one another, but also to their friends, allies, and strategic partners further afield.

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Fighting Extremism and Clarifying Commitments: HRH Prince Mohammad bin Nayef’s Visit to Washington

A very important Arab leader in the American-Saudi Arabia security and defense relationship arrives to the nation’s capital today. To understand the significance of his visit, and as an aid in how to analyze the implications of visits between world leaders who grapple with internationally relevant issues of security and stability, a word about context and perspective might help. 

Researchers and analysts examining and assessing the dynamics of defense and security relationships between allies are often guided by several factors. One is an understanding of the prevailing environment. Is it one of peace or war? If it is something resembling neither, does it more nearly approximate a brewing conflict, a fragile ceasefire, or an imminent mobilization and deployment of forces? Is there an anticipated intervention or troop withdrawal, a consideration of placing “boots on the ground,” aircraft in the sky, naval destroyers on the sea, submarines beneath the waves, or some other policy or opinion-shaping matter of concern? Then, recognizing the environment, what is one to make of its possible impact on the parties’ respective needs, interests, and key security, defense, and foreign policy objectives? 

A second factor can be rooted in the allies’ military-industrial complexes, i.e., the state of relations between their respective aerospace and defense companies. A third can be the dynamics of their bilateral military-to-military relationships. A fourth can consider such matters as arms purchases or transfers. A fifth can relate to military education and training opportunities such as the U.S. International Military Education and Training Program, known as IMET, as it has long applied to Egyptians, Iraqis, Lebanese, various Arab North African countries, and the nationals of each of the six GCC countries. 

A sixth can sometimes pertain to the prepositioning of security and defense structures, systems, and technologies, together with their maintenance and operations. A seventh can relate to access to and/or use of security or defense facilities. An eighth can focus on the forging, revision, or renewal of a security or military agreement allowing for continuous consultation, joint exercises, and periodic maneuvers. And a ninth can turn on the nature and number of exchanges of visits between and among the allies’ high-level security and/or defense personnel. 

Visits between and among countries’ most senior security and defense leaders can matter and often do matter greatly. This last-named ninth factor is the one that most pertains to the arrival this evening by Saudi Arabian Minister of Interior HRH Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdalaziz Al Sa’ud and is the focus of the National Council essay that follows. 

To help one understand the importance of Prince Muhammad’s visit, to appreciate the context and background for why he is coming at this time, and to anticipate and comprehend the issues that he might raise for discussion, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to learn from Council Distinguished International Affairs Fellow Dr. Imad Kamel Harb.

Dr. John Duke Anthony


By Dr. Imad Kamel Harb

December 8, 2014

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Prince Mohammad bin Nayef receives U.S. Senator John McCain in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2013.

Prince Mohammad bin Nayef receives U.S. Senator John McCain in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2013. Photo: Mohammad Bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center.

Saudi Arabian Interior Minister, HRH Prince Mohammad bin Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Aal Saud, comes to the American capital this week to continue consultations on a host of issues of mutual interest to Saudi Arabia and the United States. As Interior Minister with additional responsibly for the kingdom’s policy toward the Syrian crisis, Prince Mohammad is uniquely positioned to coordinate with American officials Saudi Arabia’s efforts against violent extremism, militancy, and the continuing slaughter in Syria. Coming on the heels of the recent visit by Minister of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, HRH Prince Mit`eb bin Abdulla bin Abdul-Aziz, this visit further highlights the important strategic relationship between Riyadh and Washington that serves the interests of peace, security, and stability in the Middle East.

Waging War on Extremism

An essential element of Prince Mohammad’s visit consists of coordinating respective visions, policies, and plans to challenge the scourge of radical militancy in the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, when Prince Mohammad first took charge of the kingdom’s counter-terrorism policy as assistant to his late father, HRH Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, who himself served as Interior Minister for 37 years, Saudi Arabia has been a linchpin in global efforts to fight terrorist financing, recruiting, and ideology.

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Tenth Manama Dialogue and Regional Challenges

By Dr. John Duke Anthony and Dr. Imad Kamel Harb

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High level delegates from about twenty countries will meet in the Bahraini capital Manama on December 5-7. They will convene to debate regional realities of defense and security. Among the unwelcome developments since last year’s gathering have been Israel’s heightened provocation, oppression, dis-possession, and ongoing denial of the rights of Palestinian Arab Christians and Muslims among its citizens and those under its continuing illegal occupation. The participants are also faced with the further rise and sweep of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); the Houthi advances in Yemen to the capital in Sanaa and beyond to the Red Sea and Hudeidah, the country’s second largest port; and the problematic and yet-again-extended negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The Islamic State

F-16 Desert Falcons from the UAE Air Force

F-16 Desert Falcons from the UAE Air Force lined up during joint training with the U.S. in 2011. Photo: U.S. Air Force.

Few intelligence analysts and political and security watchers predicted that an extremist Islamist faction in Syria’s civil war would sweep with such force through northern Iraq, threaten Baghdad, and inch its way through the country’s western Anbar Province to within range of Saudi Arabia’s borders. Indeed, the confused and confusing battlefield in Syria has again proven that it can spawn the kinds of circumstances, events, and players that at once threaten to destabilize the Levant and pose what, a year ago, were then unforeseen challenges to the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf regions. Just as dangerous in the rise and advance of ISIS has become the lure, to many recruits to its ranks, of its millennial ideology and its promise to establish an unsullied Islamic Caliphate that would redress Muslim grievances.

One of the most difficult issues confronting the Manama Dialogue participants is how to address the multifaceted causative underpinnings of the threat that ISIS poses to regional stability and peace. Having the necessary military means to protect against real and imagined threats is one thing. Being able to mobilize, deploy, and effectively implement such means is another. Of the two, the latter is vexing as it is pinned to the hope of containing and countering, if not delivering a mighty body blow, to regional radicalism and violent extremism that would discredit and severely weaken the appeal of such phenomena for far into the future. That a small militant faction like ISIS, which was originally armed with only the most rudimentary weapons it had collected on the Syrian battlefield, was able to roll over a well-armed Iraqi army proved two interrelated facts that contained important lessons.

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New York Times Gets It Wrong on Qatar

National Council Founding President Dr. John Duke Anthony, presently in Doha, Qatar, escorting a delegation of outstanding Model Arab League student leaders and their faculty advisers, wrote the following today.

I was saddened and disappointed to read about the unfortunate circumstances related to American couple Mathew and Grace Huang from Los Angeles, California. After having been imprisoned in Qatar for a year, the couple was acquitted by Qatar’s Appellate Court Judge, Abdul Rahman Al-Sharafi. In a story that appeared in the International Edition of the New York Times on December 1, 2014, the authors, in their account of what happened next, wrote, “their attempt to leave Qatar was thwarted hours later when immigration officials refused to allow them to depart Doha’s airport. In a roller-coaster day of legal ups and downs, the couple had their passports confiscated in the airport departure area.” The authors seemed to imply that the reason the American couple were not allowed to leave the country was due to either malfeasance or incompetence, or possibly both, on the part of Qatari officials. In fact, neither was the case.

It was brought to my attention that in such circumstances a minimum of bureaucratically required paperwork, which often can be processed within a matter of a few hours , must not only be completed. It must also be properly submitted, scrutinized, and verified by the appropriately designated authorities. It appears that in this case the necessary and required forms only needed to be completed and processed. This morning I was informed by a Qatari government official, whom I respect, that the needed forms are not complex, but simple and straight forward.

These important facts were omitted from the International Edition of the New York Times on December 1 and served to harm the image of the Qatar-U.S. mutually beneficial relationship. This detracts from the need to elucidate for the reader what Qatar and the United States are and have long been doing to cooperate with one another across a broad range of common needs, concerns, interests, and key foreign policy and defense objectives.

Not least among what the two allies have been addressing in a cooperative manner for quite some time is that which drives the engine of the world’s material wellbeing, namely energy; their allied hour-by-hour efforts to counter violent extremism; their extensive joint endeavors in defending the aerial and maritime arteries in the world’s most economically vital area; and their and the five other Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ geopolitically and strategically aligned efforts to achieve a secure, stable, and peaceful Gulf and nearby areas, without which there can be no prospects for sustained prosperity either in the immediate region of Qatar, its fellow GCC countries, and its neighbors, or countries further afield.

Add the one-of-a-kind range of educational and cultural ties between Qatar and the United States, and include the numerous mutually beneficial facets derived from this kind of cooperation. In the developing countries and in numerous among the industrialized countries, the benefits of these dimensions of the relationship are increasingly well known and, understandably, the envy of many. They are also hard to come by in either quite the same nature or to anywhere near the same extent elsewhere.

I was pleased to learn today in a tweet from U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith that the travel requirements have now been met and the couple can now return to the U.S. tomorrow. I hope a future International Edition of the New York Times will better explain this to its readership.

Geo-Political Dynamics: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, & Iran – 2014 Arab-US Policymakers Conference

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations23rd Annual Arab U.S.-Policymakers Conference included a session on “Geo-Political Dynamics: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, & Iran” that featured Dr. John Iskander, H.E. Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Dr. Judith Yaphe, Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Dr. Imad Harb, and Dr. Trita Parsi.

An audio and video recording of the session as well as a link to the transcript are available below. Videos of the entire 2014 conference are available on YouTube and podcasts of the conference are available through iTunes and FeedBurner.



Transcript (.pdf)

Audio only: