‘HOW’ Questions for the 2014 Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference

Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers ConferenceBefore the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations launched its first Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in 1991, we asked numerous policymakers a single question: “What bedevils you the most in your tasks to recommend effective policies?” The answers differed only slightly from one person to the next. A common theme running through all the responses was, and I paraphrase, the following: The “W” questions are ones that policymakers deal with all the time. In and of themselves, they are difficult enough. They include:

“What” needs to be done;
“When” does it need to be done;
“Why” does it need to be done;
“Where” will we likely be if we do this or if we do not;
“Who” needs to do it; and, sometimes even,
“Whether” something needs to be done.

But the most difficult questions of all, the ones policymakers inform us they find most vexing, are “How” questions, for these, unlike most of the others, cannot be answered with a yes or no. Rather, the answer to each comes with a cost.

  • Sometimes the cost is political, as when leaders of an administration’s political party or a government’s most important advisers or constituents are certain to put their foot down and say no.
  • Sometimes the cost is financial, as when it is pointed out that there are no funds allocated, authorized, or appropriated for that which is recommended.
  • Sometimes the cost lies in having to admit that the requisite competent human resources to implement a policy recommendation simply do not exist.
  • Sometimes the cost is one of technology, equipment, and/or structures or systems that do not exist or, if they do, would have to be transferred from where they are to where they are needed more at what, arguably, is a prohibitively high cost in terms of time, effort, and money.
  • Sometimes the cost is in credibility, as when an administration or government is on record as being strongly opposed to exactly what someone has just recommended as a solution or a palliative.
  • Sometimes the cost is moral in the sense that it clearly violates the Golden Rule of Do Not Do Unto Others What You Would Not Have Others Do To You.
  • Sometimes the cost will likely be a sharp downturn in the public approval rating of a president, premier, or head of state.
  • Sometimes the cost might be a definite setback to the country’s image and the degree of trust and confidence it seeks to cultivate and maintain among its allies.

With this as background, context, and perspective, there follows a series of questions relating to contemporary Arab-U.S. relations. The questions are ones that policymakers on one side or another, and sometimes both sides, grapple with daily. They are provided in the spirit of a public service. To whom? To not only the policymakers entrusted to improve Arab-U.S. relations and not make them worse. They are also offered as food for thought. Again, to whom? To intellectuals, scholars, teachers, students, analysts, investment strategists, specialists in public policy research institutes, and many others eager to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the state of play in the relations between the United States and the Arab world, and who want to improve these relations.

Dr. John Duke Anthony
Founding President & CEO
National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations


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Arab League Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif Appears on “This is America & The World”

H.E. Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, Chief Representative of the League of Arab States to the United States, former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Canada and Turkey, and former Head of the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Houston, recently appeared on Episode 1801 of THIS IS AMERICA & THE WORLD with Dennis Wholey. The program is a weekly, international affairs television series produced in Washington, New York City, and in countries around the world, and distributed nationally on PBS. On This is America & The World, “Dennis Wholey sets out to explore the cultural, social and political lives” of “high profile individuals that shape our world.” The interview with H.E. Ambassador Al Sharif “focuses on the various sources of extreme tension throughout the Middle East and touches on Islam, ISIS and recent developments in Israel and Palestine.”

NCUSAR Rings NASDAQ Opening Bell w/ H.E. Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani & Mrs. Matilda Cuomo

A delegation from the State of Qatar, led by Qatar’s Minister of Economy and Commerce His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, joined Dr. John Duke Anthony and the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations along with Mrs. Matilda Cuomo to ring the NASDAQ Opening Bell on Friday, September 26, 2014. A video of the ceremony is available below and on YouTube.

Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, shares a robust economic, defense, cultural, and educational relationship with the United States. The National Council is a Washington, DC-based non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Dr. John Duke Anthony is the Founding President & CEO of the Council. The delegation was joined by the former First Lady of New York State and longtime advocate on behalf of women, children and families, Mrs. Matilda Cuomo, to ring the Opening Bell.

Fourth GCC-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum Ministerial Meeting

Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, the Secretary General of the GCC, and the U.S. Secretary of State met today in New York for the fourth ministerial meeting of the GCC-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum (SCF). Since its establishment in March 2012, this Forum has served to enhance strategic cooperation and coordination of policies which advance shared political, military, security and economic objectives in the Gulf region. On the basis of today’s important discussions, the GCC and the United States reached consensus on additional concrete steps to combat Da’ish (ISIL), discussed the region’s central challenges, and considered ideas to bolster regional stability and security while further deepening political, security, economic and cultural cooperation.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Gulf Cooperation Council Foreign Ministers in New York City on September 25, 2014. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Gulf Cooperation Council Foreign Ministers in New York City on September 25, 2014. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

Read the complete Joint Communique from the 4th U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum

Special Study Visit Opportunities for Model Arab League Alumni

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is pleased to offer students and faculty members who have taken part in the Model Arab League program unique opportunities to travel to Qatar and Saudi Arabia this fall and winter.


Qatar Exchange Fellowship

Tentative study visit dates: November 28 – December 6, 2014

Application deadline: September 26, 2014

Learn more and access applications: http://ncusar.org/modelarableague/other-ncusar-student-program/qatar-exchange-fellowship/

Saudi Arabia Exchange Fellowship

Tentative study visit dates: December 26, 2014 – January 5, 2015

Application deadline: September 23, 2014

Learn more and access applications: http://ncusar.org/modelarableague/other-ncusar-student-program/saudi-arabia-exchange-fellowship/

Applicants must have previously participated in the Model Arab League program as a student delegate or a faculty adviser to apply for these fellowships. Both programs are considered expenses-paid – this includes international round-trip airfare from Washington, DC to the host country; visa application fee; and all in-country programming, accommodations, transportation, and meals. Fellows are required to cover their own expenses to travel to Washington, DC for the pre-departure orientation and home after the conclusion of the study visit portion of the program. All participants must hold a U.S. Passport that will not expire before July 2015.

Contact Josh Hilbrand (josh@ncusar.org or 202-293-6466) at the National Council if you have any questions.

2014 Washington, DC Summer Internship Program Pictures

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ 2014 Washington, DC Summer Internship Program brought 25 undergraduate and graduate students to the nation’s capital for a unique ten-week professional, academic, and career exploration opportunity. As always, the program featured a demanding mix of professional involvement, intellectual challenge, and cultural encounters designed to provide interns with a rich and varied experience during their time in Washington. Interns were placed with one of over a dozen Near East and Arab world-related organizations in Washington, where they worked full-time under the direct supervision of their host organizations. Interns also took 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. Additionally, interns received a behind-the-scenes look at many of the central institutions of federal government, national security policymaking, international diplomacy, and international business.

Some pictures from the 2014 Washington, DC Summer Internship Program are available below.

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Dynamics of Regional Crises Run Amok: Implications for Arab and U.S. Interests and Policies

On August 20, 2014, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the U.S.-GCC Corporate Cooperation Committee hosted a public affairs briefing on “Dynamics of Regional Crises Run Amok: Implications for Arab and U.S. Interests and Policies” in Washington, DC. Featured specialists included Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie, Former Ambassador of Iraq to the United States (2006-2011) and Former Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations (2004-2006); Professor David Des Roches, Senior Military Fellow, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, and Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies to Syria; Dr. Imad Harb, Distinguished International Affairs Fellow, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; Dr. Thomas Mattair, Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council; Mr. Matthew A. Reynolds, North America Representative, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and Mr. Joshua Yaphe, Arabian Peninsula Analyst, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, served as moderator.

A video recording and a podcast of the program are available below. The podcast can also be found in iTunes along with recordings of other National Council programs: http://bit.ly/itunes-ncusar.

“Dynamics of Regional Crises Run Amok” podcast (.mp3)