At the Cutting Edge: The National Council’s Youth Leadership Development Program / Model Arab League

National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President & CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony writes to students about what is possible through the National Council’s flagship student-focused initiative, the Youth Leadership Development Program / Model Arab League. Please share with any students who might be interested in or benefit from this program.

Fall is upon us. September is back-to-school time. You and countless millions of other students are hitting the books.

What Do You Want to Do?

What are you seeking to achieve this academic year?

Do you envision yourself as a leader? What kind? Diplomat? Policymaker? Opinion formulator? Teacher? Military officer? Entrepreneur?

Whatever your answer, do you possess the necessary and essential skills that are characteristic of great leaders?

For instance, can you:

  1. Debate within 45 seconds;
  2. Speak clearly, rapidly, and effectively;
  3. Write clearly, rapidly, and effectively;
  4. Edit clearly, rapidly, and effectively;
  5. Deploy parliamentary procedure;
  6. Organize a coalition;
  7. Draft public policy resolutions;
  8. Cultivate respect among your peers; and
  9. Empathize with others’ needs, interests, and concerns?

This academic year, if you can manage to master only one of these vital leadership skills, you will never be the same as before. Imagine what you might be able to accomplish if you can learn to employ all nine!

Students utilize parliamentary procedure during Youth Leadership Development Program / Model Arab League sessions

Students utilize parliamentary procedure during Youth Leadership Development Program / Model Arab League sessions. Understanding and utilizing basic rules of meetings helps to train future leaders how to consider viewpoints and make decisions in a fair, consistent, and effective manner.

At the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, cultivating these skills in students has long been our focus. In no way are we new at this – educating and training the leaders of tomorrow is something we have done for decades.

The diamond in the National Council’s tiara, so to speak, is its Youth Leadership Development Program / Model Arab League (YLDP/MAL). Like nothing else, the program prepares students to be knowledgeable, well-trained, and effective citizens as well as civic, private sector, and public affairs leaders.

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The Passing of a Knight: A Remembrance of Shafiq Kombargi

In the field of U.S.-Arab relations and much more, Shafiq Kombargi was an extraordinary individual. He was not just my friend. He was the friend of untold numbers of others. Those who loved and admired the man were countless. His passing brings a moment of great sadness.

Shafiq Kombargi

Numerous specialists in the Arab region and U.S.-Arab affairs never met Shafiq, and some may not even have heard of him. Yet few individuals can match the outsized positive and enduring influence that Shafiq had on so many people’s lives.

The evidence is abundant. Shafiq’s sustained imprint upon innumerable United States-affiliated educational and cross-cultural institutions is massive.

Reaching Out to Others

Shafiq’s contributions were not those of a renowned researcher, scholar, university professor, or publicist. He was none of those. Yet all who labor in one or more of those fields have long been in his debt.

Shafiq’s gifts to Arab-U.S. cooperation and cross-cultural understanding were mostly made indirectly. In various instances, his accomplishments were achieved through and apart from his decades-long career with what was originally known as the Arabian American Oil Company, which in time became Saudi Aramco, and that, to this day, operates a subsidiary entity in the United States known as Aramco Services Company. Indeed, these entities had Shafiq’s back.

Often, Shafiq’s contributions were made from behind the scenes. Reduced to a single word, he was an enabler. Certainly, in addition to the example he set in other areas of endeavor, that’s how he influenced my life; doubtless, others can say the same.

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Statement on the U.S. Presidential Announcement Regarding Jerusalem

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel not only contradicts international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and dozens of United Nations Security Council Resolutions. In a fundamental way, it threatens the security and stability of the region, undermines American national needs and key U.S. foreign policy goals, and gives the lie to those the world over who have an interest in a secure and recognized Israel living in mutual recognition with and alongside a sovereign and secure State of Palestine.

The decision rewards Israel’s continued violent appropriation of Palestinian land and resources. It de facto legitimizes Israel’s subjugation and dehumanizing occupation of the Palestinian Arab Christian and Muslim people. It pulls the rug out from beneath what little was left of any American pretense at an honest and effective approach to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord with Jerusalem as the national capital of both peoples. In so doing, it antagonizes allies, provokes partners, galvanizes extremists, and inflames anti-U.S. sentiments across the globe.

The United States’ friends and allies, including those not only in the Arab world but in virtually every other corner of the earth as well, have clearly warned about the consequences of such a move. They have underscored the sensitivity of the question of Jerusalem to billions worldwide. Given the importance of the city to all three of the monotheistic faiths – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — America’s decision undermines its stated efforts to bring a fair and viable solution to the seemingly intractable conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

President Trump’s decision moves the Palestinian people further from a fair and just end to their illegal occupation. Ultimately, it undermines efforts to achieve the reality of physical and military security, political stability, and a degree of peace without which there can be no realistic prospect, let alone any likely achievement, of sustained prosperity.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit and nongovernmental organization, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations as a matter of policy takes no position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office.

The 1990-1991 Kuwait Crisis Remembered: Profiles in Statesmanship

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For the last twenty-seven years, today has marked the anniversary of an infamous event: Iraq’s brutal invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait, which began on August 2, 1990, and which was brought to an end on February 28, 1991. The regional and international effects of numerous aspects of the trauma then inflicted upon Kuwait remain ongoing. Like Kuwait itself, the world, even now, has yet to fully recover.

National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony was one of the first American civilians into Kuwait following its liberation. He would return there twelve times over following year with delegations of American leaders tasked with assisting in one or more facets of the war-torn country’s reconstruction. He is here with his escort observing one among over 650 of Kuwait’s oil wells set ablaze by the retreating Iraqi armed forces. Photo: National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

Over a quarter century later, important postwar facets of what Iraq did to Kuwait fall short of definitive closure. And they defy effective description. The international legal requirement that an aggressor provide prompt, adequate, and effective compensation for a war’s victims was not honored at the end of hostilities. Despite continuing United Nations-supervised efforts to collect on this inhumane debt, what is due has still not been paid.

The Missing in Action and Context

A full accounting of Kuwait’s and other countries’ missing citizens swept up and carted off to Iraq in the war’s waning hours – in the immediate aftermath of the conflict its main cause celebre – continues to remain incomplete.  The reason is not for lack of effort.  After Kuwait’s liberation, an informal and unofficial effort was mounted by George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs to provide an estimate of the MIAs’ status.

The focus group included diplomats, scholars, media representatives, American armed forces’ civil affairs personnel, and other individuals who fought to liberate Kuwait. Their unscientific consensus reported that more than 400 of the missing Kuwaitis died after they were captured. The fate of more than 200 of the missing, however, was unknown.

In the immediate hours and early days following Kuwait’s liberation, when none of the country’s electric power, desalination water purification plants, and far more of the country’s infrastructure were left operative, and domestic security prospects had been rendered uncertain, armed personnel carriers and mounted automatic weaponry units were omnipresent in the country. Photo: Dr. John Duke Anthony.

That possibly countless others remain missing is no small matter. The numbers in question, to some, may seem few. Not so, however, for those among the loved ones who tear up at the thought of them. Not so either for those who, despite the absence of grounds to warrant optimism for a fortuitous ending to their pining, and continue to wait and pray for their return.

We Americans would do well to stop and think about this for a moment. We are often criticized, and rightly so, for having an empathy deficit when it comes to understanding the suffering of people in other countries and situations. An irony in this needs to be understood and underscored. The irony is that many in the United States demand that people in other countries understand us. For those in front of an American Consular Officer with ticket in hand to visit a friend or relative in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, or wherever, but who lack such empathy along with the understanding and civility that comes with it, they need to be wished good luck in obtaining a visa to the United States.

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How the World Turns: Saudi Arabia in Transition

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Following is important background information. It has to do with numerous high-profile administrative changes made by Saudi Arabia Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in the past few weeks in the government of Saudi Arabia. Of special significance is the appointment of a new Ambassador to the United States, HRH Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and a new Minister for Culture and Information, H.E. Dr. Awwad bin Saleh bin Abdullah Al-Awwad.

HRH Prince Khalid bin Salman was previously an adviser to the Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court, and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. He is also an accomplished F-15 pilot and was one of the first Saudi Arabian fighter pilots to conduct attacks on ISIS in Syria. H.E. Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad was most recently the Kingdom’s envoy in Germany.

Note also the more than a dozen new ministerial-level appointments of governors and deputy governors of various among the Kingdom’s 13 provinces. Note, too, the assignment of new director-generals to key agencies responsible for various aspects of the country’s modernization and development.

Saudi Arabian princes and ministers designated to new posts with the King, Crown Prince, and Deputy Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabian princes and ministers designated to new posts with the King, Crown Prince, and Deputy Crown Prince. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

The declaration of such changes will naturally invite close examination and comment by specialists. This is to be predicted. What even the country’s critics will be unable to deny, however, is that the shakeup in the upper echelons of the country’s leaders gives the lie to those – and no doubt there are many – among the country’s critics, adversaries, and enemies who tend to dismiss any announcement that contains positive information about and insight into the Kingdom as rubbish.

As ever, these include those that are prone to perceiving the nature and extent of any Saudi Arabian governmental commitment to economic or any other kind of reforms as insincere, deceptive, cosmetic, and/or sclerotic. These will almost certainly do the same in this case.

The latest changes illustrate not only the degree to which important components of the Kingdom’s reforms are underway. They also demonstrate that among the reasons the reforms are being undertaken is an effort to enhance the country’s image, reputation for, and the increasing reality of its public sector accountability.

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Dr. John Duke Anthony on “America, Arabia, and the Gulf: At a Crossroads?”

On May 11, 2016, Dr. John Duke Anthony spoke to the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs on the subject “America, Arabia, and the Gulf: At a Crossroads?” A video recording of the program is available below, and a podcast of the program is also available below as well as in iTunes with recordings of other National Council programs: http://bit.ly/itunes-ncusar.

Dr. John Duke Anthony – “America, Arabia, and the Gulf: At a Crossroads?” podcast (.mp3)

In Memoriam, A Giant Has Fallen: Clovis Maksoud (1926-2016)

This past week, a larger than life figure among us fell physically. Although in our presence his body is no more, as example, as role model, and as inspiration, he is still in front of, beside, and behind us – and will remain so for a very long time to come.

Ambassador Clovis Maksoud’s reputation was legendary as far back as during my studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in the 1960s.

Whenever one had the privilege and pleasure to meet and be with as well as briefed by Clovis, regardless of the subject, one could not but revel in his perennially upbeat personality and marvel at the many unrivaled aspects of his professionalism. Among humanity’s orally gifted and silver-tongued orators, Clovis could be, and in numerous instances was, nothing short of spellbinding. Certainly, he earned my awe early on. Never once in my presence did he use notes or even have, for easy recall, a slip of paper tucked away on which he had written something.

Whatever the subject he happened to be addressing, Clovis was invariably not only articulate; he was also frequently eloquent. His delivery and diction were flawless. Indeed, one at times had reason to wonder whether he had switched languages, for his use of English could be inventive – more than a few will acknowledge that, sometimes, it took a bit of getting used to the kinds of words and phrases he used with unsurpassed exactitude to hammer home his points. Even now one can hear him thundering about the cause that remained to the end dearer to him than any other, that of the Palestinians.

Who can forget Clovis’ forever repeating that, among the biggest obstacles to strengthening and expanding the Arab-U.S. relationship were the United States’ history and policies with respect to Palestine? These, he never tired of emphasizing, lay at the heart of what he aptly termed America’s “crisis of conscience.”

H.E. Ambassador Clovis Maksoud (1926-2016).

H.E. Ambassador Clovis Maksoud (1926-2016).

What Clovis was and stood for to the last – in the way of unbridled conviction, steadfast commitment, and unflinching moral courage – are bedrock guidelines by which one can live a purposeful, meaningful, and contributive life. What he epitomized – in his manners and elemental decency, in his unfailing kindness, and in his manifesting the gamut of Arab, Islamic, Middle Eastern Christian, Druze, and other humanistic values, ideals, and principles to which so many aspire – has left an indelible impression not just upon me but many.

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