Energy, Economic, and Defense Dynamics During a Time of Pandemic

On April 15, 2020, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in partnership with the World Trade Center of Washington, DC at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center recorded a discussion exploring “Energy, Economic, and Defense Dynamics During a Time of Pandemic.”



Joining the program were:

Featured Specialists:

  • Dr. Paul Sullivan, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Distinguished International Affairs Fellow; National Defense University Professor of Economics; Johns Hopkins University Adjunct Professor for Energy and Environmental Security; Federation of American Scientists Adjunct Senior Fellow for Future Global Resource Threats.
  • Ms. Kirsten Fontenrose, Atlantic Council Middle East Programs Director of Regional Security; former White House National Security Council Senior Director for Gulf Affairs.
  • Mr. Phillip Cornell, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center Nonresident Senior Fellow; Former Saudi Aramco Senior Corporate Planning Advisor; Former International Energy Agency Special Advisor.

Context Provider:

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


  • Mr. David Des Roches, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Senior International Affairs Fellow; U.S. Department of Defense National Defense University Near East/South Asia Center for Strategic Studies Associate Professor.

Welcoming Remarks:

  • Mr. Andrew Gelfuso, World Trade Center Washington, DC Director.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.



“Energy, Economic, and Defense Dynamics During a Time of Pandemic” podcast (.mp3)

Arabia to Asia: The Myths of an American “Pivot” and Whether or Not There’s a U.S. Strategy Toward the GCC Region

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That the foreign policies of various governments often appear to be confusing or contradictory is because they frequently are. During Barack Obama’s presidency, such inconsistency has seemed to characterize aspects of America’s relations with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The ambiguity and uncertainty that accompanies it is among the things that Obama has sought to dispel and clarify in the course successively of his March 2014 visit to Saudi Arabia, his May 2015 summit at Camp David with senior leaders of all six GCC countries, and his mid-April 2016 attendance at a similar meeting with leaders of the same countries. As this essay seeks to demonstrate, what he has had to contend with – and what others of late have had to contend with regarding aspects of his administration — in terms of background, context, and perspective has not been easy of resolution, amelioration, or even abatement.

Assumptions, Ambitions, and Abilities

Dating from before and since these high-level GCC-U.S. meetings, Washington has taken steps to strengthen and extend America’s overall position and influence in the GCC region. A principal means for doing so has been through the GCC-U.S. Strategic Dialogue.[1] But one example among several was when former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, came with approvals for billions of dollars in sales of U.S.-manufactured defense and security structures, systems, technology, and arms to GCC countries, together with long-term munitions and maintenance contracts.

President Barack Obama attends a U.S.-GCC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2016. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

President Barack Obama attends a U.S.-GCC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2016. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Yet, simultaneously, signals from Washington and the mainstream U.S. media before and since Obama’s meetings with his GCC counterparts have not always been as clear as the signalers thought would or should be the case. That said, what specialists have had no doubt about for some time is that the Obama administration is recalibrating the strategic focus of its international priorities in hopes of being able to accomplish two objectives at the same time. One objective has been, and continues to be, a steadfast resolve to remain committed to the security, stability, and prospects for prosperity in the GCC region. The other has been and remains a parallel determination to emphasize the Asia-Pacific regions.

Affecting the need for such a recalibration have been major U.S. budget reductions and their impact on strategic concepts, forces, and operational dynamics. At issue and under examination in this regard, according to the Secretary of Defense in advance of the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), are, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, America’s assumptions, ambitions, and abilities.

Understandably, the GCC region’s reaction to these trends and indications was and continues to be mixed.

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“Arab-U.S. Energy Cooperation” – 24th Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference

Session on Arab-U.S. Energy Cooperation with Ms. Molly Williamson, Mr. Richard W. Westerdale, II, Ms. Sarah Ladislaw, Dr. Herman Franssen, and Mr. John Pratt from the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ 24th Annual Arab-US Policymakers’ Conference, “U.S.-Arab Relations at a Crossroads: What Paths Forward?,” on October 14, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Watch on YouTube

Listen to Podcast (.mp3)

Read Transcript (.pdf)

Arab-US Energy Cooperation – 2014 Arab-US Policymakers Conference

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations23rd Annual Arab U.S.-Policymakers Conference included a session on “Arab-U.S. Energy Cooperation” that featured Ms. Randa Fahmy Hudome, Dr. Paul Sullivan, Dr. Anas Alhajji, Mr. Jamie Webster, Dr. Tamara Essayyad, and Dr. Sara Vakhshouri.

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.




Audio only: