Upcoming Event: “Yemen in Chaos” – April 2 in Washington, DC

On April 2, 2015, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ is hosting a public affairs briefing on “Yemen in Chaos: Analysis, Prognosis, and Prospects.” Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, will serve as moderator. H.E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, will deliver featured remarks. Additional featured specialists include: Mr. Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, Congressional Research Service and Author, CRS Report “Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations;” Ms. Sama’a Al-Hamdani, Analyst and Writer, Yemeniaty and former Assistant Political Officer, Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, DC; 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 (Syria), National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations; and Mr. Abbas Almosawa, Yemeni Journalist and Analyst and former Media and Information Advisor, Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Abu Dhabi and Beirut.


April 2, 2015
9:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Coffee & Tea / Networking
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Remarks / Q&A


Rayburn House Office Building
Gold Room (2168)
45 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20515


The event is free but R.S.V.P. (acceptances only) via email to rsvp@ncusar.org is required.

Please note: seating capacity is limited. Include the following information when you R.S.V.P.:

If you have any questions you can call the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations at (202) 293-6466.

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Yemen’s Houthi Takeover: Domestic and Regional Repercussions

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Sanaa, Yemen, is considered by many historians to be one of the oldest, continuously-inhabited cities in the world.

Sanaa, Yemen, is considered by many historians to be one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Photo: Dr. John Duke Anthony.

Two weeks ago, the Zaidi Shiite-Houthi march to control the Yemeni state triumphantly arrived at its destination in Sanaa, and forced the resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the country’s two-month old government headed by Prime Minister Khaled Bahhah. The withdrawal of the President and Premier was the natural end of an aborted political process that was derailed by a gradual Houthi military advance that brought their militia, Ansar Allah, to the streets of the capital. With the Houthis welcoming both resignations and proposing to form a pliant provisional Presidential Council, the country seems to be heading towards more domestic instability and disunity that will generate regional uncertainties. More importantly, perhaps, the pro-Iranian Houthi triumph in Sanaa is nothing short of a coup d’etat that may, in the end, deliver yet another Arab capital to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

An Unpredictable Yemeni Domestic Scene

In justifying their military putsch, the Houthis accused President Hadi of subverting an all-party agreement at a National Dialogue Conference in 2014 – part of a November 2011 initiative proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council in answer to widespread pro-reform protests. Participants in the dialogue had agreed to write a new constitution, the draft of which still awaits ratification by popular referendum. The new charter creates a federated Yemeni state composed of six regions to replace the current 22 administrative divisions.

The pro-Iranian Houthi triumph in Sanaa is nothing short of a coup d’etat that may, in the end, deliver yet another Arab capital to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Desiring autonomy and eventual independence, the Houthis, who currently comprise about 30 percent of the population, prefer a condominium between a northern and a southern region that many believe would be demarcated along the pre-1990 division of the northern Republic of Yemen and the defunct southern People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Such a division would presumably give the Houthis control over the north where their numbers would not be excessively diluted by Sunnis. With the desired division, they could either simply enjoy long-term self-rule or await propitious circumstances to declare independence in a northern rump state that would be a re-incarnation of the old Imamate that died over half a century ago. As for the southern secessionists, whose leader Ali Salem al-Beidh resides in Beirut as a guest in Hezbollah’s southern suburbs, the dissolution of the current union would help them realize a long-held desire to re-establish a state they believe would free them of the oppression of northern politicians.

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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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The Dynamics of Future Saudi Arabian-Iranian Relations in Context

All is not well in Arabia and the Gulf. The further unraveling of security and stability in Iraq has exemplified this and more to the increasingly beleaguered government of Iraqi Arab Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, the country’s capital. The accelerated breakdown of law and order in the land between the rivers has also rattled the governments and political dynamics of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, and the six member-countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Among these countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran are of out-sized importance. Greater information, insight, and knowledge about how these two competitors for regional prominence perceive, interact with, and analyze and assess the likely intentions of the other – not just regarding Iraq but also Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon – is essential to understanding key trends and indications in Arabia and the Gulf at the present time and where the region is likely to be headed in the days to come. 

It is in this context that the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to present the essay that follows by National Council Distinguished International Affairs Fellow Dr. Imad Kamel Harb. Dr. Harb recently returned to Washington, DC after spending the previous seven years working as a researcher and analyst in the GCC region. 

Dr. Harb previously worked to help rehabilitate the Iraqi higher education sector as a Senior Program Officer for Education at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). There he authored a USIP Special Report on “Higher Education and the Future of Iraq,” published in 2008. 

Since earning his PhD from the University of Utah, Dr. Harb has been an Adjunct Professor at San Francisco State University, the University of Utah, Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, and the Middle East Institute. 

Dr. John Duke Anthony


By Dr. Imad Kamel Harb

June 12, 2014

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Recent diplomatic overtures emanating from Saudi Arabia about possibilities for a thawing of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran are unlikely to produce their desired results. Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal’s recent invitation to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to visit the kingdom was tepidly received at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

A potential visit by the former Iranian President, and former Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, itself originating from an invitation by the new Saudi Ambassador to Tehran, Abdul-Rahman bin Ghorman, still awaits the approval of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei.

Myriad contentious issues from Bahrain to Yemen to Iraq, and from Lebanon to Syria have had the two countries’ leaderships at loggerheads and made anentente improbable. Indeed, Iranian-Arab acrimony promises to be the state of affairs for the foreseeable future, negatively affecting regional peace and inter-communal relations between the Gulf’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

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Program in Arabic Language at the Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies

The National Council is proud to serve as the American Main Office for the Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies (YCMES), whose campus is centrally located in Sana’a, the capital of the Republic of Yemen. YCMES is a fully accredited, non-profit college that provides students and scholars from around the world the opportunity to develop a complex knowledge of the Arabic language and the contemporary Middle East. Students can study at YCMES for 5, 10, or 15 weeks, or more — programs are tailored to meet students’ needs.

Sana’a, Yemen is an ideal location for language acquisition and cultural immersion. Unlike many other Middle Eastern cities where English and/or French are pervasive, Sana’a is one of the few remaining places in the world where Arabic is spoken exclusively. In short, it is nearly impossible to remain isolated in a Western bubble.

The Program in Arabic Language (PAL), the Arabic language department within the YCMES, was the first private institution in Yemen dedicated exclusively to teaching Arabic as a foreign language. The PAL has served the needs of international students, researchers, and the resident expatriate community since 1989. The YCMES’ Arabic Language Learning Program is open to international students of all ability levels, with program lengths from five weeks to a full calendar year.

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“Regional Geo-Political Dynamics: The Arabian Peninsula (GCC Countries and Yemen)” at the 2012 Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference

Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Professor of Political Science, United Arab Emirates University (Abu Dhabi) and lead author, 2008 Arab Knowledge Report, at the 2012 Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference

Dr. John Duke Anthony, Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg, Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, and Dr. Abdullah K. Al-Shayji  gave remarks on “Policymaking Opportunities and Lessons Learned From Regional Geo-Political Dynamics: The Arabian Peninsula (GCC Countries and Yemen)” at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ 21st Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference. The conference, on the theme “Arab-U.S. Relations Amidst Transition within Constancy: Implications for American and Arab Interests and Policies,” was held October 25-26, 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

Watch session in the C-SPAN Video Library

Listen to a podcast of the session

Read a transcript of remarks as delivered

Fixing Yemen


Yemen is an ancient and beautiful country – but today it is fraught with danger. Though barely a blip on the world’s radar screen, Yemen poses serious potential risks to the great oil producers of the Gulf region, and thus to the world economy at large.

Yemen, the southwest corner and geographical anchor of the Arabian Peninsula, has been torn by strife for years. But unlike Syria, where today’s media attention is focused, Yemen is so remote and so little known to the outside world that its wars and crises are rarely noticed by Western (particularly American) news media and seldom highlighted by foreign affairs gurus. Apart from the al-Qaeda suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden harbor in the year 2000, few Americans have heard anything substantive about that country from their favorite television news channels, and major newspapers tend to consign its travails to the inside pages.

The difference is that Syria has long been a major player in the Middle East, and its fate is of great interest to many, but so few people know anything about Yemen that it is hard to generate concern for its future.

Yemen? Isn’t that what the Romans called Arabia Felix – Fortunate (and Fertile) Arabia? Wasn’t it the land of the Queen of Sheba?

Old Sana’a is considered by many historians to be one of the oldest, continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1984, Sana’a’s historic section has 103 mosques, 14 hammams (public bath houses), and over 6,000 traditional residences in which Yemenis still live with their families. Photo: Yemen College for Middle Eastern Studies.

Yes, it was those things, but that is about the extent of most Americans’ knowledge of the country. In addition to being an important leg of age-old land and maritime trade routes, Yemen was a formidable ancient sea power at the time of the Phoenicians, and later a medieval center of scholarship and learning. In modern times – up until recent years when the fighting got bad – Yemen was a popular tourist destination for Westerners living and working in the Middle East. Yemen drew tourists looking for a taste of the old Middle East, with its colorful traditional markets, stunning medieval architecture and exotic tribal lifestyles.

For years now, though, this kind of tourism has proven risky. The north of Yemen has been wracked by a revolt of Zaidi Shi’ites called “Houthis” after their late rebel clan leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, killed by government forces in 2004. (His brothers continued the insurgency.) Zaidis, whose faith is an offshoot of mainstream Shi’a belief, make up a sizable chunk of the population in the north. The Houthis agreed to a ceasefire in 2010, but unrest continues.

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“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council” – Remarks by His Excellency Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani

“A Window onto the Gulf Cooperation Council,
Together With a View Regarding Its
Involvement Of Late With Yemen”

Remarks by

His Excellency Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani,
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

to the

Gulf Research Center’s Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

July 11, 2012

Introduction by Dr. John Duke Anthony,
Founding President and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations


The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to publish the remarks made earlier today by H.E. Dr. Abdul Latif Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who has granted his permission.   The occasion is the three-day Third Annual Gulf Research Meeting (GRM) presented by the Gulf Research Center (GRC) with offices in Jeddah, Geneva, and Cambridge, UK.   Founded by Dr. Abdalaziz Sager less than two decades ago, with the overriding strategic maxim of “Knowledge for All,” the GRC has rapidly become a leading institute specializing in research, education, seminars, workshops, publications, and consultancy.

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