Virtual ThinkTalk: After Abqaiq: The Future of the U.S. Security Commitment to the Gulf

Virtual ThinkTalk: After Abqaiq: The Future of the U.S. Security Commitment to the Gulf

An informative discussion took place in Derasat’s latest Virtual Think Talk with a discussion on whether the missile strikes on Al Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia last September 2019, were truly a turning point in US-Gulf security relations, and the impact this incident might have on the future of Washington’s security commitment to its partners in the region. The webinar featured  a panel of distinguished speakers comprising, Amb. Martin Indyk, Bilal Saab and Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib, moderated by Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli,


Webinar recording


Article link – Arabic only

Amb. Martin Indyk

Amb. Martin S. Indyk is distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he was the John C. Whitehead Distinguished Fellow in International Diplomacy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. From February 2015 to March 2018, he served as executive vice president of Brookings. Indyk served as the U.S. special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from July 2013 to June 2014. Prior to his time as special envoy, he was vice president and director of the Foreign Policy program and a senior fellow and the founding director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

Indyk served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2000 to 2001. He also served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council (1993–95) and as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the U.S. Department of State (1997–2000). Before entering government, Indyk was founding executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for eight years. He serves on the boards of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Australia, the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, and the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Investment Initiative. Indyk also serves as a member of the advisory boards of the Israel Democracy Institute and America Abroad Media.

Indyk is the author of Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East” (Simon and Schuster, 2009) and the co-author of Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy with Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Lieberthal (Brookings Institution Press, 2012).  He is currently completing a book tentatively titled Henry Kissinger and the Art of the Middle East Deal to be published by A.A.Knopf in 2019. Indyk received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Sydney and a doctorate in international relations from the Australian National University.

Bilal Saab

Bilal Y. Saab is a political-military analyst on the Middle East and U.S. policy toward the region. He specializes in the Levant and the Gulf, and focuses on security cooperation between the United States and its regional partners, and national security and defense processes in Arab partner countries. At the Middle East Institute, Saab is Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program. Prior to MEI, Saab served as Senior Advisor for Security Cooperation (SC) in the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, with responsibilities for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

In his capacity as the Department of Defense’s lead on security cooperation in the broader Middle East, Saab supported the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s responsibility for SC oversight by leading prioritization and strategic integration of SC resources and activities for the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility. Saab is a term member (2016-2021) with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a recipient of the International Affairs Fellowship (2018-2019) with CFR. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He has held fellowships and research and management positions at Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Saab has fluency in both written and spoken Arabic and French, and experience living in the Middle East for more than two decades. He has received various analytic and leadership awards throughout his career including the Thought Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council and the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Award from CSIS. A prolific and widely published author in peer-reviewed academic and policy journals including the print editions of The Washington Quarterly, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, American Interest, and The National Interest and the online editions of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, Saab is often called upon to brief and testify before various executive and legislative agencies in the U.S. government and other governments around the world. He regularly provides commentary to international media outlets including CNN, NPR, PBS Newshour, Reuters, Washington Post and New York Times.

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

Dr. Dania is an affiliated scholar at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She is also a member of the steering committee for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) National Agenda for the Future of Syria (NAFS) programme. She specializes in US-Arab relations and has a special interest in Syria. Dania is editor of a forthcoming book, ‘The Syrian Crisis: Effects on Regional and International Relations (Aug 2020) and has previously authored, ‘The Arab Lobby: Factors for Success and Failure’ (2016) and was first editor for, ‘The Arab Gulf States and the West: Perceptions and Realities – Opportunities and Perils’ (2019). She is a weekly columnist in the Saudi newspaper Arab News and makes regular appearances on a series of Middle Eastern TV stations. Dr. Dania has co-directed, participated and presented scholarly papers in numerous conferences and workshops. She has been a guest speaker on several high-profile platforms such as NATO, European Parliament and the Heritage Foundation. She holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Exeter as well as an MBA and a BBA from the AUB.

Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli



Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli is Director of Studies and Research, and Director of Economics and Energy Studies. He previously worked as an Assistant Professor of Economics at George Mason University, USA, as well as being a member of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists. Dr. Al-Ubaydli received his BA in Economics from the University of Cambridge (Queens’ College) and his MA and PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Al-Ubaydli’s research has been published in several international, peer-reviewed journals and has been featured by media outlets including the Economist magazine.

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