Middle East Security

Within Middle East Security

The Middle East Security program conducts cutting-edge research on the most pressing issues in this turbulent region. The program focuses on the sources of instability in the region, maintaining key U.S. strategic partnerships, and generating solutions that help policymakers respond to both fast-moving events and long-term trends. The Middle East Security program draws on a team with deep government and non-government experience in regional studies, U.S. foreign policy, and international security. It analyzes trends and generates practical and implementable policy solutions that defend and advance U.S. interests.

Over the last year the Middle East program researched and published several in-depth reports assessing the challenges the region is facing. In early 2016, the program convened the CNAS ISIS Study Group. Chaired by CNAS CEO Michèle Flournoy and CNAS President Richard Fontaine, the group included more than 35 former and current military and government officials and counterterrorism and Middle East experts and met for a series of workshops over a six-month period. In June, the Middle East program released “Defeating the Islamic State: A Bottom-Up Approach,” the final report of the CNAS ISIS Study Group. The report proposes a strategy based on four key interlocking efforts: building coherent regional armed opposition groups from the bottom up that can hold territory, provide security, and marginalize extremists; increasing direct U.S. military support to opposition groups and U.S. direct action counter-network operations against ISIS; leveraging increased U.S. investment on the ground into diplomatic influence with key external actors; and reestablishing legitimate and acceptable governance and negotiating a political end-state for the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The report describes how these efforts can be applied region by region in western Iraq, eastern Syria, southwest Syria, and northwest Syria.

As part of CNAS’ Paper for the Next President series, the team released “Reset, Negotiate, Institutionalize: A Phased Middle East Strategy for the Next President.” The report lays out a phased strategy for the next president to pursue over the course of his or her administration. This strategy advocates beginning with resetting relations with key regional partners during the early parts of the next term, then negotiating agreements to end the region’s civil wars, and in the long run leveraging those agreements to build new security institutions in the Middle East. The report also proposes an agenda for the next president to pursue immediately upon entering the White House.

In May, the team hosted a series of discussions and rollout events on its report “A Security System for the Two State Solution,” which analyzed security measures in the context of the two-state solution that can meet Israeli security requirements and be consistent with Palestinian needs for security, sovereignty, and dignity. This included a rollout event in Washington with 250 attendees featuring General John R. Allen, U.S. Army (Ret.), Former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Middle East Security and Major General (Ret) Gadi Shamni, Former IDF Central Commander. The writing team also held a rollout event in New York hosted by the Israel Policy Forum, an event at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, and numerous briefings to members of Congress, the executive branch, Israeli and Palestinian politicians and government officials, and Jewish community leaders. Looking forward to 2017, the team will explore regional competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran and investigate the global dimension of the ISIS threat beyond Iraq and Syria.

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Research Team

  • Ilan Goldenberg

    Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

  • Nicholas Heras

    Fellow, Middle East Security Program

  • Elisa Catalano Ewers

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Middle East Security Program

  • Eric Lynn

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Middle East Security Program

  • Kaleigh Thomas

    Program Coordinator, Middle East Security Program and Energy, Economics, and Security Program