Middle East and North Africa

Achieve common ground between regional rivals and conflicting parties by bringing together experts and political leaders to develop practical solutions to destabilizing crises, including proxy conflicts in Iraq, Iran-Saudi relations, Morocco-Algeria business ties and governance in Northeast Syria, to ISIS and terrorist financing.

MENA Program in a Nutshell

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is undergoing unprecedented, historic, complex and rapid transformations. The results are violent and, in some cases, peaceful shifts that reshape state-society, as well as inter-state relations and changes to the balance of power, fragmentation, polarization and contests for power and influence among regional rivals. EWI’s MENA program is recognized for its role as a bridge-builder between conflicting parties. It has been providing a platform and safe environment for influential, well-connected experts and officials from the region and beyond to engage in confidential, complex and constructive conversations that aim at achieving common ground and developing practical solutions for some of the key crises that destabilize the region: 1) increasing proxy wars in Iraq, 2) the Iran-Saudi regional rivalry, 3) exclusive governance and power sharing in Northeast Syria, 4) weak economic relations between Algeria and Morocco, 5) maritime security and incidents at Sea in the Gulf region and 6) ISIS and terrorist financing.  



Current Projects

Iraq and Its Neighbors: Enhancing Dialogue and Regional Integration in West Asia
The project aims at assisting Iraq to transform from being a theater for proxy wars to become a bridge-builder and center for regional interdependence through improved bilateral and multilateral relations with its key five neighbors: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Kuwait. Key policy ideas will be developed for regional and bilateral cooperation in the areas of security, politics, people-to-people relations, economy, energy and environmental cooperation. In cooperation with the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO).

Iran-Saudi Dialogue
Since 2015 we have been building trust between a core group of Iranian and Saudi experts that jointly develop policy solutions in very specific areas including 1) challenges and opportunities for cooperation in the “post-oil” economic era, 2) identifying potential avenues of cooperation in the field of climate change, 3) the role of academic exchange in mitigating conflict, 4) contours of a “non-aggression pact” between both countries and 5) the role of media narratives and discourses in igniting conflicts, portraying and stereotyping “the other,” and how these narratives could play positive roles in creating change of perspectives. In cooperation with the CARPO.  

Dialogues on Governance and Security in Northeast Syria
Disagreements between the two main Syrian Kurdish political blocs—the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC)—and between Kurdish authorities and non-Kurdish communities in Northeastern Syria are negatively affecting efforts to reach a sustainable, peaceful solution in the war-torn country. This project aims to facilitate agreements between these groups on issues affecting security and stability in the region, including inclusive governance and power sharing. In partnership with Civil Society Research and Development (IMPACT).

Algeria-Morocco Business Dialogue 
This project focuses on multiple business sectors with the aim of overcoming obstacles to bilateral trade between the two neighbors. The dialogues will engage pragmatic business leaders from both countries during a series of high-level conferences. Discussions will center on topics vital to successful entrepreneurship in Algeria and Morocco such as food security, agriculture, healthcare, the impact of digitalization and new technologies and energy—with a particular focus on how to attract quality investment, ensure environmental protection and empower businesswomen.

Previous Projects

Preventing Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) in the Gulf Region
As part of the daily reality in the Gulf region, there have been many dangerous incidents at sea in the recent past. This project developed a document that was distributed among key regional and international powers with navies in the region with the intension of preventing collisions between two or more vessels; enhancing mutual knowledge and understanding of military activities; reducing the possibility of conflict by accident, miscalculation or the failure of communication; and increasing stability in times of peace and crisis. In partnership with Search for Common Ground (SFCG).

Stemming ISIS Financing: Current Policy Gaps and Urgently Needed Actions
The project brought together a select group of experts in counterterrorism financing (CTF) and anti-money laundering (AML) to address the topic of financing of ISIS and other terrorist groups such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously Jabhat al-Nusra) in order to enhance cooperation between international and regional actors. EWI and its partners produced a policy paper and shared its findings with a select group of regional and international institutions and stakeholders. In cooperation with Quilliam & St George’s House.

Thought Leadership

In addition to implementing Track 2 and Track 1.5 diplomacy projects, the MENA Program provides thought leadership to policy, media and academic analysis on MENA affairs. Vice President of the MENA program, Kawa Hassan, is actively involved in these efforts. His recent accomplishments include: 1) serving as a member of NATO Mission Iraq Strategic Assessment Capability (NMISAC), an Independent Advisory Group that provides strategic, systematic, independent, evidence based advice and insights to senior NATO Commanders to support existing assessments of the situation in Iraq and the region; 2) assumed lead-authorship of the research report "Iraq, Climate-Related Security Risk Assessment," which was used in the July 2018 UN Security Council debate on the nexus between climate change and security, brought forward under the Swedish Presidency of the Council; 3) served as a member of the Atlantic Council’s Task Force Report on the Future of Iraq “Achieving Long Term Stability to Ensure the Defeat of ISIS;” 4) co-led the Working Group Rights & Protection of Minorities in the Middle East, Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme (FMSH); and 5) giving regular speeches, lectures, hearings and briefings at think tanks, universities, government agencies and the European Parliament, as well as providing media commentary on regional developments.      

Contact: Wael Abdul-Shafi, Program Associate, MENA Program, wabdulshafi@eastwest.ngo

Media Coverage | 02/20/2019
Media Coverage | 04/24/2018
Media Coverage | 01/12/2018
Media Coverage | 12/08/2017
Media Coverage | 09/25/2017
Media Coverage | 08/30/2017
Media Coverage | 07/26/2017
News | 06/21/2017
Media Coverage | 05/24/2017
Blog | 04/10/2017
News | 03/30/2017
Media Coverage | 01/11/2017
Commentary | 11/08/2016
Media Coverage | 10/31/2016
Commentary | 10/11/2016
Media Coverage | 08/24/2016
Media Coverage | 07/05/2016
Media Coverage | 06/29/2016
Blog | 04/20/2016
Commentary | 10/28/2015
Commentary | 08/03/2015
Commentary | 12/19/2013
News | 12/05/2013
The Foreign Policy Divide
Commentary | 09/27/2012
News | 07/09/2012
The Role of Hunger in World Security
Commentary | 05/30/2012
Defense Cuts and the Future of Security
Commentary | 03/28/2012
Israel, Iran and History Lessons
Commentary | 03/02/2012
Commentary | 02/23/2012
Commentary | 02/08/2012
Commentary | 01/19/2012
Commentary | 01/10/2012
Media Coverage | 12/13/2011
News | 12/12/2011
Commentary | 11/23/2011
Commentary | 11/16/2011
Commentary | 08/25/2011
Commentary | 07/26/2011
Writing in Newsweek Poland and The Huffington Post, EWI Vice President Andrew Nagorski examines how the debt crisis is changing America’s views of its position in the world.
Commentary | 07/26/2011
Commentary | 02/10/2011
Commentary | 10/04/2010
Commentary | 09/28/2010
Commentary | 09/20/2010
Commentary | 09/09/2010
Commentary | 07/21/2010
Commentary | 06/28/2010
Iran nuclear danger downplayed in reports
Media Coverage | 05/20/2009
NATO's Civilian Surge
Media Coverage | 05/11/2009
Security Challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan
Media Coverage | 05/11/2009
OSCE's Perl calls for more diplomacy
Media Coverage | 02/28/2009