2020 Middle Eastern and North African American National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders

#NextGenNatSec
Article/Op-Ed
Sept. 8, 2020

There is no question that the American people are eager for new leaders who reflect the diversity of our country and bring forward fresh ideas on strengthening America’s role in the world. Unfortunately, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Americans have not been a visible part of the foreign policy and national security workforce. This inaugural list aims to address this by highlighting the contributions of a rising generation of policy leaders within this community.

The MENA American community is brimming with talented leaders with expertise in diplomacy, national security, and international development, and politics. In recent decades, their contributions and talents have been recognized through the appointment of Lebanese-American Ed Gabriel as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco in 1997 and Theodore Kattouf as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in 1999; the contributions of Iranian-American Vali Nasr as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan; the appointments of Hady Amr as the Deputy Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and Juliette Kayyem as the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security; and the elections of Syrian-American Justin Amash in 2010 and of Rashida Tlaib in 2018 as the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. These trail blazers paved the way for MENA American leaders who are eager to contribute to strengthening U.S. national security and foreign policy.

The Diversity in National Security Network and New America are thrilled to recognize the contributions of 30 MENA American next generation leaders in U.S. national security and foreign policy. We are pleased to honor these rising leaders and support them as they strive to shape U.S. policy across a spectrum of issues. This list includes experts currently working in government, academia, think tanks, nonprofits, the media, and the private sector. Their work focuses on a wide range of critical policy issues ranging from defense, to human rights, to public health, to technological innovation, to public diplomacy. They were selected based on their demonstrated leadership potential, current work in national security or foreign policy, career excellence, contributions to their areas of expertise, and commitment to serving their communities.

Although this group’s interests and contributions are highly diverse, several of the #NextGenNatSec leaders profiled grew up in the shadow of the September 11 attacks and – like countless other younger Americans – developed an interest in U.S. national security and foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. This subset of the group, many of whom are first generation Americans, is notable in that they have personal ties to the region and possess unique perspectives that have been integral in re-shaping the discourse around the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa.

Mohamed Abdel-Kader

Executive Director, the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute

Mohamed Abdel-Kader

Mohamed Abdel-Kader is Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. He previously served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education at the U.S. Department of Education. In that role, he led his division’s work in administering Fulbright-Hays as well as Title VI grants to support language and area studies programs in the United States. Mohamed previously held roles supporting international engagement at Georgetown University and George Mason University. He speaks fluent Arabic and basic Spanish, is a Truman National Security Fellow and is the author of a children’s book about stereotypes. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Clemson University, a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, and an MBA from Georgetown University. Mohamed is a trustee of the Longview Foundation for International Education & World Affairs and was named an Eisenhower Fellow for 2020.

You can connect with Mohamed Abdel-Kader on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: International Education

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Sarah Alaoui

Ph.D. Candidate, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Sarah Alaoui

Sarah Alaoui is a Moroccan-American Ph.D. student in the Middle East Studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Her research focuses on Arab public diplomacy and political communications, particularly in the West. She is also a public affairs consultant working at the intersection of international affairs, media, and diplomacy. Previously, she worked on democracy and governance issues in North Africa at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the nexus between national security and diplomacy as a visiting researcher at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Her work has been published by CAP, the Brookings Institution, Atlantic Council, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and Al Jazeera. Previously, she served on the board of the Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP). Sarah holds a B.A. in political science from the University of California, San Diego, and an M.A. from Sciences Po. She speaks French and Arabic.

You can connect with Sarah Alaoui on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Public Diplomacy, Middle East and North Africa

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Bassima Alghussein

Managing Partner, Alghussein Global Strategies

Bassima Alghussein

Bassima Alghussein is Managing Partner of Alghussein Global Strategies, an international government affairs and communications consulting firm. During the Obama Administration, Bassima served as a White House Appointed Legislative Affairs Advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy and completed the White House Management Leadership Training Program. She previously led Congressional relations for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and worked in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alghussein is a Truman National Security Project Political Partner, Board Member of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security and on the Meridian International Center Young Global Leaders Council. She frequently appears on international news outlets to discuss foreign and domestic policy, reaching audiences worldwide and is a widely published and highly sought-after thought leader and public-speaker. Bassima earned her B.A. at Mount Holyoke College and M.A. from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

You can connect with Bassima Alghussein on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Energy, Gulf Security, Cyber Security, Middle East

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Reema Ali

National Security Analyst, Morrison and Foerster

Reema Ali

Reema S. Shocair Ali is a national security analyst at Morrison & Foerster where she supports all areas of the national security group practice. From 2009-2017, she served at the Pentagon in multiple roles, including as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of the Navy, attorney advisor to the Department of the Navy General Counsel, and as an advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy. In 2010, Reema was selected to serve on the Secretary of the Navy’s team for the President that developed a Gulf Coast recovery and restoration plan following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Reema's experience also includes clerking in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, teaching law and public policy at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, and working for a Member of Congress. Reema was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 2017 and is a fellow of the Truman National Security Project.

Areas of Expertise: Defense, Intelligence, Cybersecurity and Data Privacy, Middle East, Election Protection, Crisis Management, Intersection of Law and Public Policy

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Jennifer Atala

Global Development & MENA Specialist

Jennifer Atala

Jennifer Atala founded Inara Strategies LLC, a global consultancy applying a systems-level approach to develop initiatives that catalyze business and economic growth. She has led engagements in Palestine, Jordan and Israel and curated partnerships with Fortune 500 & 1000 companies. Prior, Jennifer managed investments in seven industries and built alliances across agencies for the USAID Compete Project in Palestine. In D.C., she led investment process improvement work at IFC, winning awards. Also at USAID, she managed a program in Afghanistan and served on the State Department Libya Task Force. In Egypt, she created social impact products for microfinance clients to combat the Avian Flu. Prior, she led civil rights advocacy efforts for Arab Americans and Palestinian Israelis. Jennifer regularly speaks on Israel-Palestine, economic growth, and tech innovation. She earned her M.A. from Johns Hopkins SAIS, B.A. from the University of Chicago, and is a Truman National Security Project Fellow.

You can connect with Jennifer Atala on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Israel-Palestine, Middle East and North Africa, Private Sector Development, Economic Development, Fragile and Conflict States, Partnership Development, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation,Tech Innovation for Enterprise

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Roy Awabdeh

Senior Counsel, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Roy Awabdeh

Roy Awabdeh serves as Senior Counsel on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where he is responsible for legislation, oversight, and congressional investigations of national security matters. He focuses on counterterrorism, Federal law enforcement, and foreign election interference. Roy previously served as Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, covering nominations and foreign election interference, and as Policy Advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren, covering economics, ethics, and foreign affairs. Prior to joining Capitol Hill, Roy began his legal career as a clerk on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then litigated complex civil and criminal matters in private practice. Roy holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he concentrated on international, national security, and foreign policy law, and a B.A. from Wheaton College.

You can connect with Roy Awabdeh on Linkedin.

Areas of Expertise: Foreign Policy, Counterterrorism, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Middle East, National Security Law

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Iman Awad

Deputy Director, Emgage

Imad Awad

Iman Awad is the Deputy Director at Emgage, an organization focused on uplifting Muslim Americans. She works on the national policy portfolio that includes protecting global human rights as well as improving domestic policies for Muslim Americans. Most recently, she worked on the passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Act and the NO BAN Act, which would effectively repeal the presidential Muslim bans. In 2008, she was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley to lead the nation’s first Commissions on Middle Eastern and Continental African Affairs. She was responsible for developing policies to address the needs and concerns of these communities. Her work led to the first MOU with Baghdad, Iraq through Sister Cities International and she was selected for the team responsible for planning the Governor’s international mission to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Iman received her B.S. in Political Science and Economics from Loyola University, Maryland and is a Truman Political Partner.

You can connect with Iman Awad on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East, Continental Africa, Human Rights and International Religious Freedoms

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Alia Awadallah

Non-Resident Scholar, Middle East Institute

Alia Awadallah

Alia Awadallah is a Presidential Management Fellowship finalist and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute. Her work focuses on international security, U.S. policy in the Middle East, and disinformation. Alia previously served as Research Associate for Middle East policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP). In that role, she conducted field research and authored analysis on U.S. security policy, in addition to conducting field research and staffing high-level delegations to the Middle East. Alia also worked as Senior Program Coordinator at Vital Voices, where she implemented human rights programs across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. She is a first generation American and college student who speaks Arabic fluently. Her work has been published by CAP, Foreign Policy, Defense One, the Hill, the National Interest, and more. Alia holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins SAIS, where she was awarded the Rumsfeld Fellowship, and a B.A. from Kent State University.

You can connect with Alia Awadallah on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: U.S. Foreign Policy, International Security, Middle East, Security Assistance, Counterterrorism, Countering Violent Extremism, Public Diplomacy

Sahar Aziz

Professor of Law, Rutgers University

Sahar Aziz

Sahar Aziz is Professor of Law, Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, and Middle East and Legal Studies Scholar at Rutgers University Law School. Her scholarship examines intersections of national security, race, and civil rights and the relationship between authoritarianism, terrorism, and rule of law in Egypt. She is the founding director of the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. Professor Aziz is an editor for the Arab Law Quarterly and the International Journal of Middle East. Professor Aziz has published over thirty academic articles and book chapters. Professor Aziz served as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where she worked on law and policy at the intersection of national security and civil liberties. She earned a J.D. and M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Texas and clerked on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

You can connect with Sahar Aziz here, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Counterterrorism, Countering Violent Extremism, Middle East, Egypt

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Wafa Ben-Hassine

Tech and Human Rights Lawyer

Wafa Ben-Hassine

Wafa Ben-Hassine is a New York attorney specializing in law and technology. She is currently Head of the Justice Accelerator (MENA) at the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law. Most recently, she worked as the MENA Policy Manager for Access Now, a global non-profit defending human rights online, and consulted the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and the International Finance Corporation. She has also advised several international organizations on matters related to internet regulation and policy. Wafa is Co-Chair of the WEF’s Global Future Council on Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and has served as a member of the Freedom Online Coalition Advisory Network. In 2015, she was an Open Technology Fund fellow hosted at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she researched anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws in select Arab countries. Wafa holds a J.D. from the University of Denver and a B.A. in Political Science, Public Law from UC San Diego.

You can connect with Wafa Ben-Hassine on her website, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East and North Africa, Cybersecurity, Disinformation and Propaganda, Tech and Human Rights

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Naz Durakoğlu

Senior National Security Advisor, Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Naz Durakoğlu

Naz Durakoğlu is a trans-Atlantic policy expert with over a decade of experience in the U.S. Government. She serves as senior national security advisor to Senator Jeanne Shaheen and manages Democratic issues and activities on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation and on the Senate NATO Observer Group. Previously, Naz was a senior fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab where she testified before Congress and researched foreign election interference trends in Turkey and France. Naz also served in the Obama Administration as senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Naz began her career in the U.S. House of Representatives where she held various positions, including on the Foreign Affairs Committee. She is a first-generation American who speaks fluent Turkish and holds a B.A. from Rutgers University and a M.A. from the Naval War College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and son.

You can connect with Naz Durakoğlu on LinkedIn.

Areas of Expertise: Europe and NATO Policy, Turkey, Inclusive Security, U.S. Sanctions Policy, and Information Defense

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Jasmine El-Gamal

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Jasmine El-Gamal

Jasmine M. El-Gamal is a nonresident senior fellow with the Middle East program at the Atlantic Council, where she focuses primarily on U.S. and European policies in the Middle East. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, Jasmine served four Secretaries of Defense as a Middle East advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy from 2008-2015. During her tenure, she covered issues related to the Arab Spring, Syria, ISIS, and Guantanamo Bay, among others. In 2003, she served in Iraq as a translator and cultural advisor for the 82nd Airborne Division during the initial stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she facilitated dialogue and cooperation between the U.S. military and the local Iraqi population in Southern Iraq. Since then, Jasmine has worked throughout her career in national security to incorporate and promote inter-faith and inter-cultural understanding between the various stakeholders.

You can connect with Jasmine El-Gamal on Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East, Terrorism and Radicalization, Countering Violent Extremism

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Naz El-Khatib

National Security Professional

Naz El-Khatib

Naz El-Khatib is a national security professional with experience in the non-profit, public and private sectors. As Associate Director of Policy at National Security Action, he drove efforts on a range of contemporary U.S. foreign policy challenges, principally U.S.-China relations, climate change, the COVID-19 crisis, and democracy and the rule of law. He has also published analysis on these topics, among others. Earlier in his career, Naz worked at McKinsey in multiple roles, including serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Global Managing Partner. While in law school, Naz served as Policy Fellow to Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, where he advised on a range of policy initiatives. He is a Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project and a Climate and Security Advisory Group Fellow. Naz holds a J.D. from Stanford, an MPhil in International Relations and Politics from the University of Cambridge, and a B.A. in Political Science from Yale.

Areas of Expertise: U.S.-China Policy, Climate Change, Democracy and Rule of Law

You can connect with Naz El-Khatib on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Mai El-Sadany

Managing Director and Legal and Judicial Director, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Mai El-Sadany

Mai El-Sadany is a human rights lawyer with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She is currently the Managing Director and Legal and Judicial Director at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). She works closely with rights lawyers in the MENA region to amplify and bolster their work as one of the last lines of defense and bulwarks against authoritarianism. Her published work has focused on making some of the most pressing legal, human rights, and transitional justice issues across the MENA region more accessible for a non-technical policy audience. She holds a J.D. and certificate in refugees and humanitarian emergencies from the Georgetown University Law Center, and a B.A. in political science from Stanford University. Mai has previously worked at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

You can connect with Mai El-Sadany on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Area of Expertise: Middle East and North Africa, Rule of Law, International Human Rights Law

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Nadia Farra

Senior Syria Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State

Nadia Farra

Nadia Farra is the Senior Syria Desk Officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department. For over five years, she has advised U.S. government leaders on congressional relations, nonproliferation, and political issues. In this role, she supports U.S. efforts to de-escalate violence and make progress towards a political solution to end the conflict in Syria. Nadia entered the civil service in 2011 as a Presidential Management Fellow at USAID where she worked in the Executive Secretariat before serving on the Yemen Desk. Nadia holds a Master's degree in Public Administration with a focus on International Development from New York University and a Bachelor's degree in International Affairs with a Minor in Arabic from the University of Georgia. Nadia is the Chair of Arab Americans in Foreign Affairs Agencies, 2018 International Career Advancement Program Fellow, 2018 Center for a New American Security Fellow, and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

You can connect with Nadia Farra on LinkedIn.

Areas of Expertise: Syria, Middle East

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Donna Farvard

National Organizing Director, National Iranian American Council

Donna Farvard

Donna Farvard is the daughter of Iranian immigrants and currently serves as the National Organizing Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), overseeing the organization's national grassroots field program. She has spent the past three years working to organize and empower Iranian Americans across the country to promote peace and diplomacy with Iran, advocate for equitable immigration policy, and protect the civil rights of all Americans. During this time, she has primarily mobilized Iranian Americans to prevent a war with Iran and end the Muslim ban. Currently, Donna is organizing one of the largest Iranian-American voter outreach campaigns in history, working to make sure that the community turns out to vote and increases their political representation to better advocate for the issues that impact the community. Prior to working with NIAC, Donna spent six years organizing campaigns to protect the environment, protect consumers, and mobilize voters.

You can connect with Donna Farvard on Linkedin and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: U.S.-Iran Policy, Peace and Diplomacy

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Hoda Hawa

Social Impact Manager, Participant

Hoda Hawa

Hoda Hawa is the Social Impact Manager at Participant where she works on impact campaigns using participant-produced films and stories for social change. Prior to that, Hoda was the Director of the Washington, DC Office at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Hoda led the organization’s policy goals based on MPAC's policy agenda with a specific focus on Capitol Hill, federal agencies and civil society. Hoda researched and wrote policy memorandum, papers and statements on key domestic and foreign policy issues including: intersection of national security and civil liberties, immigration, religious freedom and human rights, and tech policy. She appeared on national and international news media to speak on those issues as they impacted American Muslim communities. Hoda has an M.A. in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs from American University and a B.A. in Political Science from the George Washington University.

You can connect with Hoda Hawa on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Community Engagement, Surveillance, Tech Policy

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Moh Kilani

Chief Strategy Officer, Victory Medical INC

Moh Kilani

Mohammed “Moh” Kilani is a policy strategist, with a bias for action. He has a decade of experience in international business and foreign affairs. Moh uses his regional expertise for public service between the U.S. government and Arab-American communities. He was a leading figure in Seattle in the protests against the Muslim ban and the separation of undocumented families. Moh has published research through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on blockchain and critical sector cyber-resilience, and was lead researcher with the Washington Department of Commerce for their Data Center Research Initiative. Moh is a native speaker of multiple dialects of Arabic, including Iraqi and Libyan. He holds a B.S. in biology from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and an M.A. in Applied International Studies from the University of Washington. He is an Arctic Initiative Fellow at the University of Washington and a Security Fellow for the Truman National Security Project.

You can connect with Moh Kilani on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East and North Africa, Cyber, Biotech, Arctic

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Negar Mortazavi

Journalist and Political Commentator

Negar Mortazavi updated photoe

Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian-American bilingual journalist and political commentator based in Washington. She is a columnist for The Independent in the UK and a political commentator for radio and television frequently appearing on the BBC, MSNBC, and NPR as well as international and local media outlets across the world in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Previously, she was a television anchor at Voice of America where she hosted a daily flagship show on current affairs. She has also worked at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the International Journalists' Network (IJNet), and MIT's Center for International Studies. The Guardian has named her one of the top 10 people on twitter for Iran issues. In 2017 she was named a Young Leader by Friends of Europe in Brussels, Belgium. Mortazavi has an M.A. from the Heller School at Brandeis University and a B.A. from University of Massachusetts.

You can connect with Negar Mortazavi on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Area of Expertise: U.S. Foreign Policy, Middle East, Iran

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Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State and former Director on the White House National Security Council staff

Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

Sahar Nowrouzzadeh is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the Department of State and is currently on a sabbatical pursuing her Ph.D. and serving as an Associate at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Beginning her tenure as a career civil servant in 2005, she has focused on Iran in a range of capacities including by serving as a Director for Iran and Iran Nuclear Implementation on the White House National Security Council (NSC) staff and as a member of the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff. She also previously served as a Team Chief and Analyst at the Department of Defense. She is the recipient of such awards as the State Department Superior Honor Award, a National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation and the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism. She earned her master’s degree in Persian Studies from the University of Maryland and her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University.

You can connect with Sahar Nowrouzzadeh on LinkedIn.

Areas of Expertise: U.S. Foreign Policy, U.S. National Security, U.S.-Iran Relations, Middle East, Nuclear Nonproliferation

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Jomana Qaddour

Nonresident Senior Fellow & Head of Syria Portfolio, Atlantic Council

Jomana Qaddour

Jomana Qaddour is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center, where she leads the Syria portfolio. She is a doctoral student at Georgetown University Law Center, focusing on ethno-sectarianism and its impact on constitutional frameworks and serves on the UN-facilitated Syrian Constitutional Committee's Civil Society Group. She co-founded the humanitarian organization Syria Relief & Development, implementing over $92 million worth of aid. She previously served as a Senior Policy Analyst at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, where she covered Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. Prior to that, she was a Senior Analyst at Caerus Associates and also a Senior Research Assistant and Publications Manager for the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. She is a member of the Truman National Security Project and a 2019 CNAS Next Generation National Security Fellow.

You can connect with Jomana Qaddour on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Levant, Syria, Diplomacy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Peace-Building, Comparative Constitutional Law

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Diana Rayes

International Health Ph.D. Candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Diana Rayes

Diana Rayes is a Ph.D. candidate in international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a research associate at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, and a Nonresident Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Rayes has worked for the EU, WHO, the Lancet Commission on Syria, Migration Policy Institute, and both Syrian and international NGOs. More recently, she has consulted for the WHO, Federation of American Scientists, and World Refugee Council on COVID-19 response efforts. Rayes also served as a refugee policy advisor to Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign. A former Fulbright research fellowship grantee to Germany, Rayes holds a master's in public health from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in psychology from Arizona State University. She has been published in the British Medical Journal, PLOS Medicine, and The Lancet and is a steering committee member of the Syrian Public Health Network.

You can connect with Diana Rayes on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Global Health, COVID-19, Refugee and Immigration Policy

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Fayrouz Saad

Executive Director of the Office of Global Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Fayrouz Saad

Fayrouz Saad currently serves on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s cabinet as the Executive Director of Global Michigan. She leads immigration policy, immigrant integration and economic inclusion programs for the State of Michigan. Prior to serving in this role, Fayrouz became the first Director of the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs under Mayor Mike Duggan – where she led efforts resettle refugees in Detroit, built the Detroit-ID program, and developed a strategy to engage and grow immigrant owned small businesses in the City. Fayrouz is rooted in Michigan, but spent five years in Washington D.C., supporting the Obama Administration. Fayrouz served in President Obama’s administration at the Department of Homeland Security where she worked to strengthen community policing efforts in the fight against terrorism, helped coordinate DHS’ emergency response to the Deepwater Horizon Crisis, and served as a liaison to Governors and Mayors in key states and cities.

You can connect with Fayrouz Saad on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Immigration, Refugee Resettlement, Homeland Security, Domestic Counterterrorism

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Geo Saba

Legislative Director, Congressman Ro Khanna

Geo Saba

Geo Saba is the Legislative Director for Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, and previously was the Congressman’s National Security Advisor. Geo staffs him on the House Armed Services Committee, helping spearhead the Congressman's efforts to block funding for a war against Iran and the Yemen War Powers Resolution. He also worked on two bills for Congressman Khanna that President Trump signed into law, the VALOR Act and 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act. He is of Lebanese descent and was born and raised in the Bay Area in California. Geo played varsity baseball at Stanford University, where he was a research assistant for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in International Security Studies. He was a Gates Scholar and received an MPhil in International Relations at Cambridge University. Before that, he interned for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and in the Obama White House.

You can connect with Geo Saba on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Congressional War Powers, Yemen, Iran, Arms Control

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Adham Sahloul

Founder, Network for Syrian American Progress

Adham Sahloul

Adham Sahloul is a consultant working at the intersection of diplomacy, technology, and international affairs at Accenture Federal Services. A Middle East policy specialist, he has worked on a variety of national security issues while based in the region and in Washington, D.C. In addition to past work at the Atlantic Council and the Brookings Institution, Sahloul worked on defense and human rights issues in the Office of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and was a foreign policy advisor to Pete Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign. His expertise has been published by the Center for Global Policy, Middle East Institute, Lawfare, Axios, and The Diplomat. Sahloul is the founder of the Network for Syrian American Progress, which supports the advancement and visibility of Syrian Americans in public policy. He holds an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

You can connect with Adham Sahloul on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East, International Security, Disinformation, Public Diplomacy

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Omar Shakir

Israel and Palestine Director, Human Rights Watch

Omar Shakir

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, investigates human rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Prior to his current role, he was a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he focused on U.S. counterterrorism policies, including legal representation of Guantanamo detainees. As the 2013-14 Arthur R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellow at Human Rights Watch, he investigated human rights violations in Egypt, including the Rab’a massacre, one of the largest killings of protesters in a single day. A former Fulbright Scholar in Syria, Omar holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he co-authored a report on the civilian consequences of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan as a part of the International Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Clinic, an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Affairs, and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford.

You can connect with Omar Shakir on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Area of Expertise: Human Rights in the Middle East (Egypt, Israel-Palestine)

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Feras Sleiman

Counsel, Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren

Feras Sleiman

Feras Sleiman is Counsel in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), where he covers legislative and oversight efforts related to national security policy, including issues before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Senate Banking Committee, nominations, and other projects. Prior to joining Senator Warren's office, Feras worked as a law clerk for Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). He earned his law degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Minnesota Law School, and his undergraduate degree in Political Science and French and Francophone Studies from the University of Michigan.

You can connect with Feras Sleiman on Twitter.

Area of Expertise: Middle East, Europe, Military Affairs, International Economic Policy

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Dr. Ariane Tabatabai

Middle East Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

Dr. Ariane Tabatabai.png

Dr. Ariane M. Tabatabai is the Middle East Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and an adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia University. She is also a Truman National Security Fellow and a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Term Member. Prior to joining GMF, Tabatabai served as an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation, the director of curriculum and a visiting assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University, and an international civilian consultant for NATO. Previously, Tabatabai was a post-doctoral fellow and a Stanton nuclear security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the author of the forthcoming No Conquest, No Defeat — Iran’s National Security Strategy and the co-author of Triple Axis: Iran's Relations With Russia and China. Tabatabai holds a Ph.D. in war studies from King's College London and is a native French and Persian speaker.

You can connect with Ariane Tabatabai on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East, Iran

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Jessica Wilson-Jones

Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State

Jessica Wilson-Jones.png

Jessica Wilson-Jones is a Foreign Affairs Officer for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. She coordinates the Department’s foreign assistance programs and policy in Syria leading efforts across the interagency. Previously, she served in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs managing programs in Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. During the Obama Administration, she was appointed to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy, leading the advancement of national security and cybersecurity in the MENA region. Jessica is the 2021 director for the NLC Maryland chapter. Prior to her service in government, Jessica worked for the International Rescue Committee where she focused on refugee resettlement and development. Mrs. Wilson-Jones holds a B.A. in International Relations and Arabic Language from Tufts University, and a M.A. in International Business from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Jessica is Egyptian-American and a native Arabic speaker.

You can connect with Jessica Wilson-Jones on LinkedIn.

Areas of Expertise: U.S. Diplomacy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Middle East and North Africa, International Development, Democracy and Human Rights

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Dr. Ahmed Younis

Former Principal Deputy Coordinator and Deputy Special Envoy, Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State

Dr. Ahmed Younis

Dr. Ahmed Younis served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy Special Envoy of the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State. He is assistant professor in peace studies and international relations at Chapman University. Younis was an International Security program fellow at New America. He was previously assigned to the Department of Homeland Security as senior adviser for strategic engagement in the Office for Community Partnerships. Younis served as a senior consultant for the Gallup Organization and senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, he was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims globally. In 2011 and 2012, Arabian Business Magazine named him as one of the "Power 500" of the Arab world. Younis holds a JD from Washington & Lee School of Law and a Ph.D. in the philosophy of education. He hosts “The Study with Ahmed Younis” podcast.

You can connect with Ahmed Younis on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Areas of Expertise: Middle East, Homeland Security, Disinformation

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