Location: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace–  Thursday, September, 7 (11:00 am – 5:00pm)

First Panel (Economic Challenges and Governance: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Palestine.

Speakers: Olfa Sourki (Tunisia), Mudar Kassis (Palestine), and Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)

Key Relevant Points:

  • The Saudi economy’s dependence on cheap foreign labour, oil revenue, and government handouts is increasingly unsustainable and while the blueprint for rebalancing the economy is good, it is unlikely to succeed without a comprehensive plan to end the Kingdom’s dependence on foreign labour and significantly decrease its dependence on oil revenues.
  • This may be the last chance for Saudi Arabia to reform its economy before rising popular frustration provokes a political crisis.
  • Vision 2030 brought the ills of the Saudi economy to light while MbS’s cutting subsidies and limiting government spending will move Saudi Arabia from an “artificial economy” to a “real economy”
  • The Saudi government should be more tolerant of and open to criticism and constructive feedback from the population and the Shura council. 

Second Panel (Security Challenges and Governance: Egypt, Morocco and Yemen.
Speakers: Farea Al Muslimi (Yemen), Nancy Okail (Egypt), Samia Errazouki (Morocco)

Key Relevant Points:

  • All of Yemen’s military forces are sectarian; the transfer of security responsibilities from families to sectarian “Public Committees” (e.g. Sana’ by the Houthis, Taez by Abu Al Abbas militia) is one of biggest security failures of the war.
  • Saudi Arabia directed funding, arms, and ammunition to paramilitary forces in Yemen while the UAE created its own military forces in Hadramout and Shabwa.
  • The Yemeni state, while near collapse, still exists. Its last vestiges are what is keeping the society together despite near-complete institutional failure.
  • Yemen is currently divided into three centers of power: Maa’reb (controlled by the Islamists), Aden (combination of loose alliances) and Sanaa’ (Houthis). Until Saleh dissolved the Central Bank, it served as a mechanism for the 3 Yemens to communicate with each other.

Third Panel (Global comparisons to the Middle East and North Africa)
Elliott Abrahams (Council on Foreign Relations), Michele Dunne (Carnegie), Jake Sullivan (senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign 16’)

Key Relevant Points:

  • Elliott Abrams said that one of the problems with the Iran deal is the fact that it does not necessarily enjoy broad support among the Iranian people.
  • Abrams said that if the US had exerted greater pressure on Saudi Arabia it could have gotten the Saudis to agree to Bahrain having a Shia prime minister and a Sunni king. The US chose not to exert that pressure.
  • Michele Dunne said that while the United States should stand for democracy and democratic values in the Middle East, that does not necessarily mean that it should act to ensure a democratic outcome in all cases.
  • Dunne also asserted that the United States should take the intervention of its allies (such as Qatar, Saudi and UAE) more seriously.

Link: http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/09/07/security-prosperity-and-governance-in-middle-east-and-north-africa-event-5673