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Dean Fahmy takes part in the Middle East Institute’s 70th Annual Conference in Washington

On Wednesday, November 16th, 2016, Dean Nabil Fahmy took part in the 70th Annual Middle East Institute (MEI) conference in Washington. He participated in a high-level panel discussion entitled Rebuilding Alliances, Containing Adversaries, along with HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal and distinguished security practitioners and scholars Eliot Cohen and Vali Nasr. Reflecting on the changing security environment internationally and in the Middle East, the panelists discussed the United States’ national interests at stake in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Israel.
Dean Fahmy reminded the audience that power balances are not only shifting in the flammable region but are also shifting internationally: Russia is reemerging and China has become an important global player. Global powers are still searching for the proper balance between them after the end of the Cold War. In addition to the shifting regional power balances governments are under immense pressure to deliver economic growth and better governance whilst fighting against terrorism and extremism. He pointed out that that the turmoil in the region is the result of two explicit deficiencies: (1) the inability of regional leaders to properly manage inevitable change and (2) their over dependence on security provided by external actors – be that in terms of military hardware or security alliances or arrangements.
Dean Fahmy urged the international, and especially the regional, community to find ways to cooperate and keep professional communication channels open, even with adversaries. He reminded that the problems the region faces simply cannot be dealt with alone; they need cooperation and coordination, both diplomatic and military. States have to have frank conversations about identity and to find ways to bridge ethnic, tribal, religious, national and even regional identities with each other. Dean Fahmy also pointed out that this is an issue Middle East has to solve itself, no external power can or should attempt to solve it. He warned the audience that one of the major challenges for stabilizing the Middle East is the tension between four primary states in the region: tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia on one hand and Turkey and Egypt on the other. However, he pointed out that a greater dialogue especially between traditional Arab leaders, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is of uttermost importance.
Dean Fahmy reminded that regional rapprochement would also serve United States’ national interests: better-coordinated and more holistic approach to combatting terrorism and extremism in the region would mean less need for US military involvement. He recognized that the unpredictability of Trump’s foreign policy remains a source of worry. Although Dean Fahmy felt hopeful that his Middle East policy for the next four years would include pushing for a healthier regional self-dependence. Dean Fahmy predicted that Egypt and the United States will most likely have a fruitful cooperation in terms of combatting terrorism and extremism during Trump’s presidency. He also pointed out that a point of convergence is that both nations embrace a realpolitik approach to their foreign policies. He warned that even though the Israel-Palestine conflict has been neglected during the elections, ignoring it will be detrimental for regional stability. In addition, Dean Fahmy reminded the audience that even if all the above problems were miraculously moved to the right direction, towards resolution and consensus, the region would require tremendous economic resources for reconstruction and stabilization. He called for the Middle Eastern states to push for more openness in terms of democratic reforms and to establish more robust checks-and-balances for governments. However, Dean Fahmy pointed out that such push for democracy has to come from within and not be imposed by outside powers.