The Middle East Policy Council is excited to announce the 2024 cohort of 40 Under 40 Awardees. This honor recognizes the breadth of cultural, economic, and political relationships between the United States and countries of the Middle East with awardees from a variety of professional backgrounds including academia, business, culture, and diplomacy. Congratulations!
Combiz Abdolrahimi is Deloitte’s Global Emerging Technology & Innovation Leader. He has served as a national security lawyer, policymaker, & chief innovation officer, advising U.S. Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries, Regulators, Senators, and global CEOs at The White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Senate. He serves on multiple boards and advisory committees, including the Meridian International Center’s Executive Committee, the OECD Expert Policy Advisory Board on Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, and Black Professionals in International Affairs. Combiz is the Vice Chair for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Trade Finance Advisory Council and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Born in Texas, the son of proud immigrants from the Middle East, Combiz’s first job was working the cash register for his family’s small business at the age of 12. Combiz is a graduate of UCLA, American University of Beirut, & Georgetown Law.
Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah
Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah is the Director of Programs at the Qatar America Institute for Culture and an independent curator and cultural producer. She has worked with numerous contemporary artists, galleries, and organizations in Washington, D.C. and across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including, most recently, the Middle East Institute. Her work centers on cultural diplomacy, heritage, and the contributions of modern and contemporary diaspora communities and contemporary cultural production from the MENA. Laila currently serves on George Mason University’s Arts at Mason Board and is a member of ArtTable, Inc., Museum HUE, and Arts Administrators of Color Network. She has worked on more than 20 major museum exhibitions over the course of her career in previous positions. She received her M.A. from Georgetown University’s Arab Studies program and holds a B.A. from George Mason University’s School of Integrative Studies.
Talal Alabsi serves as the Desk Officer for Germany within the European Affairs Sector at the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs and holds the diplomatic rank of First Secretary. He joined the Bahraini foreign service in 2010. Before assuming this position, Talal was stationed at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States of America, where he oversaw the engagement with the U.S. Senate, and has been instrumental in fostering new relationships with numerous American Jewish groups following the signing of the Abraham Accords. Prior to these responsibilities, Talal was in charge of establishing the think tank outreach division within the Embassy. In this role, he managed to establish institutional relationships between the Embassy and various think tanks. He received his LMM in International Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and B.A. in International Studies from AMA University in Bahrain.
Hadeil Ali is director of the Diversity and Leadership in International Affairs Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The program is dedicated to elevating diverse voices and perspectives to lead to more ideas, more innovation, and more robust policy solutions. Hadeil serves as a thought leader on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the national security space and is the chair of the Think Tank Diversity Consortium. She is an advisor with Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS). Hadeil has published numerous pieces with CSIS, Inkstick Media, Business Insider, and Medium on the topics of DEI and national security. She has participated in dozens of panels, lectures, and conferences throughout the United States. Hadeil is a 2023-2024 Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and a 2022 fellow with the International Career Advancement Program. She holds an M.A. in contemporary Arab studies with highest honors from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. in international relations and communications summa cum laude from Drury University. She speaks French, Arabic, and Spanish.
Lieutenant Jasmin Alsaied is a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy and most recently served as the aide to the assistant deputy chief of naval operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy in Washington, DC. She has an extensive background in the Middle East and specializes in arms control, deterrence, and leveraging emerging technology to forge and deepen vital partnerships. Formerly, Jasmin worked on the Hill, with several think tanks, and served onboard USS Lassen (DDG-82). She is a 2023 McCain Global Leader and is currently a non-resident fellow with the Middle East Institute’s defense and security team. She holds a B.S. in nuclear engineering from North Carolina State University and an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Marcelle Afram, an Arab-Assyrian Chef, Activist, and Public Speaker, embraces their heritage to elevate Palestinian-inspired cuisine through Shababi, launched in 2021 with multiple award nominations. They channel their culinary talent for social justice, focusing on transgender rights and Palestine advocacy, viewing food as a unifying and transformative force. Marcelle collaborates with social justice groups, raising funds and challenging bias and misinformation. Marcelle's culinary and social leadership have earned him multiple acknowledgements, including the 2023 RAMMY Rising Culinary Star award, a panelist role at SXSW, recognition as one of Washington City Paper’s 2021 People of the Year, membership in the World Central Kitchen Chef Corps, and participation in a roundtable discussion with Vice President Harris, addressing LGBTQ+ issues in the restaurant industry.
Holding 15 years of banking experience, Naz Bajger is the Vice General Manager in Cihan Bank. Naz serves as a Board Member of Cihan Group and Cihan Insurance and is a Member of Board of Trustees in Cihan University. She received a BSc Degree of Computer Engineering and an M.A. Degree in International Business Management and speaks four languages, Kurdish, Arabic, English and Turkish.
Jason Baker is an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel completing a year long security cooperation advising assignment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and returning to Washington D.C. the fall of 2023. In previous assignments, he has deployed to the Middle East numerous occasions, multiple times serving in an operations center with regional partners. Jason is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and has a Masters in International Service from American University.
Disha Banik is a Policy Advisor for U.S. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on foreign affairs, trade, and defense policy. In Congress, she has driven legislative efforts to encourage human rights in Turkey. Previously, she was a Legislative Correspondent for former U.S. Senator and current NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and a Paralegal for the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. A California transplant in D.C., Disha earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley and a master's degree in global health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Mohammed Bin Hamdain
Mohammed Bin Hamdain chairs the Adalah Foundation For Legal Development. In 2021, he founded the first model UN in his home country, Yemen. His remarkable achievement was recognized by the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N., and National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. Despite the ongoing war, he has contributed to bringing a fresh mindset to Yemen's foreign policy, leveraging his professional expertise and networking gained in the United States. Mohammed previously served at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. and acted as the Foreign Relations Representative at the Ministry of Local Government in Hadhramaut, Yemen. He holds an LLM degree in International Legal Studies from Georgetown Law and received a B.S. from King Saud University. During his academic pursuits, he represented Georgetown at the 28th Vienna Willem C. Vis Moot, and he was awarded recognition by the Saudi Political Science Association for his impactful political involvements.
Cole Bockenfeld is the Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). Prior to joining the office of Senator Murphy, Cole advocated for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), and earlier worked for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) on electoral assistance programs in Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, and the West Bank and Gaza, including fieldwork in Beirut and Baghdad. His writing on Middle Eastern politics and U.S. foreign policy has been published by the Washington Post and Foreign Policy, and he has spoken on Middle East affairs with media outlets including The New York Times, NPR, and Fox News. Cole received a Master's in Global Diplomacy from the University of London, and a Bachelor's in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Arkansas.
Thomas Buonomo is an independent consultant who has worked in a range of private, non-profit, and public sector roles including as Humanist Studies Coordinator with the American Humanist Association; Analyst with Stratas Advisors focused on country and geopolitical risk and energy markets; Energy Policy Advocate with the Open Fuel Standard Coalition; Energy Program Associate with the international human rights organization Global Exchange; National Programs Associate with Veterans Green Jobs; Organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War; and Military Intelligence Officer with the US Army. He was a 2017-2018 Energy Security Fellow with Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE). He pursued a Master of Arts in Middle East Studies at GWU from 2012-2015, where he wrote his capstone/thesis on US-Iran diplomacy. In 2006 he earned a dual Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Middle East Studies from the Air Force Academy, from which he cross-commissioned into the Army.
Collin Davenport is the Legislative Director for Congressman Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), who was named by the Center for Effective Lawmaking as the Most Effective Legislator in the 117th Congress. Collin serves on the staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee as the lead Democratic staffer for the U.S. Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He previously served as Legislative Director for the Government Operations Subcommittee on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, as well as the Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant for Congressman Connolly. Collin was appointed by the House of Representatives as the Secretary of the United States NATO PA delegation in 2019 and held the position until 2023. Collin is active in his community having served in several leadership roles in civic, political, and non-profit organizations and was previously appointed to the National Capital Planning Commission. Collin graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Economics and Foreign Affairs.
Elizabeth Dent is the Director for the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East policy office of the Secretary of Defense, managing the day-to-day U.S. defense relationship with the nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Her other roles at DoD have included serving as the Special Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and the Defeat ISIS Coalition Team Lead. She was previously a non-resident scholar with the Middle East Institute’s Countering Terrorism and Extremism program and a consultant with NTT Data. Prior to that, she served as the Special Assistant to the Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, supporting diplomatic engagements with coalition countries and working with local partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. Elizabeth worked on ISIS at the Department of State starting in 2014, where she helped coordinate and implement the counter-ISIS messaging strategy, and later covered ISIS in North Africa for the coalition office. She began her career at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, where she provided policy guidance and support to bureau leadership regarding best security, strategic, and operational practices. Elizabeth received her M.A. in International Affairs from American University in Washington, DC. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science with a focus on Middle Eastern Studies from Miami University.
Dr. Abhishek Deshpande
Dr. Abhishek Deshpande is a Vice President at ADNOC Group where he is heading the Market Intelligence team in Group CEO’s office based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Abhishek has had an international career spanning North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Before joining ADNOC Group, Abhishek was the Head of Global Commodities Research at OMV AG based at their HQ in Vienna, Austria where he worked on key joint venture projects including some with ADNOC Downstream. Before entering the corporate universe, he spent over a decade in Investment Banking heading commodities and energy research teams at international banks including J.P. Morgan & Chase in New York and Natixis SA (Groupe BPCE) in London as well as Paris. Abhishek has received several international awards in commodities and has been featured on several financial and mainstream media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, and CNBC. Abhishek has a doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK. He holds a Chartered as well as Fellowship status from Institute of Chemical Engineers (UK) and Energy Institute (UK), with both being awarded a Royal Charter.
Hassan El-Tayyab is an author, songwriter, and Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). He leads FCNL's lobbying work to end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, advocate for Palestinian human rights, and advance diplomacy with Iran. He also serves on the Leadership Council for Churches for Middle East Peace. In 2022, Hassan was honored by the Arab America Foundation as an awardee of its “40 under 40” initiative. He is frequently invited to guest lecture at colleges and universities around the United States on foreign affairs and his writings and commentaries have been featured in numerous national and international news outlets, including CNN, BBC World News, Politico, The Intercept, Business Insider, and more.
Joseph A. Farsakh
Joseph A. Farsakh is a Biden-Harris Administration political appointee and serves as Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where he works with U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy A. Lenderking on Yemen peace negotiations. Joseph supports political and diplomatic efforts to: resolve the ongoing conflict in Yemen, develop and execute U.S. foreign policy related to Yemen, and support UN-brokered peace talks to end the war and begin a political transition in Yemen. Joseph previously advised the Biden-Harris campaign on Gulf policy issues, and prior to joining the Biden Administration and the Office of Secretary Blinken in 2021, Joseph spent nearly ten years practicing law at a major American law firm. In addition to the New York office, Joseph worked in the law firm’s United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabian offices and brings deep expertise and relationships to the team he works with at the Department of State. Joseph previously served as a legal analyst for The Carter Center during periods of transition in key Middle Eastern nations. He also externed at the California Supreme Court for the Honorable Justice Ming W. Chin. Over the course of his academic career, Joseph served as the Co-Chair of Harvard’s Electoral Politics Professional Interest Council and Harvard’s Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Professional Interest Council. Joseph holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Juris Doctor from the University of California, San Francisco College of the Law (Hastings), and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is an Orange County, CA native.
Hany Ghanem is a Washington, D.C.-based Associate Director within the Client Intelligence Group at UBS, where he is responsible for identifying, analyzing, and mitigating various risks within the company’s U.S. wealth management business. Prior to joining UBS, Hany was a Senior Investment Associate within the Business Risk Management Group at investment firm Cambridge Associates, where he led the firm’s corporate intelligence practice, and before that, he was a research manager at Exiger, a risk advisory firm, where he advised corporate and government clients. Hany previously conducted research and translation on award-winning stories which appeared on VICE and Last Week Tonight. An Egyptian-American, Hany began his career in Egypt at Unilever, and then SUMED, an Aramco-Mubadala oil & gas subsidiary, where he handled client accounts and successfully pitched multi-million-dollar expansion projects. He earned his BBA at the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Global Risk at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Wafa Ghnaim is a Senior Research Fellow at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Antonio Ratti Textile Center. She is a curator, author and educator who learned embroidery from her mother, award-winning artist Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim. Her first book, “Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora” (2018), documents the traditional patterns and stories passed on to her by her mother. Wafa has become a leading educator in Palestinian dress history and embroidery techniques, founding The Tatreez Institute, teaching at leading institutions such as the Smithsonian Museum, as well as curating for the Museum of the Palestinian People. In 2021, Vogue Magazine named Wafa and her mother “the world’s leading guardians of tatreez.” Her curatorial debut "TATREEZ INHERITANCE" (2023) was exhibited at the Museum of the Palestinian People in Washington, D.C. Wafa most recently released her second publication “THOBNA” (2023) that celebrates Palestinian resistance embroidery throughout the past century.
Rachael F. Goldberg
Rachael F. Goldberg is a policy expert specializing in gender rights and engagement and works as a cybersecurity consultant. Rachael served as a political appointee in the Department of Commerce’s White House Liaison Office, and previously interned for the Obama White House and Clinton Global Initiative. After leaving the federal government, she worked for the D.C. Health Benefits Exchange and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Rachael holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of Miami and an M.A. in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University, and she has studied at INSS at Tel Aviv University and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Rachael is a critic for BroadwayWorld D.C., serves as the Chair of the D.C. Steering Committee for Israel Policy Forum’s young professionals’ network, IPF Atid, and is a member of the IPF Atid Women, Peace, and Security Working Group.
Nicole Grajewski is a Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research examines Russian and Iranian policies in the global nuclear order, with a particular focus on Russian nuclear strategy, Iran’s nuclear decision-making, contestation in the non-proliferation regime, and nuclear deterrence. She is completing her first book on the evolution of the Russia-Iran relationship from Syria to Ukraine, with Hurst Publishers. Nicole is also an Associate Researcher with the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs. Previously, she was a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, where she researched Russian civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran and Russian perspectives on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). She was also a Predoctoral Research Fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs. Nicole has been a Visiting Fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Hans J. Morgenthau Grand Strategy Fellow with Notre Dame’s International Security Program. Nicole completed her PhD at the University of Oxford in the Department of Politics and International Relations. She also holds a master’s degree in Russian & East European Studies from the University of Oxford and a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School.
Razi Hashmi is the Deputy Director for the Office of Near Eastern Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State. He previously served as the South Asia advisor in the Office of International Religious Freedom. He began his diplomatic career in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs covering congressional affairs globally and counternarcotics and rule of law in Afghanistan. He started his federal career as a Presidential Management Fellow working on public affairs, innovation and emergency management policies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and covering congressional affairs for Secretary Jeh Johnson in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also worked in Congress, local government, political campaigns, and led a civil rights non-profit. Razi is a Term Member with the Council on Foreign Relations, and fellow with the International Career Advancement Program and Truman National Security Project.
Dr. Wafa Khalfan
Dr. Wafa Khalfan is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Sharjah. Her scholarly pursuits orbit around a meticulous exploration of journalism and digital platforms within the MENA region, casting a particular spotlight upon the UAE. Dr. Wafa comes to academia with over a decade of industry experience in different sectors. She interned at the Cable News Network (CNN Abu Dhabi), and was the curator of the first TEDxSharjah event, bringing the spirit of TED - "ideas worth spreading"- to the local community. Dr. Wafa Khalfan currently serves as a Council Member of the American University of Sharjah Alumni Association (AUSAA) and is co-chairing the Emerging Scholars Network at the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). She completed her doctoral training at the Centre for Cultural Policy Research (CCPR), University of Glasgow (PhD in Media and Cultural Policy).
Benjamin Lutz is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for Religion, Reconciliation, and Peace at the University of Winchester, focusing on interreligious dialogue and peacebuilding initiatives in Oman and Lebanon. He holds an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Bradford and a B.A. in International Politics from Elon University. He is also a trained peacebuilder & mediator and is the Director of Communications and Operations at Mediators Beyond Borders International. Further, he is the founder of Al Fusaic, a multimedia platform, and library for MENA-focused educational resources. Lastly, since 2019, Lutz has selected, coached, and prepared each USA Youth Delegations for the Y7 and Y20 summits, the youth advisory body to the G7 and G20.
Jesse Marks is the senior advocate for the Middle East at Refugees International where he manages policy and advocacy for lifesaving assistance, rights, and protection for displaced populations in the region. He is also a Nonresident fellow at the Stimson Center's China Program, where he studies China's role in Middle Eastern crises. He spent over five years in the US, Middle East, Europe, and Asia, researching, advocating, and reporting on humanitarian crises as a Scoville Fellow, Fulbright Fellow to Jordan (Jordan), Schwarzman Scholar, and Boren Scholar. Jesse previously served as a Middle East policy advisor and inaugural McCain Fellow in the U.S. Government. He holds master's degrees from the University of Cambridge and Tsinghua University (Beijing), and a bachelor's from Florida State University. An avid archaeologist, Jesse is a Middle East archaeology nerd and manages the Coffee in the Desert blog, a Middle East history publication focused on making Middle East history accessible to a western audience.
Cheyenne Mawad is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the American Task force on Lebanon, where she monitors and reports on political, humanitarian and economic developments in Lebanon and the region. She educates and advises policymakers in the Washington, D.C. on U.S.-Lebanon policy. She produces analysis leading to the development of policy recommendations on a range of pressing issues facing Lebanon and serves as a technical resource for U.S. foreign assistance activities. Recently, Cheyenne worked as a Senior Fundraising and Communication Officer at Rene Moawad Foundation in Washington, D.C. and Beirut where she was responsible for its strategic communication, development, fundraising and leadership on the implementation of a multimillion-dollar portfolio of programs focused on decentralization, women empowerment, tourism, agriculture and education. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a master's degree in Transnational American Studies from the American University of Beirut.
Lynn Monzer is a leading expert on gender equality in the MENA region who specializes in increasing female economic participation and entrepreneurship. Lynn currently serves as Associate Director of the Women Innovators (WIn) Fellowship at the Atlantic Council. She is also the founder of Hokouki, a non-profit whose mission is to help women and girls across the region better understand and exercise their rights by simplifying access and to the laws and regulations that affect them. Prior to this, she served as Lead Research Analyst for the Wilson Center's Middle East Program, where she pinpointed policy gaps affecting women’s economic participation, and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. She has also consulted and led workshops for Google Developer Groups, Rowad Foundation, the University of Maryland, the CREO Incubator, and Al-Sahm Women. Lynn holds a PhD with a focus on female entrepreneurship in the MENA region.
Gary Noel joined Lockheed Martin in 2016, where he has supported the company’s business activity and presence in the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. He is currently a regional Program Manager for Lockheed’s International Government Affairs team, building upon the company’s partnerships with the D.C.-based diplomatic community. Prior to joining Lockheed, he was a member of the Congressional Affairs Department of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington, D.C., developing the UAE Ambassador’s outreach to the United States Congress. With a background in government affairs, national security, and foreign policy, he has collaborated with think tanks and publications on a wide range of issues. Gary obtained an M.A. in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security at American University and graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in Geography, International Relations, and Middle Eastern Studies.
Hannah Porter is a Senior Research Officer with ARK, where she works to address issues related to climate, agriculture, and conflicts over land and water resources in southern Yemen. Prior to this, she worked with DT Global to support independent Yemeni media. She has written extensively on Yemen’s conflict, especially information warfare and propaganda, which was the topic of her chapter in the edited volume, ‘The Huthi Movement in Yemen,’ which was published by Bloomsbury in 2022. Hannah holds an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago, where she wrote her thesis on Huthi rhetoric and ideology.
Sarah Rashid is a Political Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to becoming a diplomat, she was an international development professional with experience designing and leading large-scale humanitarian, human rights and stabilization programs funded by the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and USAID in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Her first experience working in the Middle East was as a kindergarten teacher in Aqaba, Jordan in 2009. Sarah has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic and other outlets. She holds an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As Vice President of Foreign Reports, Matthew Reed provides insight on geopolitics and oil markets, helping policymakers, energy companies and investors better understand the latest developments in the Middle East and Washington, D.C. His areas of expertise include Saudi Arabia, OPEC and its evolving relationship with Russia, Iran sanctions, Libya’s post-uprising oil sector, and U.S. foreign policy, among others. His original research on ISIS oil operations in Iraq and Syria made him the go-to expert on that topic starting in 2015. Mr. Reed joined the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines as a Non-Resident Fellow in 2018. In 2015, he was an Energy Security Fellow with Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). He is regularly quoted by the press and has appeared countless times on U.S. and Arabic-language television programs.
Elly Rostoum is an Adjunct Professor and the Associate Director of the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. She is a Lecturer in Global Strategic studies at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Elly is a former U.S. intelligence analyst and National Security Council staffer at the White House. She was formerly a Hans J. Morgenthau Fellow in U.S. Grand Strategy. Elly’s research examines American national security vulnerabilities of foreign direct investment, with a focus on foundational and emerging technologies. She is an expert on CFIUS governance and specializes regionally on China and the Middle East. Prior to her tenure in academia and public service, Elly used to forecast oil prices and has lived and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East. Elly speaks 5 languages, and holds degrees from Bates College, Harvard University, and Stanford University.
Jesse A. Schatz
Jesse A. Schatz is a Director at Qorvis based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, overseeing strategic communications and intelligence-gathering for accounts based in Riyadh and Dubai. Prior to joining Qorvis, Schatz was an analyst for clients in Abu Dhabi, where he utilized data analytics, social media, and research tools to deliver compelling communications and analyses on a variety of regional theatres. Before moving to the Gulf region Schatz worked at Gulf International Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on the Gulf region. Schatz graduated from Vassar College in 2018 with a degree in Africana Studies. At Vassar he studied Arabic and has taken supplementary courses in Emirati Arabic dialect at the Ramsa Institute in Dubai.
Zabe Shafi is currently a Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa team (MENA) at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), where she manages the implementation of democracy and governance programming in the region, with a particular focus on supporting information integrity. She has worked at NDI for the last 5.5 years and have worked on Libya, Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia. Prior to NDI, Zabe worked for a non-profit focused on U.S. and Turkey commercial diplomacy. She has an M.A. in International Relations from George Washington University, a B.A. in Middle East Studies, and a B.S. in Physiology and Human Anatomy from the University of Arizona.
Amanda-Grace Tafunai is the Chief of Staff at the Saudi Sports Company (SSC), focusing on elevating sports viewership and participation in Saudi Arabia. She transitioned to SSC from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), where she most recently supported the relocation of AlArabiya and MBC headquarters and led operation support for AlUla FM radio station for the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU). Prior to this, Amanda was Chief of Staff at a private investment firm, focusing on government initiatives enabling diversification efforts and human capital development. Her commitment extends to the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, aiding its reorganization and restructuring, whilst collaborating with the U.S. Embassy’s Commercial Service. Holding a bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Michigan, she credits AmCham Saudi Arabia’s vibrant business community and her time with the first operations team for her diverse and fulfilling career path.
Dr. Dania Thafer
Dr. Dania Thafer is the Executive Director of Gulf International Forum, an institute based in Washington, D.C. that provides analysis on political, economic, social, and security issues for the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. She is also a Professorial Lecturer at the School of Foreign Service’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. Her expertise is on the Gulf region’s security, U.S.-Gulf relations, and the political economy of the GCC states. She has been widely published and consults regularly on matters concerning the GCC and the Middle East. Dania has a new book titled “Creative Insecurity: Institutional Inertia and Youth Potential in the GCC” published by Hurst Co. and Oxford University Press (2023). Additionally, she has co-authored two edited books “The Arms Trade, Military Services and the Security Market in the Gulf States: Trends and Implications” and “The Dilemma of Security and Defense in the Gulf Region.” Her commentary has appeared in international media outlets, including: The New York Times, Financial Times, BBC World, Washington Post, Forbes, Al Jazeera and others. Additionally, she is regularly consulted by governmental, non-governmental, corporations and research institutions globally. Previously, she was responsible for building relationships with foreign dignitaries from the Middle East at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, DC. Dania has a master’s degree in Political Science from New York University, and Ph.D. in Political Science, specialized in the Political Economy and International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.
Clayton Thomas is a Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), where he provides information and analysis to Members of Congress and their staff on a number of issues related to U.S. foreign policy, including Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Al Qaeda, and regional arms sales. Prior to CRS, he served as a Fulbright Fellow in Yalova, Turkey, and worked as a staff member in the office of Senator Kay Hagan and as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Health and Human Services. He received an M.A. in Middle East Studies from George Washington University and a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Gil Thompson is Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Congressman Brad Schneider, a member of the House Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs Committees and co-chair of the Abraham Accords Caucus and Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus. Gil’s work focuses on regional normalization, energy integration, Iran policy, and the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship. Previously, he also worked for Congressmen Josh Gottheimer and Mike Honda. Gil is a Foreign Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center, National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and alumnus of Partnership for a Secure America’s State-Congress Communications Project. Gil received his doctorate magna cum laude from the Hertie School in Berlin for a dissertation on European border and asylum controls on the Greek island of Lesbos. His research was funded by the European Union as part of the Marie Curie program.
Sina Toossi is a senior non-resident fellow at the Center for International Policy and a policy and editorial advisor at Miaan Group, a U.S.-based human rights organization focused on Iran and the Middle East. He produces research and analysis on U.S.-Iran relations, human rights issues, and nuclear policy issues. He has also worked as a senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council and a senior research specialist at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. His writings have been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, USA Today, and other publications. He has also appeared on BBC World News, the Guardian, Vox, and BBC Persian, among other outlets. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from American University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Prof. Sabs Quereshi is a senior expert with 17+ years in global health, foreign policy, gender equity, national security, humanitarian assistance, and multilateral affairs sectors in the U.S. and worldwide. She is a former Director of the Rockefeller Foundation and former Advisor to the United Nations Health and Immunization divisions. Quereshi previously served as a Policy Advisor and Acting Team Lead at the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, Senior Health Advisor and COVID-19 Racial Equity Task Force Lead to the California Surgeon General’s Office, WHO/IRC health lead in Syria for 10+ relief organizations, Ebola + Zika + Measles outbreak expert in West Africa, South America and South Sudan, respectively; interagency lead for U.S. DHHS and even spent time advising Senator Bernie Sanders during 110th Congress. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Presidential Leadership Scholar, and holds degrees from Harvard Kennedy School, GWU, and Marquette University.