Iran and the Arab World

The Middle East Policy Council’s 81st Capitol Hill Conference has concluded. The video, a transcript and a press recap are available below. To receive invitations to future events, click here, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. To view our recent Capitol Hill Conferences, click here.


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Thursday, July 16; noon – 2:30 p.m.

Rayburn House Office Building


James N. Miller

Former Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense
President, Adaptive Strategies, LLC
Board of Directors, The Atlantic Council


Nabeel Khoury

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East
Former Director of the Near East South Asia Office of INR at the State Department


Paul Pillar

Non-resident Senior Fellow, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University
Non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Contributing Editor, The National Interest
Former CIA analyst


Sara Vakhshouri

Founder and President, SVB Energy International



Richard Schmierer

Former Ambassador to Oman, Member of the Board, Middle East Policy Council


Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council



Iran and the Arab World: Implications of the Nuclear Negotiations

Experts praise recent nuclear deal but see challenges to developing productive bilateral relationship 

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 – The Middle East Policy Council’s 81st Capitol Hill Conference convened a diverse panel to assess the recent Iranian nuclear deal. The panel also provided insight on its impact on regional power dynamics, cooperation with the United States and oil and natural gas markets. While the panel praised the deal – particularly in light of the lack of a viable alternative – they voiced caution that it would mark the beginning of a broadly transformed relationship between Iran and the United States. In fact, the consensus was that the near term would feature limited change in Iranian behavior, but that opportunities for progress could exist in addressing Syria’s civil war and within regional energy markets.

The panelists included James Miller (Former Undersecretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense); Nabeel Khoury (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East); Paul Pillar (Non-resident Senior Fellow, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University); and Sara Vakhshouri (Founder and President, SVB Energy International). Richard Schmierer, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman and member of the Board of Directors, Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event. Thomas Mattair, executive director, was a discussant. More specific remarks from the panelists:

• James N. Miller provided context on the recently signed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), arguing that it provided the necessary safeguards and verification to detect cheating and prevent a rapid, surprise Iranian nuclear breakout. He also argued that diplomatic channels and military pressures should remain in place to provide future pressure on the Iranian regime to comply and possibly change behavior in the region that collides with U.S. interests.

Nabeel Khoury urged the U.S. to build on the agreement and develop diplomatic cooperation with Iran, with particular focus on resolving the conflict in Syria. He views Syria as draining increasing resources from the Iranian regime, a fact that combined with the intractable dynamics on the ground today in Syria, suggest that a more unified front between the U.S. and Iran could yield tangible results.

Paul Pillar highlighted further areas where U.S. – Iranian cooperation could be fruitful including Iraq (on pushing back ISIL and speaking with a unified voice to leadership in Baghdad) and Afghanistan (by returning to a pre-2001 model of cooperation). He strongly advocated the removal of sanctions (doing otherwise would erode U.S. credibility) and challenged the assumption that greater financial resources would further Iran’s nefarious behavior, noting that the tightening of sanctions produced this outcome just a few years ago.

Sara Vakhshouri explained how the Iranian economy exhibited more resilience than expected to lower oil prices. She also highlighted investment opportunities in Iran, as production and operational costs in Iran are around $10/barrel currently, with the global price of oil hovering between $50 – $60/barrel. She suggested the possibility of greater energy trade with Iran’s neighbors – including the GCC states who could benefit from imported oil & gas to free up their output for export rather than domestic consumption – but that this would take a foundation of mutual trust first.


An edited video by speaker, including a full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at and published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy. The full video from the event is already available on the Middle East Policy Council website.

Contacts: For interviews or other content associated with this event, please contact Grace Elliott – (202) 296 6767 –

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