Our Leadership

Council Staff

Hon. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley

Ms. Jasmine Zaki
Chairwoman of the Board

Ms. Anne Joyce
Vice President & Member of the Board of Directors; Editor Emeritus, Middle East Policy

Ms. Bassima Alghussein
Executive Director | balghussein@mepc.org

Mr. Wallied Shirzoi
Senior Advisor | wshirzoi@mepc.org

Ms. Sarah Schaefer
Director of Communications & Congressional Liaison | sschaefer@mepc.org

Ms. Jess Diez
Director of Educational Programs & Managing Editor | jdiez@mepc.org

Mr. A.R. Joyce
Editor, Middle East Policy arjoyce@mepc.org

Mr. Jack Spilles 
Editorial Assistant | jspilles@mepc.org

For scheduling inquiries with Council leadership or other questions, please contact info@mepc.org.

Board Of Directors

Mr. Combiz Abdolrahimi

Member of the Board of Directors

Mr. Combiz Abdolrahimi is a globally recognized emerging technology and innovation leader, a government relations expert and former senior government official, a U.S. national security and international lawyer, and a proponent of commercial diplomacy and DEIA worldwide. He has advised Presidents and Heads of State, Parliamentarians and Members of Congress, and global CEOs on emerging technology, policy, and innovation issues. He serves on multiple boards and advisory committees including with the World Economic Forum, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Economic Development, Meridian International Center, Council on Foreign Relations, Agile Nations, and Black Professionals in International Affairs. Born in Texas, the son of proud immigrants from the Middle East, Combiz is a graduate of UCLA; American University of Beirut; and Georgetown Law. He is the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s Agile 50 Award for being one of the world’s 50 most influential people championing public sector innovation globally. Combiz speaks several languages including Turkish, Persian, Azerbaijani, and Arabic, and is dedicated to fostering a world where technology, diplomacy, and responsible policies converge to pave the way for a hopeful, transformative era of lasting peace, shared prosperity, and strong relations between the U.S. and the countries and peoples of the Middle East.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley

Hon. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley

President and Member of the Board of Directors (ex officio)

Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley has held senior positions in the U.S. government, including Ambassador to the Republic of Malta, Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Foreign Policy Advisor to the Commander of U.S. Cyber Forces, Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Director for the Office of Egypt and the Levant at the U.S. Department of State. Amid these roles, she expanded our counterterrorism partners and programs and coordinated the largest evacuation of American citizens from a war zone since WWII. Earlier in her career she participated in election monitoring in the Gaza strip and actively supported gender equality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the first woman to lead a diplomatic mission there. She has served as Chairwoman for Middle East Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, has held senior positions at the Defense Department and at the National Security Council focused on the Middle East, and was a Presidential Management Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Prior to her most recent senior appointment as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley was a member of the Middle East Policy Council’s Board of Directors. She has degrees from The George Washington University and The Johns Hopkins University.

Karen Koning AbuZayd

Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd

Member of the Board of Directors

Ms. AbuZayd served as Under Secretary General and Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), based in Gaza, from 2000 to 2012. Since 2011 she has served as a pro bono Commissioner on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. Her UN service has also included working in various capacities for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR) in Sudan, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Geneva, and as Regional Representative for Washington, DC / Caribbean. AbuZayd has taught Middle East politics at Makerere University in Uganda and Juba University in southern Sudan. She is currently a member of several refugee and humanitarian boards, among them UNRWA USA (Washington, D.C.). In 2016, she served as the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General for the Global Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. She is the recipient of Austria’s Grosse Goldene medal, and the Spanish UN Association’s Premier Peace Prize. In 2015 AbuZayd was named the 2015 Chicago Woman Extraordinaire by International Women Associates in Chicago. She holds a B.S. degree from DePauw University and an MA degree from McGill University.


Mr. Richard Albright

Member of the Board of Directors

Richard Albright served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, and in 2021, as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) at the U.S. Department of State, where he directed humanitarian assistance policy and programs in Asia, the Near East and Africa and guided PRM’s institutional relationships with humanitarian agencies. From 2016 to 2018, Mr. Albright was Deputy Assistant Secretary and Coordinator for Foreign Assistance in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In prior Foreign Service assignments, he served as: Foreign Policy Advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations; Coordinator for Civilian Assistance at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad; Economic Minister-Counselor at Embassy London; Humanitarian Coordinator at Embassy Baghdad; Director of PRM’s Office of Assistance for Asia and the Near East; and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi. He also held economic policy assignments in Cairo, Paris, and Riyadh and served as desk officer for Algeria.

Albright is the recipient of Presidential Rank, Superior and Meritorious Honor awards. He holds a BA in political science from the University of Chicago and MA from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Bassima Alghussein

Ms. Bassima Alghussein

Executive Director and Member of the Board of Directors (ex officio)

Ms. Alghussein has been the Council's Executive Director since January 1, 2021. Prior to joining the MEPC, she founded Alghussein Global Strategies, a government affairs and communications consulting firm. She has executed projects involving the U.S. Congress, U.S. Dept. of State, European Union, British Parliament, Egyptian Parliament, International Monetary Fund and the World Economic Forum. Ms. Alghussein is a Truman National Security Project Political Expert, a Board Member of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security (WCAPS) and a member of the Meridian International Center Young Global Leaders Council. She frequently appears on international news outlets to discuss foreign and domestic policy issues. Ms Alghussein earned her master's degree from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Security Studies and her bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College in International Relations.

Mr. Khalid Alwan

Member of the Board of Directors

Mr. Alwan an entrepreneur, real estate developer, and investor known for his philanthropic efforts, political activism, and contributions to the public understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues affecting U.S. interests in the Middle East and other corners of the globe. He has dedicated over three decades to the real estate industry, with a particular focus on affordable housing for low-and moderate-income families. Alwan oversees and manages a diverse portfolio of properties providing affordable housing for thousands of tenants throughout the United States.

Janet Breslin-Smith

Dr. Janet Breslin-Smith

Member of the Board of Directors

Dr. Janet Breslin-Smith was a professor for 14 years at the National War College in Washington, DC; she was named Outstanding Professor at the College in 2006, and was the first woman to Chair the College’s Department of National Security Strategy. Prior to her academic career, she was Legislative Director for Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Deputy Staff Director of the Senate Agriculture Committee. While living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2013, Dr. Breslin-Smith focused on higher education and outreach to women in the Middle East. She has written and lectured on Strategy and Culture, Macro-economics and Islam, and Women, Islam and Saudi Arabia. Her work includes “The Struggle to Erase Saudi Extremism,” which appeared in November 2015 in the New York Times, and co-authorship of The National War College: A History of Strategic Thinking in Peace and War. Dr. Breslin-Smith holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Perry Cammack

Mr. Perry Cammack

Member of the Board of Directors

Perry Cammack has been the Peacebuilding program director at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund since 2019. Previously, he was a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Perry worked for more than a decade on Middle East issues in the United States government, including as an advisor to then-Senators Joseph Biden and John Kerry on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2003–2013 and as a member of the State Department policy planning staff from 2013–2015. Perry is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He holds a BA degree from the University of Maryland and a MA degree from Columbia University.

Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

Hon. Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

President Emeritus and Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Freeman served as U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, a period which included operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He is a Senior Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and Chairman of the Board of Projects International, Inc., a Washington-based business development firm. Freeman has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. His diplomatic postings also included Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangkok and Beijing, as well as service in India. He was also Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and served as the principal American interpreter during President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. He is the author of several books, including America’s Misadventures in the Middle East (2010), Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige (2013), and America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East (2016). Freeman holds a BA degree from Yale University and a JD degree from the Harvard Law School.

A.R. Joyce

Mr. A.R. Joyce

Member of the Board of Directors

Mr. Joyce is the editor of the Council's quarterly journal, Middle East Policy, and leads the initiative of expanding its readership through innovation. After serving as editor and supervisor on the online news desk of the Associated Press, Mr. Joyce was copy editor of Middle East Policy from 2017-2022. He started his career working on the development of cutting-edge technology products for television news editors. He holds a BA from Duke University and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

Anne Joyce

Ms. Anne Joyce

Vice-president and Member of the Board of Directors

Ms. Joyce was the editor of the Council's quarterly journal of political analysis, Middle East Policy, and director of MEPC’s publications from 1984 through 2022.  In 1993 she was named Vice-president of the Council and a member of the Board of Directors.  In her time as editor, Joyce supervised the production of more than 140 issues of the journal, as well as numerous conference proceedings and several special reports and books.  Before coming to the Council, she held positions at the American Language Institute of Georgetown University and at the University of Iowa.  She holds a B.A degree from Central Methodist University and MA degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Missouri.

James Moran

Hon. James P. Moran

Member of the Board of Directors

Congressman James P. (“Jim”) Moran represented Virginia’s 8th Congressional District from 1991 to 2015, where he was known for his bipartisan leadership. He served on the Appropriations, Foreign Affairs, Banking, Housing and Finance, and Government Reform and Oversight committees during his 12 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to his time congress, Moran served as mayor of the City of Alexandria, Virginia (1985-1990). Congressman Moran’s other professional experience includes senior staff member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, senior specialist for budgetary and fiscal policy at the Library of Congress, co-chair of the Congressional Sovereign Wealth Funds Task Force, and acting director of the budget office for Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Services in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Congressman Moran holds a BA in economics from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and a Masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Ronald E. Neumann

Hon. Ronald E. Neumann

Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Neumann served as Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-2007), Bahrain (2001-2004), and Algeria (1994-1997). He is currently the President of the American Academy of Diplomacy. A career Foreign Service Officer, Neumann served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and in Sana’a, Yemen. His diplomatic postings also included Baghdad, Iraq, Tabriz, Iran, and Dakar, Senegal. His domestic assignments included Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs and Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs. Neumann is the author of The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan (2009). He is on the Advisory Committee of the non-profit School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA). He was an Army infantry officer in Vietnam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He holds B.A. and MA degrees from the University of California at Riverside.


Hon. Anne W. Patterson

Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Anne W. Patterson was the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and North African Affairs at the Department of State (2013-2017). She served as Ambassador to Egypt (2011-2013), to Pakistan (2007-2010), to Colombia (2000-2003) and to El Salvador (1997-2000). She retired in 2017 with the rank of Career Ambassador after more than four decades in the Foreign Service. Ambassador Patterson also served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Patterson was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Top Global Thinkers in 2011. She is a two-time recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Service award. She has been appointed to two congressional commissions: the Commission on National Defense Strategy in 2017 and the Syria Study Group in 2019.

William A. Rugh

Hon. William A. Rugh

Vice Chairman Emeritus and Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Rugh served as Ambassador to Yemen from 1984 to 1987, and as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 1992 to 1995. As a Foreign Service Officer, Rugh had nine diplomatic postings in the Middle East over his 31-year career, including Deputy Chief of Mission in Syria. Between 1995 and 2003 he was President and CEO of AMIDEAST. Rugh is a Trustee of the American University in Cairo and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of several books, including: American Encounters with Arabs: the “Soft Power” of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Arab World (2005), Arab Mass Media: Newspapers, Radio and Television in Arab Politics (2008), and Front Line Diplomacy: How U.S. Embassies Communicate with Foreign Publics (2014). He has a B.A. degree from Oberlin College, an MA degree from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Richard Schmierer

Hon. Richard J. Schmierer

President Emeritus and Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Schmierer served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman from 2009 through 2012. He completed his Foreign Service career in 2014 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA). In 2013 Schmierer served as NEA Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. Previously he was the NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq, and Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs. Schmierer was at Georgetown University from 2005 through 2007, where he published the book Iraq: Policy and Perceptions. He had prior diplomatic postings in Iraq, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Schmierer holds a B.A. degree from Lehigh University and MA and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Mr. Leon Shahabian

Member of the Board of Directors

Mr. Leon Shahabian serves as a principal at Global Insights Group LLC, an advisory services firm that focuses on the Arabian Gulf and due diligence, and is a senior associate of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). He co-founded Layalina Productions in 2002 –  a 501c(3) non-profit that worked on improving US-Arab relations after 9/11 – and left as its president and executive producer in 2019. An award-winning filmmaker with credits from MBC Group channels, Al Arabiya, OSN, the Sundance Channel, and distribution by New Line Television, and Warner Brothers, Leon has implemented cooperative agreements in 15 Arab countries on behalf of the US Department of State and participated in track II diplomacy engagements. Leon is a guest lecturer at National Intelligence University in Maryland. He has testified to the UN Security Council in New York. Mr. Shahabian is a member of the Board of Visitors of the Political Science Department at Penn State, and a life member of the Public Diplomacy Council of America (PDCA). A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Penn State University with degrees in International Politics and French, Leon has received a certificate in National Security and Strategy from the US Army War College in Pennsylvania.


Mr. Tarik Solomon

Member of the Board of Directors

Mr. Tarik Solomon is Founding Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce Saudi Arabia - Defense & Security Industry Executive – where he advises leading multinational companies on the political, legal, and regulatory risk factors that impact their objectives in seeking to enter or expand into Middle East markets. His consistently demonstrated ability to successfully transplant business strategies to emerging markets, where barriers to entry are high, has endowed him with a reputation for being innovative and resilient. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. from Johnson & Wales University and his M.B.A. was completed at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Patrick Theros

Hon. Patrick Theros

Member of the Board of Directors

Ambassador Theros served as Ambassador to Qatar from 1995 to 1998. He is a former President and Executive Director of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council in Washington, DC. Theros was a career Foreign Service Officer from 1963 to 1999. In addition to his Ambassadorship, his assignments included Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Political Advisor to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command, Deputy Chief of Mission and Political Officer in Amman, Jordan, Chargé d'affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Economic and Commercial Counselor in Damascus, Syria. He also served in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Nicaragua. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Diplomacy, and serves on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. He holds a BA degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and has done advanced study at the American University in Washington, D.C., the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua, the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Jasmine Zaki

Ms. Jasmine Zaki

Chairwoman of the Board of Directors

Jasmine Zaki is a Senior Legal Counsel at Bechtel Corporation. Formerly, she was a lawyer at ArentFox Schiff where she advised clients operating in the Middle East and North Africa on commercial transactions and arrangements, including joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, commercial agencies, and franchising agreements. She assisted clients with structuring commercial contracts, distribution agreements, and services agreements and provides legal advice related to public international law, banking, policy, and political risk, economic development, and investment. In addition, she advised clients on entering emerging markets in post-conflict countries and countries in transition in the Middle East and Africa, with an emphasis on negotiating political, regulatory, and formation matters. She has advised clients seeking investments in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and Middle Eastern and North African nations, including Syria, Iraq and Libya; numerous US- and UK-based companies on market entry, establishment and compliance in Iraq and the Kurdistan region, with political and risk analyses; and sovereign governments in public international law, policy, banking, investment, and transactional matters. Jasmine serves on the board of SEED for Change as the Kurdistan Board Member, is a media contributor on current events in the Middle East, and serves on the Iraqi Business Council. She holds a JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a BA from University of Memphis (cum laude). Prior to attending law school, Jasmine worked at the United Nations as the Press Officer for the UN Mission to Iraq. She is fluent in English and Arabic.

National Advisory Committee

The Hon. Nick J. Rahall II
U.S. Representative (D-WV)

Mr. Nicolas B. Angell
Afridi, Angell, and Baker

Dr. Robert B. Ashmore
Professor of Philosophy, Marquette University

Dr. Louay Bahry
Adjunct Professor, University of Tennessee

Ms. Helena Cobban
Journalist and author

Mr. Don N. De Marino
Chairman, U.S. - Arab Chamber of Commerce; former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce

Dr. Michael Collins Dunn
Editor, Middle East Journal and The Estimate

Dr. Marc H. Ellis
University Professor of Jewish Studies, Baylor University

Dr. John L. Esposito
Director, Center for Muslim - Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

Dr. Richard Falk
Professor of International Law and Practice, Princeton Center for International Studies

Dr. Yvonne Haddad
Professor of Islamic History and Christian - Muslim Relations, Center for Muslim - Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

Mr. David Hamod
President, National U.S. - Arab Chamber of Commerce

Mr. John R. Hayes
CEO, Hayes Communication

Mr. Donald F. Hepburn
Chief Executive, Bahrain Petroleum Company (ret.)

Dr. Raymond A. Hinnebusch
Professor, International Relations, University of St. Andrews, U.K.

Dr. Joseph A. Kechichian
Kechichain & Associates

Dr. Ann Mosely Lesch
Dean of Humanities & Social Science Professor, American University, Cairo

Mr. David Nalle
U.S. Foreign Service Officer (ret.)

Mr. Robert L. Norberg
Dir., Aramco Services Co. (ret.)

Dr. Augustus Richard Norton
Professor of International Relations, Boston University

Dr. Don Peretz
Professor Emeritus, SUNY Birmingham

Dr. Jerry Pubantz
Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina - Greensboro

Dr. Yahya Sadowski
Professor of Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Mr. Gary G. Sick
Adjunct Professor of International Affairs, Columbia University

Dr. Robert Springborg
Professor, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

Mr. Kevin R. Taecker
Globalization Consultant, Enterprise - Saudi Arabia

Mr. Milton Viorst

Mr. John V. Whitbeck
International Lawyer

Mr. Vahan Zanoyan
Senior Director, PFC Energy

Dr. I. William Zartman
Professor of Conflict Resolution & International Organization; Director of African Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Mr. H. Conway Zeigler
Capt., USN (Ret.); former N2 COMIDEASTFOR

Editorial Advisory Committee

Graham E. Fuller
Simon Fraser University

Ian S. Lustick
University of Pennsylvania

Julia Nanay
The Petroleum Finance Company Ltd.

William B. Quandt
University of Virginia

Alan Richards
University of California, Santa Cruz

Shibley Telhami
University of Maryland

John O. Voll
Georgetown University

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