Robert Satloff: Promoting a Balanced Understanding of the Middle East

Career and Personal Backround
Robert Satloff has held the position of executive director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy for almost 14 years. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is often described as a pro-Israel and American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) associated think tank. However, Satloff and others believe that labeling the institute as pro-Israel is insufficient. Robert is quoted by the Jordan Times in 2000 as saying, “Am I pro-Israel? Sure, but I am also pro-Jordan, pro-Palestinian, I am pro-peace, I am pro-lots of things. One of the guiding principles of the institute is that it is wrong to view the dividing line in the Middle East as between Arabs and Israelis. That’s old thinking.” The institute can be more accurately described as being dedicated to establishing a balanced and realistic understanding of both the Middle East and U.S. interests in the region. The institute draws upon the ideas and research of its leading experts, such as Satloff, to promote ideas of security, peace, prosperity and democracy for the people of the region. 
Robert Satloff is an expert on Arab and Islamic politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy, Arab-Israeli relations, U.S.-Israel relations, peace process and Middle East democratization. Satloff graduated with a B.A. from Duke University then went on to obtain his M.A. from University of Oxford. He later received his doctorate in Oriental Studies (modern Middle Eastern history) from St. Anthony’s College. He speaks several languages including Arabic, French, Hebrew and English.
Robert Satloff is trained historian and political analyst of the Middle East region. He has studied the culture of the people and learned the regional languages, Arabic and Hebrew. He frequently travels to, and has lived in various places across the Middle East. In doing so, he has developed a keen sense of cultural understanding. Dr. Satloff and his family moved to Rabat, Morocco only a short time after the September 11, attacks. Working from overseas, he remained director over policy and strategic planning and frequently traveled to Washington to oversee the organization’s major programs and research projects.
During his travels Robert gathered information for a collection of essays, The Battle of Ideas in the War on Terror: Essay on U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East (2004), in which he introduces a thoughtful analysis of the public diplomacy challenges facing America today and provides a wide variety of useful initiatives. Another book, inspired by his years living abroad, named Among the Righteous: Lost Stories of the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands (2006), features stories of Arab involvement in the Holocaust. Through this collection of essays, Robert seeks to bring hope to a region that for so long has been consumed with Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Satloff ties his career choice to the fact that he is a Jew. He remains proud of his connection to the Jewish homeland, Israel, while keeping loyalties to his country, America.
Robert Satloff addressed the Middle East Forum on December 11, 2006. His lecture was jointly sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Center for Israel and Overseas, the Middle East Forum, the Gershman Y and the National Museum of American Jewish History. Satloff began his argument by dismissing the notion that the Holocaust was merely a European phenomenon. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for one, argues that Zionists exaggerated the number of Jews that were actually killed during World War II and has proclaimed the Holocaust a myth. Satloff recently attended Iran’s international conference questioning the Holocaust, held this earlier this month 2006, where he further examined the politics of the Holocaust denial.
Furthermore, Robert is currently conducting research in the following areas: U.S. public diplomacy in the Middle East, U.S. policy toward democratization and reform in the Middle East, U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamists, and Arab and inter-Arab politics.
Writings and Media
A prolific writer and commentator, Robert Satloff is described by the institute as having “written and spoken widely on the Arab Israeli peace process, the Islamist challenge to the growth of democracy in the region, and the need for bold and innovative public diplomacy to Arabs and Muslims.” He has published several works and his writings frequently appear in major newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He has currently written 109 Policy/PeaceWatch articles, 76 op-ed articles and has 13 publications in bookstores.
Published Books
Of his most recent books are:
-Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands (Public Affairs, 2006)
-Assessing What Arabs Do, Not What They Say: A New Approach to Understanding Arab Anit-Americanism
-Hamas Triumphant: Implications for Security, Politics, Economy, and Strategy
-The Battle of Ideas in the War on Terror: Essays on U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East
-International Military Intervention: A Detour on the Road to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Others include:
-War on Terror: The Middle East Dimension
-After Arafat? The Future of Palestinian Politics
-From Hussein to Abdullah: Jordan in Transition (Oxford University Press, 1994)
-The Politics of Change in the Middle East
-Islam in the Palestinian Uprising
-Army and Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt
-“They Cannot Stop Our Tongues’: Islamic Activism in Jordan
-U.S. Israel Strategic Cooperation
-U.S. Policy toward Islamism (Council on Foreign Relations, 2000)
-Troubles on the East Bank: Challenges to the Domestic Stability of Jordan (Praeger, 1986)
Policy/Peace Watch Articles: 109 Articles by Robert Satloff
-Policy Watch#1180: The Iraq Study Group: Assessing Its Regional Conclusions
-Policy Watch#1158: Countering Holocaust Denial in Arab and Muslim Societies: A New Approach
-Policy Watch #1133: Assessing What Arabs Do, Not What They Say
-Policy Watch #1072: Hamas’s Rise and Israel’s Choice
-Policy Watch #990: The Democracy Dilemma in the Middle East: Are Islamists the Answer?
-Policy Watch #975: Assessing the Bush Administration’s Policy of ‘Constructive Instability’ (Part II): Regional Dynamics
-Policy Watch#974: Assessing the Bush Administration’s Policy of ‘Constructive Instability’ (Part I): Lebanon and Syria
-Policy Watch #968: Bashar al-Asad’s Fateful Speech: A Policy of Inconsistency and Paranoia
-and many others…
In addition to Robert Satloff’s many published works, he is also the creator and host of Dakhil Washington (“Inside Washington”), a weekly program on Arabic satellite television channel, al-Hurra. Al-Hurra is a network, funded by the U.S. government, dedicated to improving public diplomacy in the Arab world. Robert Satloff is the only non-Arab to host a program on an Arab satellite channel.
Political Ideology and views of Middle East Politics/U.S. Policy
Robert criticizes the authors of the Iraq Study Group report for the view that “all key issues in the Middle East are inextricably linked.” He argues that first, military success in the Gulf does not translate into diplomatic success in the region and second, that local disasters do not translate into regional disasters. He maintains the view that “Arab leaders are interested first and foremost in survival, which means protecting their national interests, not subscribing to romantic notions of ethnic or religious ideology.” In order to address the Middle East security issues in a direct and effective manner, Satloff suggests focusing American efforts on a set of individual problems in the region, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the war in Iraq and the nuclear threat of Iran. He says, “The road to Baghdad does not pass through Tehran, Damascus, Jerusalem or Gaza—it is a cul-de-sac that begins and ends in Iraq.” What is missing from a victory in Iraq? Satloff answers by claiming that the absence of strong regional engagement from major regional states is the missing link.
In response to the conclusion of a study by Richard N. Hass who claims that American dominance of the Middle East region is resolved, Robert argues that America remains to be a powerful and dominant player in the region and that many Arab states want it to stay that way. He says, that despite the detrimental effect that the war in Iraq has had on the United States’s influence in other parts of the region, this does not mean that U.S. control has been significantly altered. It is Satloff’s view that many states in the region see the United States as a source of security. “You have countries of the Gulf—small countries as well as large—that have deep security relationships with the United States,” he said. “Their greatest nightmare would be for the United States to pick up and leave.”
Robert Satloff sees cultural understanding is an important part of being an American. In his 25 years of study, both of the Arabic language and of the politics and culture of the region, he has come to realize that, “the “Arab culture” is really many cultures, the “Arab people” are really many peoples, and that “Arab countries” are filled with a combustible mix of ethnicity, religion, nationalism, and race that produces the entire range of human passions. That insight alone, I believe, makes comprehensible much of the seemingly impenetrable politics of the Middle East.”

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