A tale of two elections: recapping the polls in Lebanon and Iraq

This discussion will focus on the results of both elections, and their determining policies.
Tuesday, May 15
12:00 - 2:00 pm
The Middle East Institute
1319 18th Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036

Event Information

As Lebanon holds its first parliamentary elections in nine years and Iraq paves a way forward in the aftermath of the war against ISIS, many questions remain as to what the political future holds for both countries. The parliamentary elections in Lebanon on May 6, and in Iraq on May 12, serve as a barometer for transparency, inclusion, and the political realities in both countries. The polls have raised pressing political and governance issues such as how to overcome sectarianism, corruption, and economic stagnation in order to encourage further openness and plurality.

How will the results of these elections reflect the political, economic, and social realities in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as the future security of the Levant? How will the new governments tackle issues of widespread unemployment and promote transparency in government? With the conflict in Syria, what are the prospects to achieve and maintain stability?


The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host a panel discussion to examine these issues. MEI's Bilal Y. Saab and Paul Salem will be joined by Abbas Kadhim (SAIS) Omar al-Nidawi (Gryphon Partners) and Bilal Wahab (WINEP) for a two-hour panel event moderated by MEI's director for conflict resolution and the Track II Dialogues initiative, Randa Slim.


Speaker biographies:


Abbas Kadhim

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; President, Institute of Shia Studies
Abbas Kadhim is an academic and author with research interests in Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and Islam. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. Between 2005 and 2013, Kadhim was an assistant professor of national security affairs/Middle East studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. Prior to joining SAIS, Kadhim held a senior government affairs position at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington. He is the author of Reclaiming Iraq: the 1920 Revolution and the Founding of the Modern State (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012) and The Hawza under Siege: A Study in the Ba'th Party Archives (Boston University, 2013).


Omar al-Nidawi
Iraq director, Gryphon Partners
Omar al-Nidawi is the Iraq Director at strategic advisory firm Gryphon Partners. He is also a guest lecturer at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project. Nidawi was a pioneer of Internet journalism in Iraq and an advocate for freedom of expression, earning recognition by World PC Magazine in 2007 as one of the “50 most important people on the web.” He is the author of numerous articles and reports on Iraq and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, War on the Rocks, and many other publications. He earned his B.D.S. from Baghdad University and his M.I.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Bilal Y. Saab
Senior fellow and director, Defense and Security Program, MEI
Bilal Y. Saab is senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at MEI. He specializes in the Levant and the Persian Gulf. Previously, he was senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, where he also created and chaired the Gulf Policy Working Group and led the Middle East Crisis Simulation Series. Saab is a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations. A native of Lebanon, Saab has experience living in the Middle East for more than two decades. Throughout his career, Saab held various research and analytic positions in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East including at Brookings, CSIS, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence,MEI, and Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Paul Salem
Senior vice president for policy research and programs, MEI

Paul Salem is senior vice president for policy research and programs at MEI. He focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East.  He has a particular emphasis on the countries of the Levant and Egypt. Salem writes regularly in the Arab and Western press and has been published in numerous journals and newspapers. Salem is the author and editor of a number of books and reports including From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, 2017), Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013), “The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam” (CSIS, 2015), “The Middle East in 2015 and Beyond: Trends and Drivers” (MEI 2014), Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994), Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997)Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013.  From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.

Bilal Wahab
Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Fellow, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) 
Bilal Wahab is the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner fellow at WINEP, where he focuses on governance in the Iraqi Kurdish region and in Iraq as a whole. He has taught at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani, where he established the Center for Development and Natural Resources, a research program on oil and development. He earned his Ph.D. from George Mason University; his M.A. from American University, where he was among the first Iraqis awarded a Fulbright scholarship; and his B.A. from Salahaddin University in Erbil. Along with numerous scholarly articles, he has written extensively in the Arabic and Kurdish media.


Randa Slim, moderator

Director of the Track II Dialogues initiative, MEI; non-resident fellow, Johns Hopkins University SAIS Foreign Policy Institute
Randa Slim is director of the Track II dialogues initiative at MEI and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Foreign Policy Institute. A former vice president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, Slim has been a senior program advisor at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a guest scholar at the U.S. Institute for Peace, a program director at Resolve, Inc., and a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. A long-term practitioner of Track II dialogue and peace-building processes in the Middle East and Central Asia, she is the author of several studies, book chapters, and articles on conflict management, post-conflict peace-building, and Middle East politics.