News Release

Brookings Announces New Saban Center for Middle East Policy

May 9, 2002

The president of the Brookings Institution, Michael H. Armacost, announced today the establishment of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. The launching event for the Center will take place on Monday, May 13, 2002, when His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan will make a special address to a select audience of policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Made possible by a generous founding grant from Mr. Haim Saban of Los Angeles, the Saban Center will permit the Brookings Institution to dramatically expand its research and analysis of Middle East policy issues at a time when the region has assumed a dominant position on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.

“After September 11, American interests in countering terrorism, promoting peace, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and preserving regional stability all converged on the Middle East,” Armacost noted. “The generosity of Haim Saban will enable Brookings to expand significantly its circle of experts who will conduct original research and develop innovative programs to promote a better understanding of the policy choices facing American decision-makers.”

Mr. Saban, who heads the Saban Capital Group, will chair the bipartisan International Advisory Council of the new Center. The Council will comprise senior statesmen, former government officials, business and media executives, and academics from both the United States and the Middle East.

“As someone who has an abiding interest in promoting Arab-Israeli peace and preserving American interests in the Middle East, I am delighted to have an opportunity to help expand the work of the Brookings Institution in these areas,” Mr. Saban declared. “The Brookings Institution’s credibility and reputation for rigorous, policy-relevant scholarship makes it the ideal institution to house this vital work.”

The Center will be directed by Brookings Senior Fellow Martin Indyk, a two-term U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Presidents Clinton and Bush who also served as assistant secretary of State for the Near East and Special Assistant to President Clinton on the National Security Council. In addition to his distinguished public service career, Ambassador Indyk has made substantial contributions to the understanding of U.S. policy in the Middle East as a scholar and as the founding executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Indyk noted, “The Middle East is a region of vital interest to the United States. At a time of prolonged crises there, Washington policymakers need balanced and objective research and policy analysis from experienced and knowledgeable people who can bring fresh perspectives to the critical problems of the day. The Saban Center will do just that.”

The Saban Center will be part of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at Brookings, which is led by James B. Steinberg. Joining Ambassador Indyk in the work of the center will be Professor Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor of Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Philip H. Gordon, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at Brookings who also directs the Brookings Center on the United States and France. The Center will have a core group of full-time Middle East specialists complemented by visiting fellows from the Arab world and Israel.

The geographic scope of the Saban Center’s work will extend from Morocco to the Gulf and from Turkey to Egypt. It will cover the critical issues that affect U.S. interests in this vital but volatile region, including promoting Arab-Israeli peace, regional prosperity and good governance, as well as countering terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Initially, the Saban Center will undertake original research in four areas: constructing the future Palestinian state; lessons from Camp David for U.S. peace diplomacy; the implications of regime change in Iraq; and the dynamics of the Iranian reformation.

The Saban Center will house the ongoing Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World whose Task Force and other work is being funded by Brookings, the Ford Foundation, and the Government of Qatar. The Center will also develop a special project on the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship.

Educational programs at the Center will include monthly Policy Forums with leading policymakers and experts from the Middle East as well as conferences and symposiums.

One unique element of the Center’s work will be the development of educational programs for mid-level government officials, congressional staffers, and corporate executives. Produced in conjunction with the Brookings Center for Public Policy Education, the courses will provide future policymakers with a better understanding of the complexities of the Middle East and the process of developing effective policies to deal with them.

In keeping with the Brookings commitment to communicate its scholarly work to a wide American and international audience, the Saban Center will develop a Middle East website that will make the Center’s research, analysis, and activities available on the Internet.

About Brookings

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to conduct in-depth, nonpartisan research to improve policy and governance at local, national, and global levels.