past Speakers

  • Tim Marshall, Middle East Analyst and Former Middle East Editor, Sky News ( www.thewhatandthewhy.com)
  • Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy Head of Mission, United States of America Embassy in London
  • Jonathan Paris, London based Middle East Analyst, Senior Advisor, Chertoff Group and Former Middle East Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York
  •  Ashlee Godwin, Production Editor/Deputy Editor, RUSI Journal ( Chair)
  • Dr James Boys, Associate Professor of International political Studies at Richmond University in London and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Author of "Clinton's Grand Strategy"
  • Omar Hamid, Head of Asia Pacific Country Risk Forecasting, IHS
  • Daniel Madar, Asia-Pacific Expert, United States Embassy in London

us foreign policy- towards a more multilateral approach and engaging leadership


In the 2015 US National Strategy document, President Obama stated that "The real challenge for the country — not just during my Presidency but in future Presidencies — is recognizing that leading does not always mean occupying and that American leadership means wherever possible leveraging other countries and other resources." There has being a clear position made by this administration that interventions with no strategy will create further complex problems rather than solving them.

The post-Bush era has created an awareness that American unilateralism often caused more difficulties than it solved. The American Foreign Policy, under the current administration is trying to re-establish the eminence of principles in American foreign policy, notably the multilateral approach, cooperation with allies (especially Europeans), broad international support and UN approval.

the arab spring

Whilst the US may be the most important external power in the region, its ability to dictate outcomes is limited.During the Arab Spring, the United States has had to tread a fine line between support for its values – and what it conceives as its long-term interests – represented by political reform in the region, and the protection of what it perceives as its core regional interests.

Therefore, the current administration has sought to balance the competing interests in context of events whose outcome was uncertain. This led to the US to abandon Mubarak in Egypt and contribute to the overthrowing of Gaddafi in Libya. In Syria, the aggressive military support by Iran to the Assad's regime has blocked any military breakthrough of the opposition despite the support of the Arab countries and the West.

With the backing of Russia at the Security Council and lack of any leverage on the Syrian regime, the US administration doesn't have many policy options to deal with Assad's regime and even the use of the chemical weapons ' redline imposed by President Obama was crossed with no consequences.

In the same way, America turned a blind eye to the Saudi intervention in Bahrain to calm the uprising and instead, delegated to the United Nations and the Council of Arab Gulf States to manage the transition in Yemen after the withdrawal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was an ally in the war on Al Qaida.


Iran Nuclear Programme Deal 

Iran's significant influence in Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon presents serious concerns to the Sunni Arabs in these countries and in the neighbouring Gulf countries. In addition, the main security concerns of Israel are from groups with ties to Iran. Iran has achieved this influence whilst being under sanctions, indicating that there is a potential of expanding its territory of influence even greater after the lifting of the sanction.

The deal can guarantee the blocking of Iran's nuclear programme but it doesn't guarantee the end of its interference in the affairs of the different countries of the region. The deal was a pragmatic policy as it will be hard to get the support of Russia and China in extending sanctions and also the agreement will help coordinating with Iran in fighting terrorism represented by ISIL and AL Qaeda which are common enemies for both Iran and the West.


Middle East Peace Process 

After a 9 month American led negotiation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the negotiation ended with failure last year. The United States is the only active member of the Quartet and the only member that has been investing in efforts, especially by secretary John Kerry, to reach a resolution to this conflict. Despite these efforts, on one hand, the US veto on the Palestinian statehood bid at the Security Council has damaged its relations with the Palestinian Authority. On another hand, the Iranian nuclear programme deal has also damaged its relations with Benyamin Netanyahu and his right wing government. This has made it difficult for the current administration to revive the peace process negotiation. 


the war on ISiL

The ISIL phenomenon was a cumulative outcome of several catalysts involving all actors in the region. The tally of deaths amongst Iraqis in the last two decades starting from the containment policy of Bill Clinton to the invasion of George Bush contributed vastly to the rise of extremism in the country. The failure of the Arab spring and democratic transition in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen for different reasons has contributed to spreading despair and extremism within the region. The spread of extremist’s Islamic literature in the region has further encouraged fanatic discourse. The Shi’a - Sunni war led by Iran and the Arab States in the region in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen has led to the whole region as the battle grounds for the two sects. The fact that the catalysts that have led to the rise of the ISIL phenomenon are so complex and interlinked and cannot be eliminated in short and medium terms, the US policy seems to focus on limiting the damage of expanding the ISIL territory into other areas in  Iraq, Syria and other countries. Alternative policies would have a counter-productive outcome in a very fragile region.                       


Despite the fact that current American administration declared intention to re-balancing”, U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, the Obama administration was more ready to engage in multilateralism than the preceding Bush Government.



The current administration re-engaged with France and Germany in dealing with international security issues instead of splitting Europe as old Europe and new Europe. The interventions in Libya and against ISIL are coordinated under NATO. Communications with Russia and diplomatic efforts regarding the Ukraine Crisis are coordinated with Germany and France taking leadership.

The crisis and conflict in Ukraine has since caused U.S. policy makers to rethink many assumptions about European security, and the United States continues to play a leading role in NATO and managing relations with Russia. Given that much of U.S. attention is also likely to remain centred on Asia and the Middle East, general U.S. hopes and expectations are that Europe should share a significant part of the burden when it comes to its own security. U.S. officials remain concerned by Europe’s ongoing economic difficulties, continuing declines in defence spending and military capabilities, and questions about Europe’s ability to deliver a robust and coherent common foreign policy.


Russia Ukraine Crisis

 U.S. and European relations with Russia have become more adversarial in the context of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its actions destabilizing Ukraine. The United States and the European Union (EU) have imposed sanctions that, combined with low oil prices, have harmed the Russian economy. Rising tensions with Russia have altered previous assumptions about European security and affected debates about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European energy security. While some Europeans remain sceptical about the wisdom and utility of sanctions as an attempt deter Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the measures have been adopted by the unanimous agreement of all 28 EU member states.

Information Security and data sharing issue 

Allegations of U.S. spying and surveillance programs in Europe have caused a sharp backlash and damaged transatlantic trust. Although tensions appear to have proven manageable and U.S. intelligence cooperation with European governments continues, data privacy concerns could complicate future talks on U.S.-EU information-sharing agreements.


The United States and the EU have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. The two sides have been negotiating a free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aimed at boosting jobs and growth on both sides, but obstacles could make it difficult to conclude a deal by the end of 2015. While the conditions that fuelled the Euro zone crisis from 2010-2012 appear to have stabilized, there is considerable doubt that underlying economic problems in Europe have been fully resolved.

China and Asia Pacific 

China and India are growing powers and they have been receiving more attention from the Obama administration, perhaps at the expense of the transatlantic relationship. In the past 20 years, China and India’s share of the global economy has tripled.

By 2025, the Asia-Pacific region will account for almost half of the world’s economic output. Based on a statement by Secretary of State John Hay in 1900 ‘‘the Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, the Atlantic the ocean of the present, and the Pacific is the ocean of the future.’’

The economies of the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly important markets for U.S. exports ever-larger proportion of global trade is passing through the region’s sea lanes, underscoring the continued need for the United States to help maintain maritime security and promote regional stability. Prosperity and security  of the US are intimately entwined with the prosperity and security of the Asia-Pacific region, and U.S

The Obama administration recognized this need when it committed to ‘‘rebalance’’ U.S. U.S. Government attention and resources for the Asia-Pacific region. The strategy intends to strengthen U.S. economic, diplomatic, and security engagement throughout the region, both bilaterally and multilaterally, with a coordinated, ‘‘whole-of-government’’ approach to policy implementation.

In concept, the rebalance stands out as one of the Obama administration’s most far-sighted and ambitious foreign policy initiatives. The United States has successfully moved forward with. Some countries in the region see the rebalance as an attempt to contain a rising China, which may limit their willingness to deepen cooperation and coordination with the United States.

While the U.S. military has made several high-profile and attention- grabbing deployments of additional resources to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. civilian agencies have less clearly shifted their priorities. Though most regional policymakers and analysts outside of China have welcomed the rebalance, a frequent criticism of the initiative is that it is too military-focused and should be more diversified.


In his February 2012 address in Washington, President Xi Jinping called for the enhancement of mutual trust as the first of four major principles upon which American and Chinese leaders should base their relationship.

In an effort to build strategic trust, forums for discussion and the enhancement of mutual understanding have multiplied; over sixty formal dialogues between the United States and the People’s Republic of China now occur each year. As the United States considers the U.S.-China relationship in the context of its overall foreign policy in Asia.

Increased concern over China’s assertiveness sustained – by China’s behavior toward American allies in the region, particularly in the area of maritime disputes.  Some analysts state that the rebalance policy and the American military  actions in the region is a response to the advancements made by the Chinese military, such as the successful developments of its aircraft carrier, advanced jet fighters, and more cost-effective drones.  

Undoubtedly, such strategies have been a growing source of concern for Beijing.  The two Countries  must engage in an open discussion which addresses the outstanding problems honestly, and come up with practical solutions that move beyond their ideological and cultural differences



Latin America

While the United States focus has been in recent years projected in other parts of world such as the Middle East and Asia, it has maintained its link with Latin America by achieving a trade surplus with the region and 13 of the 17 Latin American countries import more goods from the US than from anywhere else.

The US remains the largest single source of foreign direct investment into Latin America. The economic presence of the US is still huge even with trade diversification.

Governments in the region do engage with more international actors than in the past, but US influence is still considerable. The US has avoided unwise policies that would distance it from the region such confrontation with Venezuela or treating China as threat in the region or avoiding engagement with Cuba.

However, the US restored diplomatic ties  with Cuba after 53 years during which  relations were severed. This point to better prospects for Cuba’s economy and U.S. relations more broadly in Latin America.