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FSI launches Middle East Initiative led by Colin Kahl

As a senior policy advisor on the Middle East at the Pentagon and the White House, Colin Kahl has witnessed struggles in the region first-hand. From working to shape the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State and the long-term partnership with Iraq to limiting Iran’s nuclear activities to helping craft the U.S. response to the Arab Spring, Kahl knows better than most how important it is to understand this rapidly changing region.

Now that he has joined the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) as its inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow, Kahl wants to improve understanding of how developments in the Middle East impact people in the region and security around the globe.

The launch of FSI’s Middle East Initiative provides a first step toward this objective. As the initiative’s first director, Kahl plans to create “connective tissue” for efforts already underway across Stanford.

“There are a number of disparate efforts around campus working on Middle East issues,” said Kahl. “There is a lot of terrific research and engagement going on. My hope is that the Middle East Initiative will serve as a focal point to expose the Stanford community to ongoing work and foster new conversations that are not happening now.”

Many of the Middle East activities already occurring on campus happen at FSI, making it a natural home for the initiative.

“Our scholars are already studying the dynamics of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, prospects for reform and democracy in the Arab world, ways to counter terrorist activities and promoting economic development,” said FSI Director Michael McFaul. “Stanford students want to dive more deeply into the region’s political, social, economic and technological development. We want to give them that opportunity.”

In the 2018-2019 academic year, FSI’s Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy plans to begin filling this need by adding a three-course sequence on the Middle East.

Kahl also plans to bring more Middle East scholars from outside Stanford to share their ideas and research.

“I look forward to helping Stanford students and scholars connect and collaborate in ways that enrich our understanding of this vital region,” said Kahl. “Stanford has much to contribute to some of the most pressing policy challenges we face.”