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On April 21 President Obama will attend the Gulf Co-operation Council Summit in Saudi Arabia, with a  series of crises confronting the Gulf monarchies. Syria, Yemen and Iran will be key components of the discussions, as well how to prevent violent extremism.  Join us for a panel discussion featuring regional specialists on what Obama should achieve in the GCC meeting, and why it matters so much.

Introductory remarks

Ambassador Andras Simonyi, Managing Director, CTR


Geneive Abdo, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

Hala Aldosari, Visiting Scholar, the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington

Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights First

Matar Ebrahim Matar, former member of the Bahraini Parliament


Mihai Patru, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations

Ambassador Andras Simonyi joined SAIS following a successful career in multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, international non-governmental and governmental organizations, and in the private sector. He served as the Hungarian Ambassador to NATO and to the United States.

Geneive Abdo is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. She was previously a Fellow in the Middle East program at the Stimson Center and a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Abdo was formerly the Liaison Officer for the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN initiative established by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which aims to improve relations between Islamic and Western societies..

Hala Aldosari is a visiting scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She is interested in the development of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Hala earned her PhD in health services research from Old Dominion University and has worked as a medical scientist, lecturer, and an administrator in the Saudi health and education sector. In 2015, she completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, focusing on social determinants of women’s health and violence against women. She currently directs and maintains a women’s rights advocacy project online ( and participates in advocacy efforts and community capacity building aimed at promoting women’s rights and empowerment in Saudi Arabia.

Brian Dooley leads Human Rights First’s efforts to promote a safer environment for human rights defenders, engaging with the U.S. government and other partners to end threats and obstacles to human rights work. He regularly writes reports and articles about human rights the GCC, and is the author of several books about U.S. politics. Prior to joining Human Rights First he worked for many years for Amnesty International in London and Dublin.

Matar Ebrahim Matar is a former member of parliament who served as Bahrain’s youngest MP representing its largest constituency. In February 2011, along with 18 other members from his al-Wefaq political party, he resigned from parliament to protest the regime’s crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators. During the Feb. 14 uprising, he served as a major spokesman for the pro-democracy movement. Matar was subsequently arbitrarily detained, and, after his release, left Bahrain for exile in the United States. In 2012, he received the “Leaders for Democracy Award” from the Project on Middle Democracy (POMED).

Mihai Patru is a Senior Fellow at the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations. A former U.S. State Department Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow, Mihai is currently on leave from the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he focused on the MENA region. He writes broadly on the Middle East, with a particular focus on internal dynamics, foreign policy and Arab leadership.