What a fantastic line-up of speakers from the Arab World joined by those in the American World with expertise in countries of the Middle East! All were gathered in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC on October 14 - 15, 2015. David Bosch, Chairman of the Board of Directors National Council on US-Arab Relations, gave a welcoming speech announcing scholarships awarded for study in the summer internship program. The two young women recipients addressed our assembly, telling us why they wanted to study in a Middle Eastern country. Then, cadets from West Point, Annapolis and VMI, also students of Middle East history, received a very special welcome.
Dr. John Duke Anthony, Founding President and CEO of the National Council on US-Arab Relations, was one of the opening speakers and spent a good part of his welcoming address talking about the Bosch family and their life in the Sultanate of Oman. Since David Bosch is one of Aramco's own, I was pleased to hear Dr. Anthony recount a story of an American doctor's family that has always captured my imagination. He also introduced people such as HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Ambassador, (Ret) Charles Freeman, Jr., American ambassador to The Kingdom during the First Gulf War, Dr. John Ulatowski, Interim CEO, John Hopkins Healthcare who has now taken over the management of the Aramco Hospital and Clinic in Dhahran, Ms. Molly Williamson, former US Interim Ambassador to Bahrain, Mr. Khalid Almaeena, former editor in Chief of Arab News and former Editor in Chief of Saudi Gazette, Ahmed Awad Al Mubarak, ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the United States, H.E. Ambassador Lukman Faily, Ambassador of Iraq to the U.S., Dr. James Zogby of the Arab American Institute and countless other internationally known specialists.
Along with David Bosch, and Martin and Rosemarye Levine, there were four other Aramcons in attendance--and I wish there had been more because this was an outstanding opportunity to look into the hearts and minds of those present and take into account what they were saying. I was fortunate to be seated at a table with the Embassy of Iraq and exchanged ideas with members of the staff. The two keynote speakers were Ambassador Freeman and Prince Turki Al Faisal and they talked about US-Arab Relations being at a crossroads and questioned what paths forward. I was particularly taken with the frank, open opinions expressed by both. Ambassador Freeman freely spoke of the US misadventures in the Middle East. The Prince clearly stated that The Kingdom was based on Unity, Civility and Responsibility and the biggest terrorist in the world was Bashar Assad. In past conferences, I have heard The Prince speak and have always appreciated the perspectives he set forth to challenge my knowledge. This time, again, I must report he did not disappoint. Many of the speakers addressed what has been happening in Iraq and Syria and stated that Iraq was broken from the outside by the American invasion. Syria collapsed for internal reasons, not external reasons, and Syria has become a swamp with wild animals who have been tearing each other apart. The descriptions of these two countries are direct quotes from a couple of the speakers and not my own words. The conference lasted for two days and there were subjects other than political ones. There were panels on US-Arab Energy Cooperation. Speakers from the embassies of Iraq, Bahrain, France, Yemen, others from Boeing and Lockheed, desk officers from the State Department, Arab journalists, professors, all taking the opportunity to get their viewpoints across to the gathered avid listeners. The list was endless. I strongly encourage Aramco expats to look into attending this conference when next we meet in October 2016.