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Founded in 1951, The Charlottesville Committee on Foreign Relations (CCFR) is a civic, non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of informed discussion of American foreign policy and international affairs.

It has achieved a distinguished record of bringing together concerned citizens in our area with leading authorities on world developments. The hallmark of CCFR is the creation of opportunities for in-depth exchanges on major international issues that increasingly affect our lives.

Ambassador Dennis Ross

Challenges in the Middle East

Thursday April 11,2019

The Middle East continues to be in turmoil. Despite strong US sanctions on it, Iran is strengthening their influence in the area. With reduced presence by the US in Iraq and limited US activity in Syria, Iran is ascendant in both countries, while maintaining their involvement in Lebanon. At the same time Iran is fighting a proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
 
Saudi Arabia, a friend of the US, meanwhile opposes Iran’s influence wherever it can. In addition to the proxy war in Yemen, the Saudis appear to be cooperating more with Israel. Internally Saudi Arabia is in flux due to the international uproar over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
 
Israel, which has its own internal political challenges, continues to have major problems in Gaza and feels increasingly threatened by Hezbollah in Lebanon. To combat Iranian ascendancy they are reported to have improved intelligence cooperation with Saudi Arabia and with Egypt and have bombed Iranian assets in Syria.
 
Elsewhere in the Middle East, although forces loyal to Bashar Assad, supported by Russia, have reestablished control in much of Syria, Kurds still control a large part of the country in the northeast. Turkey, a member of NATO and supposed ally of the US, considers the Kurds as terrorists and has vowed to remove them from the Turkish border. And although President Trump has announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria, the plan and timing to do it is unclear.
 
Our speaker in January talked about Latin America and whether it mattered to the world, or even to the US. Despite vast growth in US domestic oil & gas production, very few would question whether the Middle East matters. For decades, the Middle East has been a major supplier of oil & gas to the world, and it remains so despite growth in exports by the US. In addition, the Middle East is a major source of capital to the world - both financial capital from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia plus intellectual capital from Israel. And the Middle East remains a haven for terrorists. Our speaker in February will discuss the many challenges in this important part of the world.
 
Ambassador Dennis Ross is William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Previously he had a distinguished career as a diplomat and security advisor. He served as special assistant to President Obama and as special advisor to Secretary Clinton. Ambassador Ross was US point person for the Middle East peace process for both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. During the Reagan administration, he served as Director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council.
 
A 1970 graduate of UCLA, Mr. Ross wrote his doctoral dissertation on Soviet decision-making. From 1984 to 1986, he served as executive director of the Berkeley-Stanford program on Soviet International Behavior. He has received honorary doctorates from Brandeis, Amherst, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Syracuse University.
 
 6:00 Cocktails   6:45 Dinner   7:45 Address and Discussion

Meal A: Pan Roasted Corvina
Meal B: Petite Lamb Chops
Meal C: Curried Vegetables with Basmati Rice