Robert Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a post he assumed in January 1993. Besides his managerial duties, he does research in U.S. public diplomacy in the Middle East, U.S. policy toward democratization and reform in the Middle East, U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamists, Arab and inter-Arab politics.
He gave cautious approval to Barack Obama's approaches to the Middle East, specifically in the way in which the President is reevaluating early moves in the Israel-Palestine situation. Entering office, the new administration's first step was to be perceived as different than its predecessor: "behavior change, engagement, and an emphasis on "mutual interests and mutual respect'" rather than "you]re with us or against us". Satliff approved of the initial urgency, evidenced in such things as George Mitchell's appointment, but "the strategy that he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Mitchell’s team together adopted to jumpstart a diplomacy with a weak Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the old-new Likud prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was anything but: [urgent]". Contrasting the Clinton and Bush assumption of U.S. Israeli partnership and building Israeli confidence, the Obama team, in his opinion, surmised the process had gone stale, and needed a restart by obtaining "two huge concessions. First, the White House would win from Israel a public commitment on a total freeze in construction in the "Occupied Territories"; then, the Administration would leverage that concession to win from Saudi Arabia, arch-guardian of Muslim sensibilities, an agreement to take unprecedented steps toward normalization with Israel."
Satloff saw bringing in Arab states rather than depending on dysfunctional Palestinian politics to be wise, and that no one in either the White House or Foggy Bottom seems to have asked some obvious questions. What does a freeze actually mean--no expropriation of land? no new settlements? no building in existing settlements? Would such a freeze apply equally to building in Jerusalem, the capital city that Washington does not recognize as such, as in some remote hilltop outpost? And would the eventual expiration of an agreed-upon period of freeze imply Washington’s tacit approval to start building again?"
He approved of the changes in September 2009: "To the consternation of Abbas, who had been happy to watch the Americans negotiate on his behalf for the past few months, the president announced that restarting peace talks would no longer be contingent on reaching agreement with Israel on a settlement freeze. America wanted the parties to begin negotiations, without preconditions, as soon as possible, he said. And in a move replete with irony, he specifically asked Hillary Clinton--who had articulated the Administration’s most hardline stance on settlements in June--to report back to him in mid-October on progress toward resuming peace talk."
Return to U.S.
In 2007, he cited "the resignation of Karen P. Hughes as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy gives President Bush an opportunity to fix one of the most glaring blunders in his administration's response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- a failure to prioritize ideological warfare over public relations. " He pointed out the U.S. people understood there were wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and non-national terrorists, but were largely unaware of the war "against the spread of the ideology of radical Islamism. In this war, the battlefields are the many cities, towns and villages where extremists seek to impose their absolutist view of sharia-based rule.
Field research after 9/11
Soon after September 11, Dr. Satloff and his family moved to Rabat , Morocco, where he telecommuted to Washington as the Institute's director for policy and strategic planning, overseeing the organization's major programs and research projects. In addition, he traveled throughout the Middle East and Europe and wrote extensively on ways to inject urgency and ideas into the ideological campaign against radical Islamism, the topic of his collection of essays,
During his two years abroad, Dr. Satloff's personal research also focused on unearthing stories of Arab "heroes" and "villains" of the Holocaust, drawing on archives, interviews, and site visits in eleven countries.
The author or editor of nine books and monographs, Dr. Satloff's views on Middle East issues appear frequently in major newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, and he regularly comments on major television network news programs, talk shows, and National Public Radio. In addition, Dr. Satloff is the creator and host of Dakhil Washington (Inside Washington), a weekly news and interview program on al-Hurra, the U.S. government-supported Arabic satellite television channel that beams throughout the Middle East and Europe. In that capacity, he is the only non-Arab to host a program on an Arab satellite channel.
- D.Phil., St. Antony's College, University of Oxford
- M.A., Harvard University
- B.A., Duke University