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Robert  Malley

Robert Malley

President Obama’s Senior White House Advisor on ISIS and the Middle East

Robert Malley

President Obama’s Senior White House Advisor on ISIS and the Middle East


Internationally acknowledged as one of the most respected experts on the Middle East, Robert Malley was among the Obama administration’s most trusted national security advisors, rising to become Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf Regions and Senior Advisor to the President for the critical Counter-ISIS campaign. His more than two decades of experience in national security, counterterrorism, and international negotiations include key roles in both the Obama and Clinton White Houses and the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Malley was the lead White House negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal and headed the U. S. team in international talks on the Syrian civil war that included the Russian Federation. He also oversaw a portfolio of security issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to relations with Gulf States. Mr. Malley has written and spoken widely on issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arab Spring and U.S. policy toward the region. Now speaking on the world stage, Robert Malley is an authoritative, insightful analyst of the complicated outlook for the Middle East, regional conflicts, Iran, the future of Israel, terrorism, global risk and the prospects for U.S foreign relations in the age of President Trump.

The recipient of the 2016 State Department Distinguished Service Award for his exceptional leadership and accomplishment in foreign affairs, Robert Malley first gained international attention under President Clinton. As Principal Advisor to the President for Arab-Israeli affairs, he participated in Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace talks. He went on to found the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit focused on conflict resolution where he supervised a dozen analysts in the Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Malley has taught at Georgetown University, George Washington University and New York University. He is the author of The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam and has been published in The New York TimesThe New York Review of BooksForeign AffairsThe Washington Post and LeMonde, among others. A Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, Mr. Malley holds an M.A. in international relations and B.A. in Economics & Political Science from Yale.

Expert, insightful and full of engaging observations from inside the White House and around the world, Robert Malley’s thought provoking keynotes bring invaluable analysis of the world’s most complex and critical region—providing clarity and perspective on the risks and challenges ahead.

Speaker Videos

Culture of Resistance

Fighting ISIS and Terrorism

The Past is Present: The Landscape of the Middle East

The Israeli Palestinian Conflict: How a Two State Solution Can Work

Speech Topics

U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Between Engagement & Disengagement

Does the Middle East really matter to the U.S.? Have years of over-engagement entangled the United States in other people’s wars, distracted from its core interests? Has this led it to neglect other critical parts of the world and important domestic priorities, with little obvious gain – and much noticeable pain? Or are we neglecting a region that, through the export of oil, terrorism, and instability, inevitably makes it to our doorsteps even if we choose to ignore theirs?

Subject areas can include:

  • Does the Middle East really matter to the U.S. today – why or why not?
  • Can the U.S. choose to ignore the Middle East?
  • Have we overreacted to terrorism? Assessing the place of terrorism in our national security doctrine today.
  • The perils and promise of U.S. intervention in the Middle East: A balance sheet

The New Middle Eastern Landscape: Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran & the Trump Administration

From bipolar to unipolar, the world appears to be heading back to being multipolar, nowhere more plainly than in the Middle East. What does this mean for strategic, political and economic interests around the world? Can a stable equilibrium be found? Or are we on the verge of the next global conflict aimed at restoring a sense of balance and ending the apparent free-for-all? Where are the most likely hot spots? Which are the most likely winners, losers, and left-behind? What will the Middle East look like on the other end of this new scramble for power?

Subject areas include:

  • Who rules the Middle East today?
  • States, non-states, and anti-states: Actors in a shifting Middle East landscape
  • What does Putin want, and should we care?
  • Is Iran the next best threat?

Iran & the Nuclear Deal

The Iran nuclear deal was one of the Obama’s administration’s most significant achievements. Dubbed by President Trump “the worst deal ever negotiated,” it is also one of those most at risk. What went into the deal, what were the behind-the-scenes conflicts, compromises and understandings? What are its weaknesses and what should we expect from the Trump administration? What consequences for business and trade not only with Iran, but also with Iran’s partners? And how might Iran react to renewed US hostility – in terms of Iranian domestic policy and foreign choices?

  • The story behind the story of the Iran deal: An insider’s account
  • A deal in jeopardy: What the Trump administration might do, and how might Iran react
  • Imagining what comes next: A world without the nuclear deal?

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The End of the Two-State Solution?

Even as the world continues to cling to the idea of the two state solution, Israelis and Palestinians seem to decreasingly believe, or even be interested in it. Despite efforts by the U.S. and other mediators—or perhaps because of them—realities on the ground and in people’s minds appear to be veering in another direction. What has been the missing ingredient to date? Is there an alternative other than perpetual conflict? And what does this mean both for the United States, for the Israeli and Palestinian people, and the region's stability?

  • Tales from the other side: Two decades of negotiating with Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and the U.S.
  • Does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still matter?
  • Is the two-state solution still viable? Are any of the alternatives?
  • What future lays ahead for Israelis and Palestinians, and what will the role for the U.S be?
  • Lessons for negotiators

Terrorism & Counter-terrorism from Obama to Trump

Even as President Obama promised to lessen America's involvement in the Middle East, his administration found itself pulled back into the region as a result of ISIS's rise. Today, the U.S. is confronting the terrorist organization in various arenas, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Egypt. President Trump has vowed to double down, claiming that he will quickly destroy ISIS. More than 15 years after the beginning of the so-called war on terror, what lessons can we draw from the resilience of Al Qaeda and the rise of ISIS? If ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria, what should we expect the next chapter to be? And what do America’s choices mean for the rest of the world – for the Middle East, where ISIS was born and is mutating, or for Europe, where ISIS has conducted some of its most vicious attacks? Can other powers devise different approaches to confront a threat that is both more proximate and whose impact – in terms of violence, or refugee flows – is greater?

  • Lessons from the frontline: How successful has the war on terrorism been?
  • What’s next after ISIS?