Bilal Y. Saab is Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington, DC. In addition, he is an Associate Fellow with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB). With Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service, Saab is an Adjunct Professor teaching graduate courses on U.S. defense policy in the Middle East and international security studies. And he is the author of Rebuilding Arab Defense: US Security Cooperation in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, May 2022)

Prior to MEI, Saab served as Senior Advisor for Security Cooperation (SC) in the Pentagon’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, with oversight responsibilities for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). In his capacity as the Department of Defense’s lead on security cooperation in the broader Middle East, Saab supported the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s responsibility for SC oversight by leading prioritization and strategic integration of SC resources and activities for the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility.

He has held director, fellow, associate, and research positions at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, Council on Foreign Relations (International Affairs Fellowship 2018-2019), Atlantic Council, Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and MEI. Saab is a term member (2016-2021) with CFR.

Saab has fluency in both written and spoken Arabic and French, and experience living in the Middle East for more than two decades. He has received various analytic and leadership awards throughout his career including the Thought Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council and the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Award from CSIS.

A prolific and widely published author in peer-reviewed academic and policy journals including the print editions of Survival, Middle East Policy, The Washington Quarterly, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, American Interest, and The National Interest and the online editions of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, Saab is often called upon to brief and testify before various executive and legislative agencies in the U.S. government and other governments around the world. He regularly provides commentary to international media outlets including CNN, NPR, PBS Newshour, Reuters, Washington Post and New York Times.

Saab earned his BA from AUB, his MLitt from the University of St Andrews, and his MA from the University of Maryland, College Park.

BA, American University of Beirut; MLitt., University of St Andrews; MA, University of Maryland, College Park

Countries of Expertise
Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE

Issues of Expertise
Arms Control; Defense; Insurgency; Regional Security; Security Cooperation; Strategy; Terrorism; US Middle East Policy

Arabic, French

Contact Information

Please contact MEI’s media relations manager, Rachel Dooley, at or 202-785-1141 ext. 241 for assistance contacting this expert.

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