Note: Bilal Saab was a senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security program at MEI; as of October 2018, he is serving as a senior advisor for security cooperation in the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, overseeing and prioritizing USCENTCOM's security cooperation programs in the broader Middle East. 

Bilal Y. Saab is a political-military analyst on the Middle East and US policy toward the region. He specializes in the Levant and the Persian Gulf, and focuses on security cooperation between the United States and its regional partners, and national security and defense processes in Arab partner countries.

Currently, Saab is Senior Advisor for Security Cooperation (SC) in the Pentagon's Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy. In his capacity, Saab oversees and prioritizes security cooperation resources and activities for the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR). In addition, Saab leads Department of Defense implementation of FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reforms and supports a departmental effort to develop multi-year guidance for all security cooperation activities.

Saab is also a term member (2016-2021) with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a recipient of the International Affairs Fellowship (2018-2019) with CFR. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

Prior to his transition into U.S. government service, Saab spent 16 years in the think tank community, primarily in Washington, D.C., holding research, analysis, fellowship, and management positions at organizations including Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Most recently, he was Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.

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 the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A prolific and widely published author in peer-reviewed academic and policy journals including the print editions of The Washington Quarterly, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, American Interest, and The National Interest and the online editions of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy (for a list of publications and speaking engagements please consult the publications page of this website), 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.

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; Strategy; Terrorism; US Middle East Policy

Arabic, French

Contact Information

Please MEI’s media relations manager, Donald Fantozzi, at [email protected] or 202-785-1141 ext. 241 for assistance ing this expert.

Download Photo