The Middle East

Our Philosophy

This programme applies a human security lens to the multiple and interlocking issues that bring nations and peoples into conflict in the Middle East region, as a fundamental current flashpoint of great risk to global security. The premise of a human security approach is that no political or strategic goals can be pursued that ignore basic human needs for safety, well-being and livelihood. People on the ground, and their legitimate aspirations, should be an integral part of any political or strategic considerations.

We work on two primary implications of this approach. First, in negotiations, a way needs to be found of allowing all voices which need to be heard and respected. Solutions which exclude significant constituencies are doomed to fail. We provide forums in which groups who disagree may begin to build dialogue and find common interests. Second, in military interventions, those who plan and execute them need to find ways in which operations protect, respect and include local populations, rather than alienating them. Our work with Western militaries offers contexts in which fresh thinking can be undertaken about what is to be learned from mistakes made in recent interventions.


Programme Team

Gabrielle Rifkind is Oxford Research Group Director of the Human Security in the Middle East programme. She is a group analyst and specialist in conflict resolution and is convener and founder of the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum (MEPIF). She has initiated and facilitated a number of Track II roundtables and hosts the media 'Liddite' Conversations with ORG. She is also working on developing dialogue between Iran, the US and Israel. She makes regular contributions to press and media and is author, with Scilla Elworthy, of Making Terrorism History (Random House, 2005).

Professor Oliver Ramsbotham has been Chair of the Board since April 2007. He moved to the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in 1991, having worked several years previously as a consultant and writer with Oxford Research Group. At the Department of Peace Studies he was Professor of Peace Studies and Head of Department between 1999-2002. Since then he has been Professor of Conflict Resolution. He has published more than 60 articles and papers, mainly on humanitarian intervention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping, but also with an interest in Islam/Christian relations.

Refqa Abu-Remaileh is Project Manager for the Middle East Programme. She is also completing a PhD in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford. She is interested in developing a more active role in projects related to alternative models within the two-state solution in the Arab-Israeli conflict and exploring further regional relationships that will serve to support an end of conflict. She grew up in Jordan of Palestinian-Syrian origin and is a native Arabic speaker.


Advisory Board


Lord Alderdice is a medical doctor, psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has been active in politics since the 1970s. He was a key negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement. He sits as a Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords and has substantial experience of political conflict and international terrorism and is currently focusing on the Middle East. In 2006 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding.


Ahmed Badawi is Co-founder and Executive Director of TRANSFORM: The Interdisciplinary Centre for Conflict Analysis, Political Development and World Society Research. He was Project Director (Israel/Palestine) at the Oxford Research Group (2007-2009). His current interests and areas of specialisation are Palestinian politics, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, dilemmas of social integration in Europe, and the politics of development in the Arab World.

Michael Brearley is a psychoanalyst. He was a professional cricketer who captained England between 1977 and 1981. He has long had an interest in how to get teams to cohere, and how to deal with conflict. His present work involves trying to allow different voices to be heard and powerful emotions to be tolerated.



Alastair Crooke is Director of Conflicts Forum. Before establishing Conflicts Forum he was Advisor on Middle East and Security Issues to Javier Solana, the EU Foreign and Security Policy Chief. He was also a staff member of Senator George Mitchell's Fact Finding Committee that inquired into the causes of the Intifada (2000-01).



Brig. Gen. Amira Dotan. From 1965 to 1988, Amira Dotan served in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) finishing as the Head of the Women’s Corps with the rank of Brigadier General, the first woman in the Israeli history to achieve this rank. In 2006, she was invited by Prime Minister Sharon to stand for the Kadima party in the Knesset and served in this capacity until 2009. Her responsibilities included representing the Knesset at the European Parliament and at NATO. She is also a member of the Council for Peace and Security, an association of nationla security experts in Israel. Her special interests are mediation and conflict resolution.


Dr. Orit Gal specializes in complexity-based strategy development. Over the past eight years she has concentrated her work on issues of complexity in conflict environments and the intersection between development economics and security. Previously, a senior researcher at the Operational Theory Research Institute and a project director for the Economic Cooperation Foundation, she is currently an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Director of the Complexity Hub - a newly established London-based think/do tank promoting the applications of Complexity Science to the public and private sectors.


David Hearst is the chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian. As a foreign correspondent he covered the loyalist backlash in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Northern Ireland, the first conflict in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in Slovenia and Croatia, the first war in Chechnya and Boris Yeltsin's moral and physical decline. After Ireland, he was appointed Europe correspondent for Guardian Europe, then joined the Moscow bureau in 1992, before becoming bureau chief in 1994. He left Russia in 1997 to join the foreign desk, became European editor and then Associate Foreign Editor.


Dr. Khaled Hroub teaches Modern Middle Eastern: Politics and Identity at Cambridge University where he directs Cambridge Arab Media Project; author of Hamas: Political Thought and Practice (2000) and Hamas: A Beginner's Guide (2006). He publishes a weekly article on current affairs that appears in major six dailies in the Arab world. His forthcoming books is Political Islam: Context versus Ideology (ed.) (Saqi Books), and searching a volume on The Politics of Arab Media.


Dr Tony Klug, a veteran writer and analyst on the Middle East, is Vice-Chair of the Arab-Jewish Forum and a board member of the Palestine-Israel Journal. For many years he worked at the international secretariat of Amnesty International. In June 2007, The Fabian Society published his acclaimed essay How Peace Broke Out in the Middle East: A Short History of the Future.



Bassma Kodmani is the Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative. She is also senior adviser on international cooperation to the French national research council (CNRS). From 1999 to 2005 she headed the Governance and International Cooperation Program at the Ford Foundation office for the Middle East and North Africa. Here she had special responsibility for initiating and supporting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, including track II meetings. Previously, she established and directed the Middle East Program at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) in Paris and was Associate Professor of International Relations at Paris University.


Chris Langdon is Programme Director and a part-time member of Wilton Park conference team. He is also an independent filmmaker; he has wide experience as a television producer specialising in international affairs. As a BBC producer, he has worked extensively in Central and South-Eastern Europe, as well as Russia, Iran and South Africa.



Gianni Picco worked for some 20 years (1973-92) at the United Nations. He led the task force which secured the cease-fire agreement between Iran and Iraq in 1988. From 1988 to 1992 he conducted the operation which led to the release of 11 western hostages in Lebanon and the recovery of the remains of two more, as well as the identification of some Israeli MIAs in Lebanon and the release of Lebanese detained without due process by Israel. He was also a member of the negotiating team on the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Since 1994 he has been a consultant to private companies on matters of political risks and critical infrastructure protection.


Sir Malcolm Rifkind served in the Foreign Office from 1982-86 as a Minister of State and from 1995-97 as Foreign Secretary. From 1992-95 he was Secretary of State for Defence. He is currently MP for Kensington and Chelsea.





Salman Shaikh works on conflict resolution and mediation issues in the Middle East and South Asia regions. As a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, his current focus is on the involvement of radical Islamic parties and movements in peace-making and state-building efforts.He is also a Special Representative to the Muslim West Facts Initiative in Europe. In the past, he has held various advisory posts at the United Nations primarily on Middle East policy-related and peace-making issues, and has worked as Director for policy and research in the Office of Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the Consort of the Emir of Qatar.


Dr Azzam Tamimi is Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought (IIPT) in London and former Director of the Islamic Movement Parliamentary Office in Amman, Jordan. He is author of Hamas: Unwritten Chapters (C. Hurst & Co, 2006).




Husam Zomlot is a specialist on Middle East affairs. He is Palestinian and currently is a visiting fellow at Harvard’s center for Middle Eastern Studies. He served as a PLO representative to the UK (2003-2008). Mr. Zomlot previous work experience includes the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute and the United Nation’s Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories.  At the University of London, he has lectured on the topic of political economy, and he has also co-authored several UN reports, participated in various research projects, international and regional conferences, and contributed to published books. His most recent contribution was published in a book entitled “State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance during a Social Transformation.”