Bilal Y. Saab is a political-military analyst on the Middle East and U.S. policy toward the region. He specializes in the Levant and the Gulf and focuses on security cooperation between the United States and its regional partners, and national security and defense processes in Arab partner countries. He is currently completing a book, titled Rebuilding Arab Defense: U.S. Security Cooperation in the Middle East, to be published by Lynne Rienner Publishers in 2022.

At the Middle East Institute (MEI), Saab is currently Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program. In addition, he is a term member (2016-2021) with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service, teaching graduate courses on U.S. defense policy in the Middle East and international security studies. 

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 fellowships, associateships, and research & management positions at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, CFR (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 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, 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 the American University of Beirut, 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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Media Appearances