Approaching the brink of war with Iran in early 2020 has highlighted the risks of not pursuing a progressive U.S. policy approach to the Middle East. This event seeks to set forth a sustainable alternative U.S. foreign policy.  

We will examine the animating principles and resulting policies of a more progressive approach for the Middle East. Progressive Middle East policy remains a contested concept among both policymakers and the American public: to some, it means an end to overly militarized policies and reducing U.S. commitments to avoid war; to others, it means greater U.S. investments in solving overseas conflicts, acting to prevent atrocities, and advancing human rights. Still others define it in terms of rethinking U.S. partnerships with authoritarian regimes. 

Please join The Century Foundation on Wednesday, February 12 at 8:30 AM for a congressional briefing to debate and define progressive policy frameworks for the Middle East. 

A light breakfast will be served at 8:30 AM followed by keynote remarks beginning at 9:00 AM and an expert panel.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
  • Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA)

Introductory Remarks:

  • Mark Zuckerman, president at The Century Foundation


  • Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow at The Century Foundation
  • Dina Esfandiary, fellow at The Century Foundation
  • Sarah Margon, director of U.S. foreign policy at the Open Society Foundations
  • Melissa Dalton, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Speaker Bios:

Senator Chris Murphy is the junior United States senator for Connecticut. Senator Murphy has been a strong voice in the Senate fighting for job creation, affordable health care, education, sensible gun laws, and a forward-looking foreign policy. Senator Murphy has laid out a forward-thinking foreign policy vision for the United States. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he has been an outspoken proponent of diplomacy, international human rights, and the need for clear-eyed American leadership abroad.  

Congressman Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th Congressional District, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, and is serving in his second term. Representative Khanna sits on the House Armed Services, Budget, and Oversight and Reform Committees and is first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He also serves as an assistant whip for the Democratic Caucus. 

Mark Zuckerman is president of The Century Foundation. He served in the Obama White House as the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, leading teams on key initiatives, including reducing student debt, increasing accountability at for-profit educational institutions, reducing workplace discrimination, increasing wages for home health care workers, and expanding access to job training. Prior to that, as staff director of the House Education and Labor Committee, he helped win passage of landmark legislation such as the Affordable Care Act; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act; and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law. Hanna works on issues of international security, international law, and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia.

Dina Esfandiary is a fellow at The Century Foundation and international security program research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School. She is the co-author of Triple-Axis: Iran’s Relations with Russia and China (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018), and Living on the Edge: Iran and the Practice of Nuclear Hedging (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). 

Sarah Margon is the director of the foreign policy team at Open Society-U.S. Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Margon was the Washington director for Human Rights Watch. She previously served as associate director of sustainable security and peacebuilding at the Center for American Progress and as senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Russ Feingold and as staff director to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. She has been a guest on various national and international media programs and has published in a wide range of media outlets, including Foreign Affairs, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Margon received an MS from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and a BA from Wesleyan University.

Melissa Dalton is a senior fellow and deputy director of the CSIS International Security Program and director of the Cooperative Defense Project. Prior to joining CSIS in 2014, Ms. Dalton served at the U.S. Department of Defense in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2007 to 2014, most recently as senior adviser for force planning, where she contributed to the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. Her previous posts included policy adviser to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, and country director for Lebanon and Syria. Prior to her DoD service, she taught English to middle and high school students in Damascus, Syria and served as an intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.