Our Mission & History
“In war and in peace, the Institute’s efforts to articulate a coherent and realistic view of U.S. national interests has assisted policymakers, in and out of government, to make informed decisions about the Middle East.” –President Bill Clinton
“Your hard work and commitment to the spread of freedom strengthen our Nation and help make the world a safer and more peaceful place.” –President George W. Bush
“In war and in peace, the Institute’s efforts to articulate a coherent and realistic view of U.S. national interests has assisted policymakers, in and out of government, to make informed decisions about the Middle East.”
The mission of The Washington Institute is to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them.
The Washington Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible.
In 1985, a small group of visionary Americans committed to advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East founded The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Today we are the largest research institute devoted exclusively to the study of the Middle East.
Led by Barbi Weinberg, the Institute's founding president and Los Angeles civic leader, and her successor Michael Stein, a philanthropist from New York and Palm Beach, our mission was simple yet powerful: to inject the power of ideas and the discipline of scholarship into the making of U.S. Middle East policy. (In the spirit of policy relevance, they chose the term "Near East" rather than the more popular "Middle East" because they wanted the Institute's name to reflect the U.S. State Department's own geographic designation). The founders understood that American interests in the region emanate from a handful of core ideas: security, peace, prosperity, democracy, and stability. But they also recognized that these interests can be best advanced through policies rooted in inquiry, debate, and research. Most of all, the founders envisioned an institution that would reject romantic notions of what outside observers want the Middle East to be, and instead embrace disinterested assessments of what the region actually is.
The Institute's senior research staff includes experts on a wide array of political, military, security, and economic issues that cover every corner of the Middle East. They speak the region's languages, have lived and worked there, and often hail from the region itself. We are proud of the long list of Institute "alumni" who have gone on to serve in virtually every arm of government that plays a role in Middle East policymaking -- including the National Security Council, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence community.
“Your hard work and commitment to the spread of freedom strengthen our Nation and help make the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
The Washington Institute provides analysis through the written word, the spoken word, and personal contact. Institute publications -- from policy briefs to full-length monographs -- are widely recognized as "must-reading" for officials, diplomats, and journalists in Washington and around the world. They provide "instant analysis" of breaking events as well as thoughtful, long-range assessments of trends in the shaping of future policy. We frequently brief Congress, the Executive branch agencies, the military, and the intelligence community. Scholars present their findings on prestigious academic panels around the globe. Many times a day, Institute scholars and associates are quoted in major American or international media, appear on the op-ed pages of elite newspapers, or are interviewed on network television and radio news programs. Over one million people turn to our web page every year to read our publications or to view our videos live and on-demand.
Through all of these avenues, the Institute seeks to inject dispassionate, research-driven analysis -- supported by fact and expertise -- into the making of U.S. Middle East policy.
Originally, the organization's research agenda focused on Arab-Israeli relations, political and security issues, and overall U.S. Middle East policy. In the 1990s, prompted by the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, and changes within the regional strategic make-up, the Institute's research breadth grew, to include a special focus on Turkey and the rise of Islamic politics as the dominant leitmotif for understanding political trends across the "expanded" post-Soviet Middle East.
Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the Institute added research areas to assist the U.S. government in understanding and countering Islamist extremism, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- particularly nuclear weapons. Ten years later, the eruption of the so-called Arab Spring and the regionwide flare-up of the Sunni-Shiite conflict set off a chain of events that undermined the stability of the area and threatened to erase its century-old political boundaries. Once again, the Institute responded by providing cutting-edge analysis on new subjects such as Salafism, the recruitment of terrorists online, and the reemergence of Russia as a regional influence.
After more than 35 years, we continue to be funded exclusively by U.S. citizens. We remain committed to the emergence of a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East. American leadership -- animated by the power of ideas and the talents of those dedicated individuals who can transform them into sound, workable policies -- will bring us closer to that reality.