The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) established the US/Middle East Project was in 1994 under the direction of Henry Siegman, a senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council, and Robert K. Lifton, who was the founding co-chair. It remained under the organization’s auspices until March of 2006. The organization was established out of a desire to take advantage of the broad spectrum of relationships that Henry Siegman and Robert K. Lifon had established while at American Jewish Congress, where Siegman had been executive director and Lifton board chair, to encourage both Arab and Jewish leaders to move the peace process forward on social and commercial levels as well as from a political perspective. The group sought to forge new private/public-sector coalitions to advance the peace process in the Middle East in both its political and economic dimensions. The Project’s programs included; the Independent Task Force on Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions, the Study Group on Middle East Trade Options, the US/Middle East Project Roundtable, and the US-European Consultation on the Middle East.
The International Board of the US/Middle East Project, which served as an advisory board to the Project, was co-chaired by Robert K. Lifton, Council member and entrepreneur/investor with Saudi Ambassador Bandar Bin Sultan; then Osama el Baz, political advisor to Egyptian President Mubarak, and ultimately with The Honorable Brent Scowcroft, who subsequently became sole Chair. The International Board included senior public and private sector leaders from the Middle East, the United States, and Europe.
In 2006, the US/Middle East Project became an independent policy institute. Its mission is defined as providing “non partisan analysis of the Middle East peace process and to present policymakers in the United States, in the region and in the larger international community with balanced policy analysis and policy options to prevent conflict and promote stability, democracy, modernization and economic development throughout the region.” The Project “pursues its mission through a range of activities that include studies, periodicals and publications, conferences, consultations with heads of states in the region and collaboration with a wide range of international agencies pursuing similar goals.”
The Project is presently chaired by Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (Vice Chairman, Hills & Company; former Under Secretary of State; former US Ambassador to the United Nations; former Senior Vice President, Boeing Corporation).