The Rumi Forum presented “Yemen’s Clouded Future” with Ambassador David Newton, Adjunct Scholar, Middle East Institute.
Much attention has been given to Yemen’s current political crisis and to the danger of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s terrorist efforts aimed at the United States. Beyond these immediate dangers, however, Yemen threatens to become a failing state, as political, separatist, economic, and social problems are steadily worsening. Not only the United States, but also its allies, Saudi Arabia and the Persian/Arabian Gulf states face the risk of Yemen’s uncertain future.
Ambassador David Newton is currently an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute. He returned to the United States at the end of 2004 after having served for six years in Prague as the first director of Radio Free Iraq. Shortly before that appointment he had retired from a thirty-six year Foreign Service career (living twenty-two years in the Arab world), having served as ambassador to Yemen (1994-97) and as the first ambassador to Iraq (1984-88) following the resumption of diplomatic relations. Other Foreign Service tours included deputy chief of mission in Yemen and Syria, political counselor in Saudi Arabia, and Department of State assignments as director for Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, as Near East division chief in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and as economic officer for the Arabian Peninsula. In 1993 he headed an inter-agency delegation to Jordan to deal with the effects of the Iraq sanctions.
From 1990 to 1993 Ambassador Newton was international affairs advisor and chairman of the national security policy department at the National War College, also doing extensive public speaking and working on Iraq during Desert Shield/Desert Storm with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency, for which he was commended by President George H.W. Bush and JCS Chairman General Powell. In February 1998, immediately after Foreign Service retirement, he was appointed a special envoy for public diplomacy, traveling to twelve Arab countries to explain U.S. policy on Iraq to the media and the public.
During his Foreign Service career Ambassador Newton received a presidential meritorious service award for his Iraq assignment, numerous Department of State awards, and the Department of the Army medal for outstanding civilian service. He is a graduate of Harvard College (archaeology and anthropology), the University of Michigan (M.A. in Islamic history and Arabic literature) and the National War College. After college graduation he served for three years as an artillery officer with the 3rd Armored Division in Germany. He serves as vice chair of the Council for the National Interest and is a member of the Middle East Institute, the Middle East Studies Association, the Washington Institute for Foreign Affairs, and the Cosmos Club. From June 2007 to June 2009 he served as president of the National War College Alumni Association.