The RAND Corporation has named career diplomat Charles Ries as the new director of the think tank's Center for Middle East Public Policy. Ries has recently returned to RAND following a leave of absence to act as executive vice president of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Aside from a short stint in Iraq and a generally impressive career, it is not immediately clear what makes Ries particularly well-positioned to lead a center that focuses on Middle East policy.
From 2007-2008, Ries served as the State Department's minister for economic affairs and coordinator for economic transition in Iraq. However, most of his other posts were in Europe, including: ambassador to Greece from 2004 to 2007 and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, 2000–2004. Other senior positions include the U.S. Embassy in London, the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
"As governments across the Middle East are experiencing challenge and change, we are delighted that Charles Ries will take on the leadership of RAND's Center for Middle East Public Policy," said RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson in a released statement.
"The center has long been a source for insights into the domestic policy and national security challenges that face decisionmakers in the Middle East, and Charles will bring his wisdom, experience and relationships to our efforts to improve policy outcomes throughout the region," said Thompson.
Ries' RAND research has focused on Haiti, national security, intelligence, European politics, and energy/environmental policy and assisting fragile states, according to the RAND website.
UPDATE: A representative from RAND told Think Tanked that Ries had led RAND projects on the Middle East and "his background in civil-military collaboration, economic development, energy, and state-to-state relationships provides a deep base in the issues that our Middle East center addresses."