Experts Matthew Levitt, author of Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran's Shadow War with the West, and Margarita Assenova, Executive Director of the Institute for New Democracies, discuss the ramifications of Hezbollah’s involvement in last year’s terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian. Levitt, a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, spoke on what the results of the investigation mean for the region. Assenova, who serves as Course Chair for Bulgaria Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, addressed the situation from both a domestic and NATO standpoint.
About The Speaker
Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. From 2005 to early 2007, he served as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that capacity, he served both as a senior official within the department's terrorism and financial intelligence branch and as deputy chief of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, one of sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies coordinated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. During his tenure at Treasury, Dr. Levitt played a central role in efforts to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse and to deny terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other rogue actors the ability to finance threats to U.S. national security. In 2008-2009, he served as a State Department counterterrorism advisor to the special envoy for Middle East regional security (SEMERS), General James L. Jones.
From 2001 to 2005, Dr. Levitt served the Institute as founding director of its Terrorism Research Program (now renamed as above), which was established in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Previously, he served as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where he provided tactical and strategic analytical support for counterterrorism operations, focusing on fundraising and logistical support networks for Middle Eastern terrorist groups. During his FBI service, Dr. Levitt participated as a team member in a number of crisis situations, including the terrorist threat surrounding the turn of the millennium and the September 11 attacks. He has earned numerous awards and commendations for his government service at both the FBI and the Treasury Department.
Dr. Levitt holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Yeshiva University, as well as a master's degree in law and diplomacy and a doctorate from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He was a graduate research fellow at Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, and has taught at both Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
Margarita Assenova is a founder and Executive Director of the Institute for New Democracies. She also serves as a Course Chair for Bulgaria Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC. Assenova, who is from Bulgaria, worked as a print and broadcast journalist in her home country since 1987. She worked as political correspondent for RFE/RL for more than 10 years and was awarded the prestigious John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism and minorities in the Balkans. After moving to the United States, Assenova worked on U.S. projects for economic development, security, military reform and democracy building in Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the International Republican Institute, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and Freedom House. Assenova is a frequent speaker at forums and conferences in the U.S. and abroad. Her articles appeared in U.S. and European newspapers, magazines and online publications, including RFE/RL Newsline, Balkan Report, The Washington Times, The World and I, Transitions Online, Balkan Times, Internationale Politik in Germany, The Capital Weekly and Razum Magazine in Bulgaria. She wrote book chapters for Brassey’s Central & East European Security Yearbook in 2000 and 2001 and Nations in Transit in 2005. Assenova authored the book “Lessons of NATO Evolution: General Guide to the Debate” published by CSIS Press in 2003. She is fluent in Russian, Bulgarian, English and Macedonian.