December 2004/January 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 8 
Main Feature
Rich in history,opportunity

Lee Monson, and John CraigThe Middle East is a region of strategic global interest, one whose oil reserves fuel economies, industries and lifestyles across the globe. It's an area rich in cultural history, yet today is rapidly evolving, as the latest technological advances enable its businesses to keep pace with the rest of the industrialized world. The birthplace of three of the world's most influential religions, it also finds itself in the midst of some of the world's most complex geopolitical challenges.

But along with challenges come opportunities for Boeing. The Middle East is one of the world's fastest growing commercial airplane markets, and its countries' defense needs are rapidly expanding. Boeing is committed not only to expanding its business footprint in this region, but also to teaming with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in meeting their needs for jobs and technological development. Not only do such partnerships help contribute to Boeing's bottom line, but because of the Middle East's global strategic importance, its countries' success helps ensure a more stable world.

"They're using their economic power to develop internally, which benefits us all," said Lee Monson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes' senior vice president of sales in the Middle East and Africa.

Besides, Monson said, "just from an overall interest standpoint, it's a fascinating place in the world. We're looking at civilizations that are thousands of years old."

Middle East MapWhile relationships are important in many cultures, strong personal bonds are especially key to doing business here. That's why bolstering, creating and building these ties are at the center of Boeing efforts in the Middle East.


For a globalizing company like Boeing—especially one that has a stake in diverse markets such as commercial airplanes, defense, and satellite technology—it's critical that it not just sell products, but become an integral member of the community.

While its relationship with this region stretches back more than half a century, Boeing proves its near- and long-term commitment to Middle East stakeholders through partnerships, technical sharing and training agreements, and top-notch customer service.

Relationships represent "trust and confidence in you as a company," said Marcus Hurley, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems' vice president of business development for the Middle East, who formerly served as the senior Boeing representative in Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, he said, "the customer wants that probably a little bit earlier" in the game.

Boeing's involvement with this region goes back to 1945, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented a DC-3 Dakota to King Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. Today, Commercial Airplanes continues to count Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates and Saudi Arabian Airlines among its strong customers.

Her excellency Sheidha Lubna Al QasimiOn the defense front, Boeing also has had a presence in the region for decades, equipping the forces of nations such as Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. And on the space technology side, UAE-based Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. offers its mobile communications services thanks to satellites built by Boeing Satellite Systems and placed into orbit by Sea Launch.

To further strengthen ties built by the business units, Boeing International Relations in 2003 tapped John Craig as regional vice president in the Middle East, responsible for coordinating the company's activities here. Craig previously served as U.S. ambassador to the Gulf nation of Oman and as a member of the U.S. foreign service with assignments in countries including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya and Egypt.

"In the Middle East, most customers are governments, even Commercial Airplanes customers," Craig said. "When you're looking for high-level access, you're looking for high-level access to the government." It's not enough, Craig said, to merely have long-standing acquaintances with decision makers; "the quality of the relationship" makes the difference, he said.

Knowing business deals sometimes take years to consummate, "you've got to have a ground-pounding presence," said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, vice president, Analysis, with the Virginiabased Teal Group, "and of course be in it for the long haul."

Doing business here means understanding that work weeks end on either Wednesday or Thursday, allowing Muslims to observe Friday as a holy day. (Boeing employees here often end up working seven days a week to interface with their U.S. colleagues.) During the holy month of Ramadan—which concluded in mid- November—it means refraining from eating, drinking and smoking in public during daytime hours, whether or not one is Muslim. It means never exposing the soles of one's shoes to another person, which is a sign of disrespect. And even within a business setting, it means participating in generous hospitality, a bedrock of Arab culture.


Because its business interests here are enterprisewide, Boeing hosts events that let key stakeholders connect with company leaders. Just as it's done in Tokyo; London; Rome; Madrid, Spain; and Berlin, Germany, Boeing hosted an International Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The event, held this fall, brought together the region's top technology, political and business leaders to discuss issues including network-centric operations and high-tech development in the Arab world. Boeing President and CEO Harry Stonecipher opened the daylong event, reinforcing the company's pledge to strengthen communication with its customers and partners.

"We need to intensify our focus on maintaining long-term, consistent relationships in the Middle East," said Stonecipher, who visited the region again in November specifically to meet with high-level stakeholders. "We need to do a better job of listening—of understanding our Middle Eastern customers and their product requirements, and we need to be more flexible in terms of meeting those requirements."

Harry Stonecipher talked with Highness Sheikh Seif Bin Zayed Al NahyanIn addition, Boeing in June cosponsored the 10th annual Arab Capital Markets conference in Beirut, Lebanon. Organized by the Al-Iktissad Wal-Amal group of pan-Arab business, trade and travel publications, the conference is regarded by many as the "World Economic Forum of the Middle East," attracting senior-level policy makers from the public and private sectors.

Events such as these give Boeing people a chance to interact one-on-one with these decision-makers; at this summer's conference, John Craig addressed attendees on the importance of partnering across borders for mutual value creation.


What's important, Craig said to attendees, "is [to] add value to The Boeing Company but also add value to the economic development of these countries." And since about one-third of all Boeing revenues come from international sales, it makes sense to nurture such ties.

That's why Boeing Chairman Lew Platt visited the region in March to sign the company's agreement with the Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates. It's also why the 7E7 Road Show made a stop in the same country in May, and Tom Pickering, International Relations senior vice president, headed a senior team of Boeing leaders at the World Economic Forum in Jordan that month. And it's why Connexion by Boeing flew its Connexion One demo plane here in the spring.

In the region, Craig said, Boeing benefits by being largely regarded as a "rock-solid and stable" long-term presence. Pickering added: "We believe our presence—to help their economies as well as sell products—helps improve U.S. relations with those countries. It's what I call climbing up the ladder of profitability with one foot in the United States and one overseas, so we're able to strengthen both markets."


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