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Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sadjadpour is widely considered one of the leading authorities on Iran and the Middle East. A regular contributor to The Atlantic, Karim writes on the Middle East’s political, economic, cultural, and geopolitical dynamics. He is a frequent guest on the PBS Newshour, NPR, Charlie Rose, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. At Carnegie, he advises senior U.S., European, and Asian officials, including foreign ministers, military leaders, and heads of state.
Karim advises the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program on the Middle East, which routinely organizes briefings and an annual retreat to help inform senior members of Congress of trends and developments in the region. He has testified numerous times before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and frequently travels abroad to speak about the geopolitics of energy, and how China and Asia fit into the geopolitics of the Middle East.
He has written for such outlets as Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist. His recent publications include “Ayatollah Machiavelli: How Ali Khamenei became the most powerful man in the Middle East” and “How America Could Stumble into War with Iran.”
Karim also has covered the region through the lens of neuroscience, cinema, satire, and the intersection of Islamic extremism and sexuality. He has co-authored pieces with British neurologist Dr. Nicholas Wright about the intersection of neuroscience and foreign affairs, including “The Neuroscience Guide to Negotiations with Iran.” His upcoming work with Dr. Wright focuses on “the biology of populism” and “the biology of jihadism.”
Born and raised in the U.S. to Iranian parents, Karim has lived in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East (including both Iran and the Arab world) and speaks Persian, Italian, Spanish, and proficient Arabic. A graduate of The Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he teaches a popular class on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. His many media appearances have included The Colbert Report, NPR’s Fresh Air, and The Today Show.
The Geopolitics of Energy
The United States and Iran: Destined for Conflict?
Iran’s size, geostrategic location, natural resources, ideology, and ambitions have made it central to numerous US national security challenges, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism, energy security, nuclear proliferation, and cyber-security.
In contrast to the Obama administration, which sought to cooperate with Iran, the Trump administration seems intent to counter Iran. A conflict between Tehran and Washington could trigger the unraveling of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and the unraveling of the nuclear deal could trigger a US-Iran regional conflict. Is conflict inevitable, and how can it be avoided?
Saudi Arabia and Iran: The world’s deadliest rivalry
“When elephants fight,” goes an African proverb, “the grass suffers.” The geopolitical and geo-economic proxy war between Shiite, Persian Iran and Sunni, Arab Saudi Arabia is fueling three conflicts—in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq—that have caused over a million casualties, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, and the proliferation of Sunni Jihadist groups such as ISIS and Shiite militias to counter them. What is the risk of a full-blown conflict between the two oil-rich countries, and how would it impact the global economy? Who are our allies and adversaries in this rivalry, and how can it be defused?
Understanding Islamist radicalism
Over the last three decades, militant groups in the Middle East have continuously grown more radical, from Hezbollah to al-Qaeda and now ISIS. While the 2003 Iraq war and 2011 Arab uprisings created political vacuums and conflicts which have fueled radicalism, groups like ISIS have also been successful in recruiting rudderless young men—including some residing in the West—in search of camaraderie, adventure, glory, and identity. What motivates Islamist extremists, and what are the most effective Western policies to contain and counter them?
The Paradox of Iran
Among Iran’s many paradoxes is that of a society which aspires to be like South Korea—prosperous and globally integrated—ruled by a revolutionary regime whose ideological rigidity and militarism more closely resemble isolated North Korea. What are the prospects for political and economic change in Iran? In the fight against Islamist radicalism, is Iran the arsonist or the fire-brigade? How should Washington approach an Iranian regime that seemingly needs the United States as an adversary for its own internal legitimacy?
Iran: The Next Great Emerging Market?
Rich in natural resources and human capital, Iran’s vibrant population of 80 million people is the world’s largest consumer market largely disconnected from the global economy. While the 2015 nuclear deal lifted significant sanctions against Iran’s economy, few major companies have invested in Iran and the country’s enormous economic potential remains unfulfilled. What are the risks and opportunities of trade and investment in Iran?
The Geopolitics of Low Oil Prices
Due to America’s shale oil and gas bonanza, the price of oil has dropped steadily over the last decade. How will this impact the stability and domestic and foreign policies of both major energy exporters (including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, the UAE, and Iran) and major oil importers such as China? Who are the geopolitical winners and losers of sustained low oil prices?
The Psychology of Populism
The surprise 2016 US Presidential election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the UK are just two examples of a global populist explosion that has impacted the politics of South America, Europe, and Asia. What is populism and why are human beings of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and nationalities allured by it? What kinds of societies are most vulnerable to populist politicians and how can the rise of dangerous populists best be prevented?