Dr. Ali Fathollah-Nejad

Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Program

Areas of Expertise

  • Iranian foreign policy; the Iran sanctions regime’s domestic, geopolitical, and geoeconomic impact
  • conflicts and geopolitics, foreign and development policies of the MENA region; developments in the Persian Gulf; the Arab Revolts’ socio-economic roots and geopolitical impact; Western and non-Western great powers in the MENA region
  • The current world order’s implications for foreign policy and diplomacy
  • Right-wing populism in the West and the MENA region


German, English, French, Farsi


Email: fathollah-nejad@af.dgap.org
Twitter: @AFathollah-Nejad


If you are interested in an internship in the Middle East and North Africa Program, please contact Laura Lale Kabis-Kechrid: kabis@dgap.org.

Dr. Ali Fathollah-Nejad has been an Associate Fellow of the DGAP’s Middle East and North African Program since June 2015. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, an Associate of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center’s Iran Project, and a Research Associate at the Centre of International Cooperation and Development Research of the Université libre de Bruxelles. Educated at Sciences-Po Lille, the University of Münster, and the University of Twente, he earned his PhD in International Relations from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, with a dissertation on Iran’s international relations in the 2000s.

Previously, he was an expert in culture and foreign policy at the Institute for International Cultural Relations (ifa).

He has taught courses on globalization and development in West Asia and North Africa, contemporary Iran, and the Arab Revolts at the Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Westminster, and SOAS.

He is the author of two monographs: Iran in the Eye of Storm: Backgrounds of a Global Crisis (University of Münster, 2007) and The Iran Conflict and the Obama Administration (in German, Potsdam University Press, 2010), and a frequent speaker at political forums, including the European Parliament, the House of Commons, the French National Assembly, the University of Law in London, and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.

His work has been published in The Guardian, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Internationale Politik (IP), openDemocracy, World Policy Journal, Huffington Post (France, Quebec & Germany editions), Géostratégiques, Insight Turkey, Iranian Diplomacy, and the Palestine–Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture.


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Selected Publications

The Iranian–Saudi Hegemonic Rivalry
by Ali Fathollah-Nejad
SPECIAL INITIATIVE Iran Matters, Best Analysis and Facts on Iranian affairs from Harvard's Belfer Center, Blog Post, Oct. 25, 2017
The Persian Gulf region’s major powers, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), have, at least since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, been engaged in a hegemonic rivalry over power and influence, marked by differences in sectarianism, nationalism, revolutionary ideology, competition over regional hegemony, oil prices, attitudes towards the US military presence in the Gulf, and towards the Hajj.
Category: Iran, Saudi-Arabia
Foreign Policy and the Next German Government
Experts from the German Council on Foreign Relations offer case studies
by Josef Braml, Claire Demesmay, Dina Fakoussa, Ali Fathollah-Nejad, Wilfried Jilge, Laura Lale Kabis-Kechrid, Stefan Meister, Christian Mölling, Jana Puglierin, Henning Riecke, Claudia Schmucker, Daniela Schwarzer, Svenja Sinjen, Sebastian Sons, Sarah Wohlfeld
DGAPkompakt 7, Summer 2017, 42 pp.
Foreign Policy and the Next German Government
A new German government will take office after the elections on September 24, 2017. DGAP experts outline in 12 separate areas the foreign policy goals Germany should pursue (and with which partners).
Category: International Policy/Relations, Germany
The Saudi-Iranian Conflict
What are the roots of the rivalry and what are its consequences?
by Ali Fathollah-Nejad, Sebastian Sons
DGAP Five Questions (January 2016); published in Handelsblatt Global Edition (January 29, 2016), pp. 32-35.
The Saudi-Iranian Conflict
What effect will the escalation between the two regional powers have on the Middle East’s multiple crises? How much influence does the West have, and where does it position itself between its recent rapprochement with Iran and its “business-as-usual” approach toward the Saudis? DGAP associate fellows Ali Fathollah-Nejad and Sebastian Sons discuss geopolitical goals, domestic power considerations, and the exploitation of religion. Translated by Imogen Taylor.
Category: Security, Iran, Saudi Arabia
Russia and China’s Interests Lie in Bringing Iran into the Shanghai Bloc
Interview with DGAP associate fellow Ali Fathollah-Nejad in Tehran Times
by Ali Fathollah-Nejad
External publication, originally published by the Tehran Times on July 23, 2015 (In English).
In a July 23 interview the Tehran Times, DGAP associate fellow Ali Fathollah-Nejad explains why both Russia and China should be interested in bringing Iran into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Category: Security, Iran, China, Russia