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Mehdi Khalaji

Libitzky Family Fellow

Tel: 202-230-9550 (media inquiries only) 202-452-0650 (all other inquiries)
[email protected]

Mehdi Khalaji, a Qom-trained Shiite theologian, is the Libitzky Family Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Areas of Expertise

Iran, Arab and Islamic Politics

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Current Research

Shiite politics in the Middle East; the role of Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei in Iran's foreign policy decisionmaking process

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Mehdi Khalaji, a native of Iran, spent fourteen years in Qom’s seminaries studying Islamic ‎principles and jurisprudence under the direction of Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri and later ‎Ayatollah Hussein Vahid Khorassani. While in Iran, he wrote and translated pieces for Kian and ‎Naqd va Nazar magazine as well as the newspapers Jameh and Entekhab, where he also served as ‎an editor. In addition, he taught philosophy at the University of Qom. ‎

He left Iran in 2000 and moved to Paris, where he studied Shiite theology and exegesis at the ‎Sorbonne’s Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and then worked for two years as a political analyst ‎for BBC Persian. He moved to Prague in 2002 to serve as a producer for Radio Free Europe/Radio ‎Liberty’s Persian-language programming and later for Radio Farda. ‎

Since 2005, Khalaji has been a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. His articles and analysis ‎appear in outlets such as New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, as well as various ‎scholarly journals and the encyclopedia Iranica. He also hosts a bilingual English and Persian ‎website, ‎

In addition to his Institute publications, Dr. Khalaji has written or translated the following ‎titles:‎

  • The Arab’s Conscience by Borhan Ghalion, translation from Arabic-Persian,‎ (Qom: Naqd-o-Nazar, 1998)‎
  • Disincarnated (novel), (Berlin: Gardoon, 2004)‎
  • The New Order of Clergy, (Bochum: Ida, 2013)‎
  • Innovation, Interdiction and Interpretation, Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid, translation from Arabic-‎Persian, (Washington DC: Tavaana, 2014)‎
  • From Ijtihad to Critique of Islamic Reason, Mohammed Arkoun, translation from French-‎Persian, (Washington DC: Tavaana, 2015)‎
  • Men in Dark Time, Hannah Arendt, translation from English-Persian, (Washington DC: ‎Tavaana, 2016)
  • Clergy, Sharia and State, (Toronto: Pegah, 2018)‎
  • Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy, Susan Neiman, translation ‎from English-Persian, (Washington DC: Idea Center for Arts and Culture, 2019)‎ .

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Languages Spoken / Read

  • Arabic
  • French
  • Persian

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Reading Trump in Tehran

February 23, 2020

Policy Notes

Shia Leadership After Sistani

September 10, 2019

Policy Notes

The Shiite Clergy Post-Khamenei:

October 11, 2016

Research Notes

Tightening the Reins

April 9, 2014

Policy Focus

Supreme Succession:

February 8, 2012

Policy Focus

Apocalyptic Politics:

January 1, 2008

Policy Focus

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Most Recent Analysis

What Does Iran’s Supreme Leader Expect from the Next U.S. President?

October 23, 2020

An October Surprise with Iran? Calculations and Policy Implications

October 8, 2020

Observations on the Islamic State in Iran

July 17, 2020

Pandemic Could Change Iran’s Model of Supreme Leadership Forever

April 17, 2020

Iran's Coronavirus Crisis: Implications for U.S. Policy

April 16, 2020

The Coronavirus in Iran (Part 2): Regime Culpability and Resiliency

March 12, 2020

The Coronavirus in Iran (Part 1): Clerical Factors

March 9, 2020

The IRGC Post-Soleimani: Political and Security Implications at Home and Abroad

March 3, 2020

Reading Trump in Tehran

February 23, 2020

Iran’s Predetermined Parliamentary Election

February 19, 2020

See all analysis by this author

Selected Outside Publications

The New Order of the Clerical Establishment in Iran (Buchum, Germany: Aida Book, 2010)

Natani (a novel in Persian) (Berlin: Gardoon, 2004)

Intellectual Currents in Arab World (Tehran, 2000)

M. Arkoun, and His Ideas (Tehran, 1998)

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