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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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Tightening the Reins

April 9, 2014

Policy Focus

Supreme Succession:

February 8, 2012

Policy Focus

Apocalyptic Politics:

January 1, 2008

Policy Focus

Through the Veil:

April 25, 2007

Policy Focus

The Last Marja:

September 10, 2006

Policy Focus

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Most Recent Analysis

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

February 25, 2020

Reading Trump in Tehran

February 23, 2020

Iran’s Predetermined Parliamentary Election

February 19, 2020

Iranian Succession and the Impact of Soleimani’s Death

January 23, 2020

Khamenei’s Rare Friday Sermon Reflects Four Pressing Concerns

January 16, 2020

New Khamenei Speech Underlines the Importance of Popular Support for the Regime

January 8, 2020

Iran’s Supreme Leader Responds to the Soleimani Assassination

January 3, 2020

Iran’s Gasoline Protests: Regime Unpopular but Resilient

November 18, 2019

Rouhani’s Shifting Argument for Preserving the JCPOA

November 14, 2019

Iran’s Push for ‘Regime Change’ in Saudi Arabia and Washington

September 20, 2019

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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