Ideas. Action. Impact. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy The Washington Institute: Improving the Quality of U.S. Middle East Policy

Other Pages


Also available in العربية فارسی

Download High-Resolution Photograph

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

Back to Top

Current Research

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

Back to Top


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)‎ .

Back to Top

Languages Spoken / Read

  • Arabic
  • French
  • Persian

Back to Top


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

Back to Top

Most Recent Analysis

Shia Leadership After Sistani

Sudden Succession Essay Series

September 10, 2019

Khamenei Will See Sanctions on Him as a Direct Challenge to the Revolution

June 27, 2019

The Problem with the U.S.-Backed Opposition Outside Iran

May 23, 2019

‘No War, No Negotiation’ Is Iran’s Stance

May 21, 2019

Glossary of Persian Translation

May 16, 2019

Khamenei’s Breaking Point: How to Get Iran Back to the Negotiating Table

May 2, 2019

Do U.S. Actions Affect Iranian Policy?

November 15, 2018

Iran Intensifying Its Crackdown on Citizens Abroad

November 2, 2018

Iran’s ‘Resistance’ Bloc Rises amid New U.S. Sanctions

October 29, 2018

Iran’s Anti-Western ‘Blueprint’ for the Next Fifty Years

October 24, 2018

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)

Back to Top