Cole Bunzel

Hoover Fellow

Cole M. Bunzel is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A historian and Arabist, he studies the history and contemporary affairs of the Islamic Middle East, with a particular focus on violent Islamism and the Arabian Peninsula. He is the editor of the blog Jihadica and has written widely on the ideology of Sunni jihadism, including such monographs as From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State (Brookings Institution, 2015), The Kingdom and the Caliphate: Duel of the Islamic States (Carnegie Endowment, 2016), and Jihadism on Its Own Terms: Understanding a Movement (Hoover Institution, 2017). His current book project, which draws on an array of rare manuscripts and other primary sources in Arabic, provides a new account of the history and doctrine of Wahhabism, the puritanical Islamic revivalist movement that arose in central Arabia in the 18th century.

Bunzel received his MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and his BA and PhD in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. At Princeton he received the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, the university’s top honor for graduate students, as well as the Bayard and Cleveland Dodge Memorial Dissertation Prize for best PhD dissertation in Near Eastern Studies. He has been a research fellow in Islamic law and civilization at the Yale Law School, and is a nonresident fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism.

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Recent Commentary

Caravan Notebook Podcast
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Yemen, Al-Qaida, And The Jihadi Threat

interview with Elisabeth Kendall, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Monday, October 4, 2021

A Discussion with Elisabeth Kendall.


Al Qaeda Versus ISIS

by Cole Bunzelvia Foreign Affairs
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that the country will once again become a safe haven for Islamist militants intent on perpetrating acts of international terrorism. In light of the Taliban’s history of harboring such radical groups, these fears are justified. But the two movements vying for influence in the country, al Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), both face serious obstacles in their quest to use Afghanistan as a platform to bolster their strength and launch a new wave of terrorist attacks.

Caravan Notebook Podcast
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The Return Of The Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan: A Conversation With Asfandyar Mir

interview with Asfandyar Mir, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Asfandyar Mir joins the podcast to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan, the political dynamics of the Taliban, and the threat of al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

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Yemen And The Houthis: A Conversation With Bernard Haykel

interview with Bernard Haykel, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Thursday, August 5, 2021

Professor Bernard Haykel joins the podcast to discuss his latest piece for the Hoover Caravan, titled “The Houthis, Saudi Arabia, and the War in Yemen.”


Hamas And The Jihadis

by Cole Bunzelvia Jihadica
Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has long been a source of controversy in the world of Sunni jihadism. Especially since it participated in and won the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, going on to form a unity government with Fatah, the dominant faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the following year, the group has generally been shunned by jihadis. 

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Meeting Abu Muhammad Al-Jawlani: A Conversation With Martin Smith

interview with Martin Smith, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Producer and filmmaker Martin Smith joins the podcast to discuss his new documentary, “The Jihadist,” and the state of the former al-Qaida franchise in charge of Syria’s Idlib Province.

Caravan Notebook Podcast
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Iran’s Last Shah: A Conversation With Ray Takeyh

interview with Ray Takeyh, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Islamic Republic of Iran is repeating many of the mistakes of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, argues Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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America's War In Afghanistan: A Discussion With Wesley Morgan

interview with Wesley Morgan, Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan Notebook
Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Wesley Morgan, a journalist and expert on military affairs, discusses his new book The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan's Pech Valley.

Caravan Notebook Podcast
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Lessons From An American Prisoner In Iran: A Discussion With Xiyue Wang

interview with Cole Bunzel, Wang Xiyuevia The Caravan Notebook
Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Xiyue Wang, a PhD candidate at Princeton and AEI fellow, discusses what he learned about the Iranian regime, and efforts to appease and placate it, as an American prisoner in Iran.


Is Ayman al-Zawahiri Dead?

by Cole Bunzelvia Jihadica
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In November 2020, reports emerged on social media and in the Pakistani press that al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had recently died of natural causes, possibly in Afghanistan.