Sanam Vakil

Biography: 

Sanam Vakil was a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. Vakil is the James Anderson professorial lecturer in the Middle East Studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS Europe) in Bologna, Italy. She is an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East North Africa Program, where she leads the Iran Forum project focusing on future trends in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy.  She provides research, commentary, and political risk analysis for companies and organizations working in the Middle East. She is the author of Action and Reaction: Women and Politics in Iran (Bloomsbury, 2013) and she publishes analysis for a variety of media and academic outlets.

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Recent Commentary

Featured AnalysisAnalysis and Commentary

Middle East Perceptions Of An America Adrift

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 28, 2019

American strategy towards the Middle East has long been based on maintaining the twin pillars of security and stability in a region of geostrategic importance. At a crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has been historically significant for its energy supplies and passageways connecting the east and the west. To advance American interests, the United States has traditionally sought to maintain its position of influence through regional partnerships and with its military presence. Today though, there is a widespread perception that the US may be abandoning the Middle East. 

Featured AnalysisAnalysis and Commentary

Contradictions Of The Faith

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On February 11, 2019 Iran will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution and the creation of Iran’s Islamic government guided by a clerical leader known as the vali-e-faqih.  This anniversary is important for numerous reasons including that the Islamic Republic, having survived many political storms, has outlasted the expectations of many. Under renewed political and economic pressure from US sanctions and Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear agreement, this anniversary has added symbolism for Tehran. 

Featured AnalysisAnalysis and Commentary

China & Middle East: Regional Rebalancing

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Middle East, a region once embroiled in the Cold War struggle of east and west, is now bearing witness to new geopolitical shifts.   The emergence of Beijing on the Middle Eastern landscape where it is quenching its thirst for energy resources and forging regional relationships through its One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) with countries as diverse as Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) comes at the expense of Washington’s longstanding primacy.  Many American strategists find China’s encroachment to be a troubling threat to U.S. national interests. 

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Iran On The Brink: Challenges And Opportunities For Washington

by Sanam Vakilvia Hoover Institution Press
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

In this essay, Sanam Vakil assesses the four interconnected economic, regional, domestic, and nuclear deal challenges besetting Iran. These challenges have emerged due to renewed US pressure against Iran but also stem from Iran’s endemic factional tensions between pragmatists and conservatives and their ideological differences on how to best protect the Islamic Republic. Vakil also argues that the gravity of these challenges offers a unique opportunity to the Trump administration to move beyond its traditional containment policy toward a meaningful grand strategy to reduce US-Iranian tensions. 

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Iran on the Brink: Challenges & Opportunities for Washington

by Sanam Vakilvia Analysis
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

In this essay, Sanam Vakil assesses the four interconnected economic, regional, domestic, and nuclear deal challenges besetting Iran.  These challenges have emerged due to renewed US pressure against Iran but also stem from Iran’s endemic factional tensions between pragmatists and conservatives and their ideological differences on how to best protect the Islamic Republic.  Vakil also argues that the gravity of these challenges offers a unique opportunity to the Trump administration to move beyond its traditional containment policy toward a meaningful grand strategy to reduce US-Iranian tensions. 

Featured AnalysisAnalysis and Commentary

Repackaging Trump’s Iran Strategy

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Trump administration has articulated a much-needed strategy designed to pressure and contain the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign regional influence, which spreads throughout Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. While reducing Iran’s imprint and leverage throughout the Middle East is indeed imperative for regional stability, the Trump administration’s methods and means will not prove successful because its strategy is zero sum against Tehran and a perpetuation of the traditional American approach to dealing with the Islamic Republic.

Iran's Fragile Fault Lines

by Sanam Vakilvia Policy Review
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Sanam Vakil on Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First-Century Iran by Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons