Academic biography

I am a Fellow of the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation project at Lancaster University and Non-Resident Fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. I am also an at-large member of the International Studies Association Foreign Policy Analysis Section, founding editor of the monograph and edited collection series ‘The Gulf States in International Affairs’ at Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield), and founding co-editor of the series ‘Political Economy and International Relations’ at AUC Press. Previously, I was Associate Professor and Director of the Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo. My most recent book is New Perspectives on Middle East Politics: Economy, Society and International Relations.

I have undertaken field research in Saudi Arabia as Visiting Research Fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, supported by an HRH Prince Alwaleed Al Saud Scholarship. My research in the UAE was supported by a grant from the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. My research in Iran was conducted whilst I was based at the British Institute of Persian Studies. I have held visiting positions at Princeton University, New York University, University of Oxford, London School of Economics and Sciences Po, Paris.

My research currently revolves around the following themes:  

1. International relations and politics of the Gulf

My main interest lies in the international relations (theory), foreign policy analysis and the politics of the Gulf states with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Iran, but with a broader interest including some of the smaller Gulf states such as the UAE, Oman and Qatar.

I am currently writing a new monograph for Manchester University Press. It details the mainly domestic and regional drivers to contemporary Saudi and Emirati foreign policy as well as many of their bilateral relations in the Middle East, Africa, North America, Europe and Asia. The book delves into international relations theory and other relevant conceptual frameworks and generates new insights on the ‘black box’ of policymaking as well as determinant trends and challenges that these states face. It follows my first monograph Foreign Policy in Iran and Saudi Arabia: Economics and Diplomacy in the Middle East. I have also edited works on Regional Order and Disorder and Egypt and the Gulf. 

I have written recently on this topic including: “Strategic Depth Through Enclaves: Iran, Syria and Hezbollah” for Middle East Policy (forthcoming); “Pushing the Envelope of National Security and State Influence at the Margins: Saudi and Iranian Competition in the Horn of Africa” in Robert Mason and Simon Mabon (eds.) The Gulf States and the Horn of Africa: Interests, Influence and Instability (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2021); “The Nexus Between State-Led Economic Reform Programmes, Security and Reputation Damage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in Martin Beck and Thomas Richter (eds.) Oil and Political Economy of the Middle East: Adjustment Policies of the Arab Gulf and Beyond Since 2014 (Manchester University Press, 2021) and “Small State Aspirations to Middle Powerhood: The Cases of Qatar and the UAE” in Adham Saouli (ed.) Unfulfilled Aspirations: Middle Power Politics in the Middle East (Hurst/OUP, 2020).   

My recent opeds and policy pieces focus on US – Iran relations, Gulf security and nuclear power in the Middle East, including a blog published in August 2020 after the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah plant began to come online. In 2019, I presented my research on the Gulf to audiences in Lebanon, at Princeton University, and at Tsinghua University in Beijing.    

2. Asia – Middle East/Africa relations 

In 2014-15 I was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre of International Studies at the LSE. I undertook a research project ‘Patterns and Consequences of Economic Engagement across Sub-Sahara Africa: A Comparative analysis of Chinese, British and Turkish Policies’ which is available to download here. I was also funded to present the findings at the European Conference on African Studies held at the Sorbonne University in 2015. I have subsequently written on ‘China’s Impact on the International Relations of Sub-Sahara Africa: Implications for Dependency Theory’ for Third World Quarterly in March 2016.  

I have recently finished writing a chapter titled “China and Regional Stability in the Middle East: Economics, Engagement and the Transitional Phase to a Multi-Polar World”, in Yahia Zoubir (ed.) Handbook on China – MENA Relations. (Routledge) in 2021. The abstract reads: ‘This chapter assesses Chinese foreign policy towards the Middle East through the lens of regional stability and security. It draws attention to the multitude of historic, political, ideological, economic, and geo-strategic factors and the complex interplay between global and regional actors, diversity of engagement, and Beijing’s normative trajectory. Focusing on the potential of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the “China Model”, it argues that Beijing’s contribution to economic development and diversification, UN Security Council deadlock, and relations with the US will have some of the greatest impacts on the region.’

I wrote a spin-off article on this topic for the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington in March 2021 titled “Is the Sky the Limit to the China – Gulf Partnership?” 

A novel part of my current research agenda looks at Gulf relations with states such as India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. 

I have been involved in a number of high profile events in this area. In 2017, I co-hosted the 14th Korea – Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul, sponsored by the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have met with ROK ambassadors to Egypt and Jordan to discuss regional affairs. I co-organised an Egypt – Japan symposium in Cairo in conjunction with the Japanese embassy and gave a presentation at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2019. I have given interviews on this theme to the South China Morning Post and Radio France International.

3. Euro-Mediterranean relations  

The European Commission funded my academic – policy project which included research, teaching and public outreach components. I have written extensively on Euro-Arab relations in International Politics of the Arab Spring: Popular Unrest and Foreign Policy and Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean. I have also written about migration issues, EU Common Foreign and Security Policy and European Neighbourhood Policy in European Foreign Affairs Review and Orient. In 2019, I convened an EU – Middle East Policy round table in Cairo, including the participation of a number of European ambassadors and League of Arab States officials. For details see: Research Impact. Prior to this I arranged a two-day post-graduate conference on The EU, Middle East and Africa in the 21st Century which was supported by EUROMESCO. I have also convened a new post-graduate course on Mediterranean Politics at AUC. 

In 2018, I was invited by the Instituto per gli studi di politica internazionale (ISPI) to participate in a workshop and give feedback on the role of Russia in the MENA region. I have written extensively on Russia and the MENA region in Middle East Policy and alongside notable Russian analysts. I continue to engage with networks such as EUROMESCO by writing policy briefs such as “Recovering EU – Egypt Relations, But Core Political Issues Remain.

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