Dr Sanam Vakil

Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme


Dr Sanam Vakil was appointed director of the Middle East and North Africa programme in 2023. She was previously the programme’s deputy director and senior research fellow, and led project work on Iran and Gulf Arab dynamics.

Sanam’s research focuses on regional security, Gulf geopolitics, and on future trends in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy.

She is also 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.

Before these appointments, Sanam was an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at SAIS Washington. She served as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations also providing research analysis to the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa department.

Sanam is the author of Action and Reaction: Women and Politics in Iran (Bloomsbury 2013). She publishes analysis and comments for a variety of media and academic outlets.

Sanam received her BA in political science and history from Barnard College, Columbia University and her MA/PhD in international relations and international economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Past experience

2019-23 Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
2008 - present Professorial lecturer, Johns Hopkins University - SAIS Europe
2011-13 Senior Research Associate, Management Systems International
2005-07 Assistant Professor, Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS Washington

Research assistant, Iran Project, Council on Foreign Relations


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