May 9, 2017, 12:00 pm - May 17, 2021, 6:48 am


The Middle East Institute
1319 18th Street, NW
Washington, D.C., 20036 (Map)

On May 19, Iranians will cast ballots for their next president, choosing between the six candidates authorized by the Supreme Leader's Guardian Council. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who sought relief from international sanctions by agreeing to constraints on Iran's nuclear program, faces challengers attacking him on the economy, foreign policy, and his commitment to Islamist revolutionary ideals. Whatever its outcome will be, the election will impact the security landscape of the Gulf and beyond as the Trump Administration develops its regional policy.

Middle East Institute (MEI) scholar Alex Vatanka was joined by author and journalist Nazila Fathi and analyst Alireza Nader (RAND) to discuss the election, its political context, and the potential consequences of the impending vote for Iran, its neighbors, and the United States. Foreign affairs reporter for The Washington Post Ishaan Tharoor moderated the discussion.

Speaker Biographies:

Nazila Fathi
Author and Former Tehran Correspondent, The New York Times
Nazila Fathi is an Iranian-Canadian author and former Teheran correspondent for The New York Times. She also reported on Iran for both Time and Agence France-Presse. In her book The Lonely War, she interweaves her personal history with that of Iran, from the 1979 Revolution until, when continuing to report from Iran became life-threatening, she was forced into exile. During the 2009 Iranian election and subsequent protests, Fathi and other journalists reported on violence committed by the Iranian government against peaceful protestors. In early 2009, the Iranian government banned international journalists, but Fathi continued to report. She was placed under surveillance by the government, and threats were made against her life. In July 2009, after fellow reporters has been jailed, she and her family left Iran for Canada. She subsequently became an associate at Harvard University's Belfer Center, a Nieman Fellow, and a Shorenstein Fellow.

Alireza Nader
Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation
Alireza Nader is a senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and author of The Days after a Deal with Iran: Continuity and Change in Iranian Foreign Policy. His research has focused on Iran's political dynamics, elite decision making, and Iranian foreign policy. His commentaries and articles have appeared in a variety of publications and he is widely cited by the U.S. and international media. Nader's other RAND publications include Israel and Iran: A Dangerous Rivalry; The Next Supreme Leader: Succession in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Saudi-Iranian Relations Since the Fall of Saddam: Rivalry, Cooperation, and Implications for U.S. Policy; and The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Prior to joining RAND, Nader served as a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses.

Alex Vatanka
Senior Fellow, MEI
Alex Vatanka is a senior fellow at MEI specializing in regional security affairs, with a particular focus on Iran. From 2006 to 2010, he was the managing editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst. From 2001 to 2006, he was a senior political analyst at Jane’s in London, UK, where he mainly covered the Middle East. Vatanka is also a senior fellow in Middle East studies at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an adjunct professor at the Defense Institute of Security Cooperation Studies at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He has lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, U.S. intelligence agencies, U.S. Congressional staff, and Middle Eastern energy firms. He has written for such outlets as The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, Americas Quarterly,, Al Monitor, the Journal of International Security Affairs, BBC Persian Online, The National Interest, The World Today, PBS, The Daily Beast, the Jerusalem Post, Journal of Democracy, and the Council of Foreign Relations.

Ishaan Tharoor
Foreign Affairs Reporter, The Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor is a foreign affairs writer at The Washington Post, where he pens "Today’s Worldview," a daily column on global affairs. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.