Charles Lister is a senior fellow and the Director of the Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute. His work focuses on all-things Syria and on issues of terrorism and insurgency across the Levant. Within MEI, Lister currently directs two major international initiatives focused on Syria:

  • Resolving the Detainee Crisis is a joint initiative with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), which seeks to help the international community resolve the unprecedented challenges associated with the detention of 9,000 terrorist fighters and 45,000 associated family members in northeast Syria. So far, more than 40 governments and INGOs have engaged in high-level multilateral policy talks in London, Washington D.C, Vienna and Malta, resulting in decisive policy progress.

  • In collaboration with the Atlantic Council and the European Institute of Peace, the Syria Strategy Project is coordinating discussions involving more than 80 subject matter experts and 25 governments and Syrian governance entities aimed at developing a holistic and realistic multilateral approach to resolving Syria’s long-running crisis.

Prior to joining MEI, Lister was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Qatar and a Senior Consultant to the multinationally-backed Syria Track II Dialogue Initiative, in which he managed nearly three years of intensive face-to-face engagement with the leaderships of over 100 Syrian armed opposition groups. He has previously held other positions at the Brookings Institution and at IHS Jane’s in London, UK. Lister is a Consultant to the United Nations' International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria and a regular consultant and expert witness in counter-terrorism prosecutions and with law enforcement bodies in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Lister’s critically acclaimed book, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency, was published in February 2016 by Oxford University Press. He has also published The Islamic State: A Brief Introduction (Brookings Press, 2015) and Winning the Battle, Losing the War: Addressing the Drivers of Non-State Armed Actors and Extremist Groups (ed.) (MEI, 2019). He is now working on a fourth book on Syria, commissioned by Oxford University Press.

1st Class MA Honours in International Relations, University of St. Andrews

Countries of Expertise
Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon

Issues of Expertise
Terrorism, Insurgency, al-Qa'ida, ISIS, Military & Defense

English, French

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