Afshon Ostovar

Senior Fellow - Middle East Program

Afshon Ostovar is a Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Middle East Program. He is the Associate Chair for Research and an Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. He was formerly a Research Scientist in the Center for Strategic Studies at CNA, a not-for-profit research organization in the Washington D.C. area. Previously, he was a Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and has taught at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Ostovar’s research focuses on conflict, strategy, and security issues in the Middle East, with a focus on Iran and its regional allies. His award-winning book, Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores the rise of Iran’s most powerful armed force—the IRGC—and its role in politics, strategic decision making, and as a military actor in the Syria and Iraq conflicts. He has more recently written a series of articles on Iran’s relationships with its proxy allies. These articles explore various themes, and provide conceptual and theoretical frameworks designed to better understand how and why states rely on clients to pursue foreign policy and strategic objectives. “Sectarianism and Iranian Foreign Policy,” (in Beyond Sunni and Shia, Oxford UP, 2018), examines the regional and structural reasons for Iran’s reliance on co-religionist organizations, and how those relationships have had unintended consequences for Iran; “The Grand Strategy of Militant Clients: Iran’s Way of War,” (Security Studies 28, no. 1), examines why client allies have become the central part of Iranian grand strategy, and how Iran has used its clients to advance its strategic goals in regional wars; and, “Iran, its Clients, and the Future of the Middle East: the Limits of Religion,” (International Affairs, vol. 94, no. 6) discusses the limits of religion-based security relationships and the factors driving strategic behavior in the Middle East.

Dr. Ostovar is currently writing a new book on the strategic competition between regional states in the Middle East since 9/11. He is also a contributor to War on the Rocks and Lawfare, and his commentary regularly appears in writing in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, Politico, The Guardian, and through interviews with popular media such as New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and Frontline. He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan.