- Ali ShihabiExecutive Director, The Arabia Foundation
Ali Shihabi is the executive director of the Arabia Foundation. A Saudi national, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Ali returned to Saudi Arabia and began a career in banking and finance, later moving to Dubai, where he founded Rasmala, a GCC-focused private equity fund that developed into a full-service investment bank. In 2012, he sold his controlling shares in Rasmala and took early retirement to write two books: The Saudi Kingdom: Between the Jihadi Hammer and the Iranian Anvil, published in 2015 as part of the Princeton University Series on the Middle East, and Arabian War Games, a work of fiction published in 2013.
Ali is a member of the board of trustees of the International Crisis Group, the independent nonprofit nongovernmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Previously, he served for eight years on the board of the largest TV satellite broadcaster in the Arab world, the MBC Group, which is the parent company of Al Arabiya News Network.
- Firas MaksadDirector
Firas Maksad is a director at the Arabia Foundation. Throughout his career, Firas has focused on strategy, US–Middle East relations, and the geopolitics of the Arabian Gulf and the Levant. He is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
Firas served as an associate to Ambassador Dennis Ross, the former US–Middle East presidential envoy. He worked on Capitol Hill for the House International Relations Committee and has been a political consultant for global law firm DLA Piper. He oversaw research for the Levant for Eurasia Group, a prominent political risk advisory firm. He holds a Master of Science in foreign service from Georgetown University.
- Fatimah S. BaeshenDirector
Fatimah S. Baeshen is a director at the Arabia Foundation. A Saudi national, she joined the Arabia Foundation after having worked with the Saudi Ministry of Labor and the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning in Riyadh between 2014 and 2017. Her focus areas include the labor market, private sector development, and women’s economic empowerment. Prior to that, she worked as a consultant in socio-economic strategy for the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development.
She earned her master’s degree with a focus on Islamic finance from the University of Chicago, and her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
- Evan LangenhahnResident Scholar
Evan Langenhahn is a resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation, where he is responsible for directing research. He specializes in the geopolitics of the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea region.
Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, Evan spent three years in Riyadh, where he served as managing director for the Quincy Group, a strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm that specializes in assisting Fortune 200 companies that conduct business in the states of the Arabian Gulf. Earlier in his career, Evan worked as a researcher on Middle East politics and US foreign policy for several leading think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the US–Middle East Project, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Evan holds a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in political science (international studies) from Emory University, where his honor’s thesis anticipated the transformative effects of new media technology on the domestic politics of Arab states. He speaks Arabic and is the recipient of two graduate fellowships for advanced Arabic language study in Cairo.
- Brandon NickersonHead of Operations
Brandon Nickerson is the head of operations at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Brandon managed the MENA portfolio for the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), a nonprofit business association comprised of more than two hundred US companies.
Brandon also worked at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), an affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce. While at CIPE, he managed international development projects across the MENA region. He has also worked at the National Endowment for Democracy, and on Capitol Hill, where he was staff assistant for research in the office of US Senator Bob Menendez.
- Abdallah HendawyHead of Digital Strategy
Abdallah Hendawy is the head of digital strategy at the Arabia Foundation. He has over thirteen years of experience working on the digital analysis of radicalization and violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa region for the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the US Department of State. Abdallah received his master’s degree in conflict resolution from the European Peace University in Vienna, Austria, and his PhD in public sociology from George Mason University, where he is an adjunct lecturer.
- Farah AlalamiResearch Analyst
Farah Alalami is a research analyst at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, she worked as a research intern at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars focusing on Egypt. In addition, she has worked as a research intern at the Middle East Institute, where she addressed topics ranging from the Levant and the Arab Spring to radicalization and perceptions of US foreign policy in the Middle East. She attended Colby College, where she received a BA in government with a focus on the Middle East.
- Michelle CioffolettiResearch Analyst
Michelle Cioffoletti is a research analyst at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a fellow at the Foreign Policy Association working on the production of the Great Decisions program on Saudi Arabia. She previously worked as a research analyst at Logos Institute for Crisis Management, which focused on crisis management and mitigation. Prior to joining the private sector, she worked as a communications consultant for the United Nations affiliate Religions for Peace. Michelle also held an internship at the Department of Homeland Security, in the Office of Public Affairs. She attended the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she received her BA in international affairs, with a focus on conflict resolution.
- Michelle StrayerOperations Officer
Michelle Strayer is an operations officer at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to her work with the Foundation, Michelle interned with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, working on the Government Actions in Terrorist Environments (GATE) project. She has also interned with the Social Conflict and Governability Office at Defensoría del Pueblo in Lima, Perú. Michelle graduated magna cum laude from Connecticut College with a degree in international relations, and received the 2014 award for Best Honors Thesis in the Government and International Relations Department.
- John SfakianakisNon-Resident Senior Scholar
John Sfakianakis is a Senior Non-Resident Scholar at the Arabia Foundation. He also serves as Director of Economic Research at the Gulf Research Center in Riyadh. Previously he was Middle East Director of the Ashmore Group in Riyadh. His other former positions have included chief investment strategist, MASIC, a Saudi family-owned investment company; chief economic adviser to the Saudi Ministry of Finance; group general manager and chief economist, Middle East North Africa region for Credit Agricole C.I.B.; chief economist, Saudi British Bank (SABB/HSBC); and chief regional economist, Samba Financial Group. He also has served as adviser at the Ministry of Economy and Planning in Saudi Arabia and as economist at the United Nations (UNDP) and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He holds a PhD in economics from Harvard University. He is based out of Riyadh.