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Our Mission

The Arabia Foundation is a Washington, DC–based resource whose core mission is to provide insight into and analysis of the geopolitics of the Arabian Peninsula.


Ali Shihabi

علي سمير الشهابي


Ali Shihabi is the founder of the Arabia Foundation. A Saudi national, he graduated with a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Ali began his career in Riyadh in 1985 in banking and finance. In 1999 he founded Rasmala, a GCC-focused private equity fund. In 2012, he took early retirement from banking to write two books: Arabian War Games, a work of fiction published in 2013, and 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.

Firas Maksad

فراس مقصد


Firas Maksad is a director at The Arabia Foundation and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. His areas of expertise include US foreign policy in the Middle East, in addition to the politics of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab Gulf. Prior to joining The Arabia Foundation 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 was a political consultant for global law firm DLA Piper. He also oversaw research on the Levant at Eurasia Group, a prominent political risk advisory firm. Firas’ articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times and other publications. He completed his graduate studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and his undergraduate degree in political science at the American University of Beirut. Firas has lived and travelled throughout the Middle East, including eight years in Saudi Arabia.

Evan Langenhahn 

إيفان لنجنهاهن

Head Of Research

Evan Langenhahn is the head of research at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, Evan served in Riyadh as managing director of the Quincy Group, a strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm. Earlier in his career, Evan worked as a researcher on Middle East politics and US foreign policy for the Council on Foreign Relations, the US–Middle East Project, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Evan holds a MA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Chicago and a BA in international studies from Emory University.

Geneive Abdo

جينيف عبدة

Resident Scholar

Geneive Abdo is a resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation where she specializes in political Islam and Iranian geopolitics. She was previously a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and the liaison officer for the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN initiative which aims to improve relations between Islamic and Western societies. Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Abdo spent twenty years as a Middle East correspondent for The GuardianThe Economist, and The International Herald Tribune. She was the first American journalist to be based in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ms. Abdo is a lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and the author of four books, including The New SectarianismThe Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a-Sunni Divide. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Washington Post, and other major publications.

Fatima Abo Alasrar

فاطمة ابوالاسرار

Senior Analyst

Fatima Abo Alasrar is a senior analyst for the Arabia Foundation.  Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, Ms. Fatima was the MENA director for Cure Violence, a research associate at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, a Mason fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, and an international policy fellow at the Open Society Foundations. From 2006-2012, she worked as an advisor for the Embassy of Yemen in Washington, DC. Earlier in her career, Ms. Fatima served as a program officer for the Department for International Development (DFID) in Yemen. Ms. Fatima holds an MA in Public Administration from Harvard University, an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University, and a BS in Architectural Engineering from Sanaa University in Yemen.

Abdallah Hendawy

عبدالله هنداوي

Head 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 MA 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.

Ola Salem

علا سالم

Head of Communications

Ola Salem is head of communications at Arabia Foundation. Ola has more than seven years’ worth of experience in journalism covering the Middle East. Prior to joining Arabia Foundation, Ola was The National newspaper’s political correspondent in Abu Dhabi, and covered Gulf politics and the U.A.E. parliament (Federal National Council) for five years. Besides writing on Gulf politics, she also covered the Syrian refugee crisis from the Syrian-Jordanian borders. Her work has appeared in The National, The Guardian, and Arabian Business. Ola, who grew up in the U.K., has also lived in a number of other countries in the Middle East, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt. She has a communications and journalism degree from the U.A.E. and is a MA at New York University.

Brandon Nickerson

براندن نيكرسون

Head 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.

Michelle Cioffoletti

ميشيل شفوليتي

Digital Strategy & Communications Officer

Michelle Cioffoletti is a Digital Strategy & Communications Officer 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.

Farah Alalami

فرح العلمي

Research 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.

Yousef Al Naimi

يوسف النعيمي

Research Analyst & Social Media Coordinator

Yousef Al Naimi is a research analyst and social media coordinator at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, Yousef served on Saudi Arabia’s official delegation to the United Nations Economic and Social Youth Forum. He is a Saudi national and a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University where he received a BA in international politics. Yousef’s work has been featured in The National.

Michelle Strayer

ميشيل ستراير

Research Analyst

Michelle Strayer is a research analyst 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.

Adam Fritz

آدم فريتز

Graphic Designer

Adam Fritz is the graphic designer at the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, he had numerous internships with non-profits in the DC area, such as American Chemical Society. In addition, he worked at Arab Center Washington, DC where he designed graphics, web design, and photography. He attended American University, where he received a BA in Graphic Design.

Danielle Cameron

دانيل كاميرون 

Operations Assistant and Executive Assistant

Danielle Cameron is an operations assistant and executive assistant for the Arabia Foundation. Prior to joining the Arabia Foundation, Danielle worked as an executive assistant and facility coordinator for OnDeck Capital Arlington. Earlier in her career, she served as an employment and community outreach specialist for at-risk youth at Middle Earth, a counselor and facility manager for Center for Discovery, and as a development intern for Stonewall UK. Danielle earned a BA in sociology from Rollins College where she was a Philip B. & Peggy Crosby scholar and a recipient of the Susan B Anthony award for campus activism.

Cole Bunzel

كول بنزل

Non-Resident Scholar

Cole Bunzel is a Non-Resident Scholar at the Arabia Foundation working on Sunni jihadism and religious dynamics in Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East. A PhD. candidate in near eastern studies at Princeton University, his research focuses on the history and theology of Wahhabism/Salafism in Saudi Arabia and the Jihadi-Salafi movement underlying groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. He has written extensively on developments in jihadi ideology, including for the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the blog Jihadica. He received his BA in near eastern studies from Princeton University and MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

John Sfakianakis

جون سفانياكس

Non-Resident Senior Scholar

John Sfakianakis is a Non-Resident Senior 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.

Ellen R. Wald

الين والد

Non-Resident Scholar

Ellen R. Wald is a Non-Resident Scholar at the Arabia Foundation specializing in energy and geopolitics. Her forthcoming book, “Saudi, Inc.” explores the central role of Aramco in Saudi history. Dr. Wald is an energy consultant, writes weekly columns on energy and geopolitics for Forbes and and is also an adjunct professor of Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University in Florida. Previously, Dr. Wald held academic appointments at Boston University, Cambridge University (UK) the University of Wyoming, and the University of Georgia. She received a BA in history and Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and a PhD in history from Boston University.

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