Geneive Abdo

Former Fellow

This is the profile of a former staff member, affiliate, intern, or guest author. Biographical information is not maintained and may be out of date.

Geneive Abdo is a Fellow in Stimson’s Middle East program as well as a Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. She specializes in issues regarding modern Iran and political Islam. She directs the U.S.-Iran Advisory Group, a program on Iran, in conjunction with Heinrich Boell Stiftung, North America. She is also the author of the recently published monograph, “The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a- Sunni Divide,” published in April 2013 by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

She was formerly the Liaison Officer for the Alliance of Civilizations, a United Nations initiative established by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which aims to improve relations between Islamic and Western societies.

Before joining the U. N., Abdo was a Foreign Correspondent. Her 20-year career focused on coverage of the Middle East and the Muslim world. From 1998-2001, Abdo was the Iran Correspondent for the British newspaper the Guardian and a regular contributor to The Economist and the International Herald Tribune. She was the first American journalist to be based in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and was forced to flee the country, after the regime threatened her with prosecution for her articles over the course of three years.

Abdo is the author of three books, including, “No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam” (Oxford University Press, 2000).

From 2001-2002, Abdo was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. That year, she also received the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim award.

Abdo is regularly sought by the media to comment on Islam and the Middle East.

Selected Publications

Multimedia

Events

Research & Writing

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo quoted in Quartz on the Shia Narrative

The two powers of the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are in the midst of a diplomatic row with roots that go back more than 1,300 years. -snip- Ali was assassinated in 661AD as a civil war in Islam brewed. This disagreement culminated in the …

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo quoted in The Toronto Star on Syrian Migrants

Just when it seemed that Syria’s bloody civil war could get no worse, it has. As Russian air strikes and increased fighting force more people to flee their homes, an escalating number of lives are risked and lost in the struggle for safety, a…

Commentary
Why Salafists in Lebanon Have Become Disempowered

Once considered rising political players in Lebanese politics, the Salafists who were active in aiding the Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are now in retreat. After three years of monitoring their activities, a recent visit to…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Geneive Abdo in Al Arabiya on Salafists in Lebanon

Once considered rising political players in Lebanese politics, the Salafists who were active in aiding the Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are now in retreat. After three years of monitoring their activities, a recent visit to…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Geneive Abdo in the National Interest on ISIS

A private, elite school in Khartoum tells the story of the appeal of ISIS—a story that defies years of mythologies in the West about the lure of Muslim youth to extremism. In June, twelve students of the prestigious University of Medical Sciences and T…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo quoted in Peacefare.net on religion & identity in Iraq

On Thursday, Stimson hosted a discussion in cooperation with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) entitled Threat Of ISIS In Iraq: Views From The Ground. Speakers included: Stimson Middle East Fellow Geneive Abdo, Brookings Non-resident Fe…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo quoted in Anadolu Agency on Iran nuclear deal

Saudi Arabia will likely respond to Iran’s historic nuclear agreement by using its two primary policy instruments: oil and religion, according to Zubair Iqbal, an expert from Washington-based Middle East Institute on Thursday. -snip- Geneive Abdo, an e…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo quoted in Anadolu Agency on sectarianism after the Iran deal (Turkish)

Washington merkezli Ortadoğu Enstitüsü Uzmanı Zübeyir İkbal, AA muhabirine yaptığı açıklamada, anlaşmanın ardından Suudi Arabistan’ın, İran’a karşı “petrol ve din” silahlarını kullanacağını söyledi. -snip- Washington merkezli Brookings Düşünce Enstitüs…

Commentary
Sorry, Hardliners: Iran Wants a Nuclear Deal

It is no secret that Iran’s political elites are divided over many issues involving a final deal Iran might strike with the West over its nuclear program. But public opinion favoring an agreement could be a major factor in reaching a positive outcome b…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Geneive Abdo in Democracy Journal on US presence in the Gulf

In “Understanding the Gulf States” [Issue #36], F. Gregory Gause, III chronicles the personal nature of leadership in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and how individual rulers have shaped regional and foreign policies over the last se…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Geneive Abdo in The National Interest on Iranian Nuclear Deal

It is no secret that Iran’s political elites are divided over many issues involving a final deal Iran might strike with the West over its nuclear program. But public opinion favoring an agreement could be a major factor in reaching a positive outcome b…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo on Political Capital Success In The Middle East

This week, Roland Elliott Brown presents our Nowruz Nuclear Special.   With Iran and the US speeding toward another nuclear deadline at the end of March, he speaks to a range of Iran specialists about what a deal would mean for the Iran, the Unite…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo Quoted In The Daily Beast On Iran

The White House seems to think a nuke deal with Iran will change everything. Let’s hope they’re trying to fool us, and not themselves.     -snip-   Genieve Abdo of the Stimson Center (and Brookings) agrees. “They want the sanctions lifte…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo Quoted In Ahram Online On Iran Negotiations

“I drank the cup of poison,” late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini said in June 1988 upon signing the UN truce deal that put an end to eight disastrous years of war with neighbouring Iraq.   -snip-   “Iranians will not completely sto…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo Broadcasted In C-SPAN On Combating Violent Extremism

Mbarka Bouaida outlined Morocco’s political history and her country’s efforts in combating violent extremism. She also discussed the U.S.-Moroccan Strategic Dialogue, which took place during her visit to Washington, D.C. Following her remarks, panelist…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed in The National Interest on Arab Opinion of The Iran Deal

As the White House claims a well-deserved victory over the nuclear deal with Iran, Washington must also realize that Arab states and societies view the agreement as a reflection of a fundamental shift in the power dynamics of the Middle East….

Commentary
Geneive Abdo and Ellen Laipson Testify in Front of Canadian Parliament

On February, 5, 2015 Geneive Abdo and Ellen Laipson of the Stimson Center were called to provide testimony before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in the House of Commons of Canada to discuss the rise of ISIL…

Commentary
The Escalating Shi’a-Sunni Conflict

In Stimson’s continuing series on the Escalating Shi’a-Sunni confilct, held by our Middle East program, discussions have included the role of state actors, contrasting the influence of religion and politics, and assessing the control of ISIS. Below are…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed in The National Interest on Bahrain’s sectarian turmoil

Shortly after the parliamentary elections in Bahrain last month, security forces raided the home of the country’s premier Shi’a religious scholar and spiritual guide for the opposition, Issa Qassem, in an act considered sacrosanct in the Islamic tradit…

Commentary
Arming Syrian Rebels: Deja Vu All Over Again

This week the Obama administration launched the bombing phase of the U.S. strategy with the goal of destroying the Islamic State. While results of the initial phase are still becoming clarified, it is another aspect of the strategy – the arming of mode…

Commentary
Arab Public Not Taking US Efforts on ISIS Seriously

As the United States gears up for possible airstrikes inside Syria, it should remember one thing: No matter how much planning has gone into US military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn’t convinced that…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed in The National Interest on Iran Deal

BEIRUT—The extension of nuclear negotiations between Shi’a Iran and world powers over Tehran’s illicit nuclear program and the prospect of a permanent deal are fueling fear among Sunni naysayers that extends far beyond nukes. A thawing of rel…

Commentary
Geneive Abdo comments on the Sunni-Shia divide

An ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim countries. Struggles between Sunni and Shia forces have fed a Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence…

Commentary
The end of Rouhani’s honeymoon

The honeymoon that Iran’s hard-liners extended to President Hassan Rouhani after his June 2013 election is coming to an end. As they have in the past, particularly during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the conservative factions within the state ar…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on Rouhani’s presidency and Iran’s policies published in Aljazeera America

The honeymoon that Iran’s hard-liners extended to President Hassan Rouhani after his June 2013 election is coming to an end. As they have in the past, particularly during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the conservative factions within the state ar…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on the Iran nuclear deal post-Geneva is published at Al Jazeera America

For Iran, the United States has always been the big prize. For 30 years, Iran’s bombastic rhetoric against the “Great Satan” was merely an expression of a hurt heart. So the euphoria in Iran in the last few days over the nuclear deal is not surprising….

Commentary
After Geneva, how will the US and Iran reach a final deal?

For Iran, the United States has always been the big prize. For thirty years, Iran’s bombastic rhetoric against the “the Great Satan” was merely an expression of a hurt heart. So the euphoria in Iran over the last two days over the nuclear deal is not s…

Commentary
Lebanese Salafis amidst Syria’s war

One recent cool and sunny afternoon in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, Sheikh Bilal Baroudi, a Sunni Salafist cleric, showed me the charred remains of the Salam mosque. He was preaching there on Aug. 24 when a bomb detonated, killing dozens of wors…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on Lebanese Salafis and the Syrian civil war is published in Foreign Policy

One recent cool and sunny afternoon in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, Sheikh Bilal Baroudi, a Sunni Salafist cleric, showed me the charred remains of the Salam mosque. He was preaching there on Aug. 24 when a bomb detonated, killing dozens of wors…

Commentary
After Geneva, Can an Iran Nuclear Deal Be Done?

The progress made in Geneva last week between Iran and major world powers is making the naysayers of a possible nuclear deal extremely frustrated. Although no deal was struck, an interim agreement seems inevitable, if not when Iran meets the P5+1 again…

Commentary
Stimson Center Experts Analyze Developments in Iran

Stimson Center experts have been sharing their insights and analysis about developments in Iran with policymakers and the public for years.  Here are some recent examples of Stimson commentaries published in newspapers and on websites, along with…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo is interviewed on CNN on Iranian President Rouhani’s Washington Post op-ed

CNN’s Becky Anderson talks to Geneive Abdo Author, “Mecca and Main Street.” To watch the full video, click here.

Commentary
Can the US and Iran strike a nuke deal?

Many stars have aligned to make this moment an opportune time to resolve two conflicts in the Middle East — the Syrian civil war and Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. A new, more moderate faction is in power in Iran, led by President Hassan Rouhan…

Commentary
Iran’s opportunity for negotiations

For the first time in many years, Iranian leaders are declaring that they are ready to make a deal with the United States on the nuclear issue, leading some skeptics to question whether Tehran is serious this time or merely orchestrating a publicity bl…

Commentary
What an attack on Syria will mean for US-Iran relations

If President Barack Obama does indeed attack Syria, with or without congressional approval, he will forfeit an opportunity to make headway with Iran over its nuclear programme and risk allowing Tehran once again to reap the greatest benefit from Washin…

Commentary
Syria, Egypt and Arab Transitions Examined

Experts affiliated with the Stimson Center have helped inform policymakers and the public about the civil war in Syria, unrest in Egypt and Arab transitions over the past 12 months in many ways. These include participating in panel discussions at Stims…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s Op-Ed On Ahmadinejad Is Quoted At CNN

Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani took the oath of office Sunday, replacing controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, 65, a cleric considered moderate, won the June elections with reformist backing. He campaigned on a “hope and prudence”…

Commentary
How Morsy’s Fall Empowers Islamists

In overthrowing Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s military, the judiciary, and the secular-minded revolutionaries in central Cairo just extended the political life spans of Islamists across the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, once at the vanguard o…

Commentary
Rouhani’s Warm Words Won’t Bring Thaw In Saudi Ties

Of all the items optimists are placing on their wish lists for newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, one stands out as among the least probable: reconciliation between his Shi’a republic and rival Sunni monarchies in the Gulf. Shortly after h…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on sectarianism in the Gulf region is published at CNN.com

Of all the items optimists are placing on their wish lists for newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, one stands out as among the least probable: reconciliation between his Shi’a republic and rival Sunni monarchies in the Gulf. Shortly after h…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s Op-Ed On Iran Election Is Published At Brookings

In the days before Iran’s June 14 presidential election, some Iranian commentators wrote that Iran’s foreign policy agenda will not change no matter who wins the poll due to United States and European Union sanctions. “The next Iranian president will n…

Commentary
Why Sunni-Shia Conflict is Worsening

When the influential cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi recently called on fellow Sunni Muslims to join the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he effectively called for the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East to escalate in some countr…

Stimson in the News
Why Sunni-Shia Conflict is Worsening

When the influential cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi recently called on fellow Sunni Muslims to join the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he effectively called for the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East to escalate in some countr…

Commentary
Ahmadinejad Shows No Signs of Going Quietly

As Iran’s election draws near, powerful figures within the ruling establishment seem more worried about the future of the incumbent than they are about the potential for violent protests. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is prevented from running for a th…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on the Iranian election is published at CNN

As Iran’s election draws near, powerful figures within the ruling establishment seem more worried about the future of the incumbent than they are about the potential for violent protests. To read the full op-ed, click here.

Commentary
Boston Attacks Should Not be Labeled ‘Homegrown’ Terrorism

Since the Boston terror attacks, an all-too-familiar mantra has re-emerged: American Muslims need more policing and increased surveillance. This demand, encouraged by U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and many others, stems from a lack of understanding of…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on Boston attacks featured in Newsday

Since the Boston terror attacks, an all-too-familiar mantra has re-emerged: American Muslims need more policing and increased surveillance. This demand, encouraged by U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and many others, stems from a lack of understanding of…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo’s op-ed on Bahrain featured in Foreign Policy

A two-day conference at the University of Bahrain in the capital Manama last week was intended to show the United States and the region that the Bahraini government is making progress toward democratic governance and addressing the grievances of the co…

Commentary
Presidential Inbox 2013: Take a Strategic Approach to Iran

Click here to view the complete Presidential Inbox series. The Challenge It is time to develop a broader, more inclusive approach to US policy towards Iran. The past years’ focus on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability…

Stimson in the News
Geneive Abdo Quoted In Bloomberg On The Iran Deal

Eighteen months after picking up the phone to Barack Obama with an historic message of reconciliation, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has secured the outline nuclear agreement he expects to end his country’s isolation. -snip-   “The real prize is…

Stimson in the News
How Morsy’s Fall Empowers Islamists

In overthrowing Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s military, the judiciary, and the secular-minded revolutionaries in central Cairo just extended the political life spans of Islamists across the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, once at the vanguard o…

Commentary
Four New Faces at the Stimson Center

Stimson is pleased to announce the arrival of four new scholars to the Center: Geneive Abdo, John Edwards, Amy Nelson, and Yun Sun. Stimson’s Chairman, Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr., and President Ellen Laipson welcome these additions, each who br…

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