SEPTEMBER 3, 2012
A leading thinker on the Middle East, Vali Nasr is the rare breed of academic who finds himself profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Just as the situation in Iraq began to deteriorate rapidly, Nasr shot to fame with a timely book, The Shia Revival, on the battle being waged within Islam that would come to shape Iraq’s sectarian conflict. An Iranian immigrant, Nasr’s family lost everything in the 1979 revolution and fled to the United States, where Nasr has become a leading advocate of a more thoroughgoing engagement with Iran. He advised Richard Holbrooke during his tenure as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan and, as the recently appointed dean of the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, remains an influential outside advisor to the Obama administration. His 2009 book, Forces of Fortune, which argued that a growing middle class across the Middle East could prompt a groundswell of opposition to the region’s authoritarian leaders, arguably predicted the Arab Spring.