Ray Takeyh

Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies


Iran; Persian Gulf and U.S. foreign policy.


Middle East Program

Featured Publications


Guardians of the Revolution

Author: Ray Takeyh

For over a quarter-century, Iran has been one of America's chief nemeses. But as Ray Takeyh shows in this accessible and authoritative history of Iran's relations with the world since the revolution, behind the famous personalities and extremist slogans is a nation that is far more pragmatic—and complex—than many in the West have been led to believe.

See more in Iran; Politics and Strategy

All Publications


Iranís Destabilizing Role in the Middle East

Author: Ray Takeyh

In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ray Takeyh argues that in order to successfully combat Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East, the United States must be an active player in Syria and Iraq and undertake a more systematic effort to contest all of Iran's regional assets.

See more in Iran; Regional Security

Foreign Affairs Article

What Really Happened in Iran

Author: Ray Takeyh

Back in 2009, during his heavily promoted Cairo speech on American relations with the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama noted, in passing, that "in the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government."

See more in Iran; Regime Changes

Ask CFR Experts

How much control does Ayatollah Khamenei have in Iranian-U.S. relations?

Asked by Arianna Talaie, from College of William and Mary
Author: Ray Takeyh

Ali Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of Iran and has the final say on all issues pertaining to its foreign policy. The Islamic Republic has a complex constitutional structure whereby the authority of the president and the parliament are subservient to that of the Supreme Leader. All issues of war and peace, treaties and elections have to be approved by Khamenei. As such, the presidents and foreign ministers can engage in negotiations but cannot commit Iran to a final course until the Supreme Leader approves.

Read full answer

See more in Iran; Presidents and Chiefs of State

Current Projects

Past Projects

Symposium on Iran and Policy Options for the Next Administration

Staff: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
September 5, 2008—8:30 am to 1:30 pm

On September 5, 2008, the Council on Foreign Relations convened some of the country's top experts on Iran. Over the course of three sessions, the symposium sought to understand Iran as a global player and identify policy options for the next U.S. administration.

This symposium was made possible through the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Roundtable on the U.S. and Middle East

Director: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
February 1, 2007—Present

The United States is faced with an array of serious challenges in the Middle East, perhaps unprecedented in the past fifty years. An attempt to provoke a revolutionary change in the Middle East has collapsed with a large U.S. land army lodged in the heart of the region. The United States now confronts a Middle East that features an imploding Iraqi state, an aggressive Islamic Republic about to cross the nuclear threshold and a Palestinian state broken into two failed entities.

The Roundtable on the U.S. and Middle East will seek to develop strategies for the next administration. Should the United States attempt to recoup its position by pressing forward, albeit more prudently and with international cooperation, or should the United States go "back to the future," and place "stability over freedom," to use President Bush's phrase? Is it time to create an alliance with Sunnis to stave off the immediate threat of Iranian encroachment? What should the United States' grand strategy be in the Middle East? These and other questions will be the focus of monthly discussions.

CFR Events

Academic Conference Call

Deterring a Nuclear Iran


James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
April 7, 2010

This meeting is not for attribution.


Academic Conference Call

The Costs of Containing Iran


Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, "The Costs of Containing Iran," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2008


Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
January 17, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.


Symposium ⁄ New York

The Emerging Shia Crescent Symposium: Is Shia Power Cause for Concern?


Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Toby C. Jones, Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow in Middle East History, Swarthmore College, Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow, Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Ethan S. Bronner, Deputy Foreign Editor, The New York Times
June 5, 2006

This meeting is on the record.


General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Negotiating Iran from the European and Russian Perspectives


Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Fellow and Director for Europe Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
May 25, 2006

This meeting is on the record.



Radio Interview

NPR: Tensions With Iran, Center Stage at the UN

Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation interviews Ray Takeyh about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech before the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly.


Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and adjunct professor at Georgetown University. His areas of specialization are Iran, political reform in the Middle East, and Islamist movements and parties.

Prior to joining the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Takeyh was Senior Advisor on Iran at the Department of State. He was previously a fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy and has taught at National War College, Yale University, and University of California, Berkeley.

Takeyh is the author of The Guardians of the Revolution: Iran's Approach to the World (Oxford University Press, 2009). He is also the author of two previous books, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic (Henry Holt, 2006) and The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine: The U.S., Britain and Nasser's Egypt, 1953-1957 (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Dr. Takeyh has published widely, including articles in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, National Interest, Survival, World Policy Journal, Washington Quarterly, Orbis, Middle East Journal and Middle East Policy. His commentary has also been featured in many newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times and International Herald Tribune.

Takeyh has testified frequently in front various congressional committees and has appeared on PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, BBC, FOX and CSPAN.

Dr. Takeyh has a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University.


Persian (fluent); Arabic (working knowledge)