Afshon Ostovar, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Strategic Studies / International Affairs Group
  • Middle East
  • Iran, Gulf Cooperation Countries, and the Levant
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Basij organizations
  • Militant Islamist organizations
  • Political violence and armed groups
  • Violent extremism and radicalization

Afshon Ostovar, Ph.D. is a Middle East analyst at CNA Strategic Studies and an adjunct professor in government at the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School. His research focuses on politics, strategic decision making, and armed forces in Iran. He also works more broadly on strategic issues, political violence, and armed groups in the Middle East. He is the author of a forthcoming book, Victors of the Islamic Revolution, which analyzes modern Iranian history through the political development of the Revolutionary Guards. Other forthcoming work includes a book chapter on the ways in which visual culture is employed by jihadist organizations in online media and a coauthored article on the factors preventing cooperation among Syria’s armed rebel forces.

Recent Work

Cooperation and division within Syria’s armed rebels; strategic dynamics of the Persian Gulf; Iranian politics and decision-making; Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps; Basij militia; recruitment and radicalization; jihadist propaganda; Gulf Cooperation Council strategic affairs; GCC-Iranian relationship; Sunni-Baluchi insurgency in Iran.

Previous Positions

Fellow, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (2006-2008); research associate, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (2005-2006); graduate student instructor, University of Michigan (2004-2006); English instructor, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan (1999).


Ph.D. in History, University of Michigan; M.A. in History, University of Michigan; B.A., summa cum laude, in Near Eastern Studies, University of Arizona.


Persian, knowledge of Arabic.

Selected Publications
  • Victors of the Islamic Revolution: Politics, Power, and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran (forthcoming).
  • “The Visual Culture of Jihad.” In Jihad Culture: Art, Superstition and Ritual in the Militant Islamist Underground, Thomas Hegghammer, ed. (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2014).
  • “Iran’s Basij Militia: Membership in a Militant Islamist Organization.” The Middle East Journal (Summer 2013).
  • “Iran’s Kamikaze Hormuz Threat.” Foreign Policy (January 9, 2012).
  • “Worst. Plot. Ever.” Foreign Policy (October 13, 2011).
Selected CNA Corp. Research
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