Frederic Wehrey

Senior Associate
Middle East Program
Wehrey’s research focuses on political reform and security issues in the Arab Gulf states, Libya, and U.S. policy in the Middle East more broadly. He was previously a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.


PhD, International Relations, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford
MA, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University


Arabic; English


Frederic Wehrey is a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He focuses on Gulf political and security affairs, Libya, and U.S. policy in the Middle East. 

His most recent Carnegie publications include: The Struggle for Security in Eastern Libya (2012); The Precarious Ally: Bahrain’s Impasse and U.S. Policy (2013); The Forgotten Uprising in Eastern Saudi Arabia (2013); Perilous Desert: Sources of Saharan Insecurity, co-edited with Anouar Boukhars (2013); and Building Libya’s Security Sector, co-authored with Peter Cole (2013).

Prior to joining Carnegie, he was a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he was the lead author of monographs on the domestic roles of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Saudi-Iranian rivalry, and the strategic impact of the Iraq War in the Middle East. In 2008, he led a RAND strategic advisory team to Baghdad, focusing on post-surge challenges in support of Multinational Forces–Iraq.

Wehrey is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and has completed tours in Turkey, Uganda, Libya, Algeria, and Iraq, where he earned the Bronze Star in 2003.   

His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic, Washington Quarterly, Current History, the International Herald Tribune, Survival, Sada, the Journal of Democracy, Small Wars and Insurgencies, the Christian Science Monitor, Financial Times, and the Chicago Journal of International Law. He has been interviewed by major media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, PBS NewsHour, NPR, BBC, and CNN. He routinely briefs U.S. and European government officials on Middle East affairs and has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He is the author of a new book exploring Sunni-Shi’a identity politics in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, entitled Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprising (Columbia University Press, 2013), named one of 2013’s top five books on the Middle East by Foreign Policy magazine.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Affairs October 6, 2014
    Libya’s Legitimacy Crisis

    At its core, the fighting in Libya is about two centers of power vying for the mantle of legitimacy in a country devoid of any workable institutions.

  • Paper September 24, 2014 عربي
    Ending Libya’s Civil War: Reconciling Politics, Rebuilding Security

    With a domestic landscape torn apart by competing claims to power and with interference from regional actors serving to entrench divides, restoring stability in Libya and building a unified security structure will be difficult if not impossible without broad-based political reconciliation.

  • Syria in Crisis September 23, 2014
    Gulf Participation in the Anti–Islamic State Coalition: Limitations and Costs

    The contribution of Gulf Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State should not be overstated and should be caveated with an awareness of the risks and costs—for both the Gulf regimes at home and U.S. interests in the region.

  • Article September 23, 2014 عربي Русский
    The National Guard in Iraq: A Risky Strategy to Combat the Islamic State

    A new national guard could help bridge Iraq’s sectarian divide. But it must be accompanied by diplomatic efforts to reach out to Sunnis and prevent outside meddling.

  • Syria in Crisis September 11, 2014 中文
    Five Hidden Risks of U.S. Action Against the Islamic State

    U.S. President Barack Obama’s four-pronged strategy against the Islamic State is fraught with trade-offs, risks, and hidden costs that need to be addressed.

  • Op-Ed CNN September 11, 2014
    Will U.S. End Up Playing “Whack-a-Mole”?

    The president's four-pronged strategy of airstrikes, support to local proxies, defending against ISIS attacks through intelligence and counter-terrorism, and humanitarian assistance leaves many unanswered questions.

  • Article August 27, 2014 عربي
    Backdrop to an Intervention: Sources of Egyptian-Libyan Border Tension

    Egypt and its Gulf backers need to end their harmful meddling in Libya’s affairs under the guise of counterterrorism. It is destabilizing both Libya and Egypt.

  • Op-Ed Washington Post July 28, 2014 عربي
    What’s Behind Libya’s Spiraling Violence?

    Libya is clearly entering a dangerous new phase, but conventional readings of its politics misdiagnose the problem and offer solutions that will fail or even make things worse.

  • Op-Ed International New York Times July 7, 2014 عربي
    Taking Sides in Libya

    To avoid throwing the country into further chaos, Libyans must focus on forging a consensus government, build security institutions, and recommit itself to a broad-based national reconciliation and the drafting of an equitable constitution.

  • Op-Ed Politico Magazine June 18, 2014 中文
    Obama’s Dangerous New Terror War

    It’s important to understand the limits of U.S. assistance: It can help build security institutions, but it cannot shape how those institutions are commandeered for personal, political, or communal aims.

  • Columbia University Press December 17, 2013
    Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings

    Although religious differences and regional influences play a role, the rise of sectarianism in the Gulf is ultimately rooted in longstanding problems of governance and elite manipulation of Sunni-Shia identities.

  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace April 17, 2013
    Perilous Desert: Insecurity in the Sahara

    The Sahara suffers from a perfect storm of weaknesses. Foreign assistance that relies exclusively on counterterrorism will only exacerbate the problems.

  • BBC World October 14, 2014
    The Fight Against the IS

    Empowering local partners on the ground is going to be a long-term challenge.

  • CNN September 16, 2014
    Can ISIS Be Destroyed?

    The real challenge is not necessarily stopping the Islamic State, but rather ensuring that it does not reemerge.

  • Bloomberg TV September 11, 2014
    The Biggest Challenges to Taking Down Islamic State

    The biggest challenge facing the United States in taking on the Islamic State will be going beyond degrading and attacking its military capabilities.

  • PBS Newshour September 8, 2014
    Can the Islamic State Group Be Destroyed?

    Much of the U.S. strategy towards Iraq will hinge on what goes on in Baghdad itself and the actions that the Iraqi government takes toward its own population.

  • Radio France International August 27, 2014
    UAE Airstrike on Libya Without U.S. Approval “a Very Big Deal”

    It is unusual for a U.S. ally to launch airstrikes without informing the United States.

  • PBS Newshour July 28, 2014
    Understanding the Complex Web of Conflict in Libya

    The real story of Libya is that there is no one faction that can really compel or coerce the others.

  • Carnegie Council May 28, 2014
    Sectarian Politics in the Gulf

    Sectarianism is a local institutional governance phenomenon that needs to be addressed through political reform in the Gulf, through ending discrimination, and through greater participation in governance.

  • PBS Newshour March 28, 2014
    What’s Behind the Widening Division Between U.S. and Saudi Arabia?

    The discord between Saudi Arabia and the United States stems from a series of disagreements about the way the Middle East is unfolding, including in Iran, Syria, and Egypt.

  • BBC World News America October 10, 2013
    Libya’s Security Situation

    Grievances against Libya’s Zeidan government by the militias are not ideological but rather reflect the government’s inability to deliver services, its lack of transparency, and the way Zeidan governs.

  • VOA Press Conference June 8, 2013
    On Libya and Saudi Arabia

    Post-Qaddafi Libya faces a number of significant challenges as it struggles to rein in militias and build political, economic, and security institutions.


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