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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded solutions to enduring geopolitical problems
Director of the Westphalia for the Middle East project

Ali Ansari is Director of the Westphalia for the Middle East project at the Centre for Geopolitics, and the Professor in Modern History with reference to the Middle East at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where he is also the founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies. He is Senior Associate Fellow at RUSI and currently AHRC/ESRC Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the FCO. Professor Ansari is a regular contributor to the international media on political developments in Iran, and has widely published on the history of Iran.

Dr Michael  Axworthy
Founding Director of the Westphalia for the Middle East project

Dr Michael Axworthy (26 September 1962 - 16 March 2019) was the founding director of the 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' project at the Forum on Geopolitics.
Michael was a historian of Iran, and published widely on this subject, in the form of both important books and articles. He was also a frequent contributor to print and broadcast media. His books include The Sword of Persia: Nader Shah, from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant; Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran; Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic; Iran: what everyone needs to know; and as editor, Crisis, collapse, militarism and civil war: the history and historiography of 18th century Iran.
After years at the FCO, including two years as head of the Iran section, he switched to an academic career, teaching Middle East history at Durham and Exeter, where he became Director of the Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies. In 2017 he was a Visiting Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and in the following year became a Senior Research Associate at that college. From late 2015 onwards he launched the Westphalia for the Middle East project at the Forum on Geopolitics, together with Prof. Brendan Simms and Dr Patrick Milton, and remained a crucial intellectual and practical driving force behind that undertaking, co-writing the project’s chief output, the book Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East at the end of 2018.

Director of the Cambridge Initiative on Religion & International Studies and the Director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy.

Judd Birdsall is the Director of the Cambridge Initiative on Religion & International Studies and the Director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy. He is also an Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. He is based at the Centre for Geopolitics and Grand Strategy.

A former diplomat, Birdsall served in the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff. He was also the founding chair of the Department’s Forum on Religion & Global Affairs, a leadership role for which he received a Meritorious Honor Award. In 2010 he coordinated the compilation of the Religious Engagement Report, a global and whole-of-government survey commissioned by the President. His doctoral thesis at Cambridge explored American religious engagement since 9/11.

Birdsall is the editor-in-chief of Religion & Diplomacy, an editorial fellow and a frequent contributor at The Review of Faith & International Affairs, and his op-eds have appeared in the Washington PostForeign PolicyChristianity Today, Guardian, and Huffington Post.

Barry Colfer
Research Fellow, St Edmund’s College and the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

Barry is a Research Fellow at St Edmund’s College and the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). His research interests include: the implications of Brexit for Ireland, the politics of European integration and the future of work. Barry holds a PhD from POLIS and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Oxford, Harvard University and the Polytechnic University of Turin.

In 2021-2022 Barry will hold a prestigious Max Weber postdoctoral fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, where he will undertake research into the state of European social democracy. Barry has worked previously at Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament), at the European Parliament and with a range of leading think-tanks.

Senior University Lecturer

John Nilsson-Wright (formerly Swenson-Wright) is senior university lecturer at Cambridge University and an official fellow at Darwin College; he also is concurrently senior research fellow for Northeast Asia and Korea Foundation Korea Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House. He was head of the Chatham House Asia Programme from March 2014 to October 2016 and is a graduate of Christ Church and St. Antony’s College, Oxford and SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on Cold War history focusing on US-Japan alliance ties, and the contemporary international relations and politics of Northeast Asia, with reference to Japan and the Koreas. In his policy work, he focuses on regional security and the changing nature of alliance relations in East Asia, and at Chatham House he coordinates a project on Korea’s regional and global role, having recently completed a similar study on UK-Japan relations.  He is currently writing a monograph on populism and identity politics as a contemporary and historical phenomenon in both Europe and Northeast Asia.

 Timothy   Less
Lead Researcher, Disintegration in Europe
Member of Darwin College

Timothy Less is the lead researcher at the Centre for Geopolitics’ project on Disintegration Studies. His research focuses on the breakdown of the existing political order in Europe, the forces driving this process and the new political order. He is currently launching a programme of research into the Balkans as the current settlement in the region comes under growing stress. This builds on his doctoral research into the question of Bosnia’s survival as a state.

Outside CfG, Tim works as a consultant specialising in the politics of eastern Europe and speaks and writes frequently on European politics in the media. Prior to this, he spent a decade working as an analyst, diplomat and policymaker at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office where, among other things, he ran the British Embassy Office in Banja Luka (Bosnia) and the EU Institutions department in London. He is also a former lecturer in Eastern European Politics at the University of Kent and a former risk analyst for the financial sector.

Dr Patrick   Milton
Research Fellow, Peterhouse

Patrick Milton is a Research Fellow at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, as part of the Westphalia for the Middle East project, and an Affiliated Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies. He co-teaches an MPhil course on the History of European Geopolitics, 1453-1871, together with Prof. Brendan Simms. His research interests include the history of intervention for the protection of foreign subjects in early modern central Europe, the political and constitutional history of the Holy Roman Empire, early modern international relations, and the impact of the Peace of Westphalia with an emphasis on its guarantee. At the Forum on Geopolitics, he works on the Westphalia project, which seeks to draw lessons from the treaties of Westphalia (1648) for a new peace settlement for the Middle East. He was previously a visiting fellow at the Leibniz-Institute of European History, Mainz, and a postdoctoral fellow at Freie Universität Berlin. He holds a PhD and a BA in History from the University of Cambridge, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Warwick. His work has been awarded the German History Society/Royal Historical Society Postgraduate Essay Prize.

 Suzanne   Raine
Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University

Suzanne Raine is an Affiliate Lecturer at the Centre for Geopolitics at Cambridge University. She served for 24 years in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on foreign policy and national security issues.  This included postings in Poland, Iraq and Pakistan.  She specialised in counter-terrorism, holding a number of senior domestic appointments including Head of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre from 2015-2017 and was  a senior member of the UK government assessment community.  She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Imperial War Museum and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). 

Visiting Scholar, POLIS, Centre for Geopolitics

Christian Schultheiss is a visiting scholar at the Department of Politics and International Studies, based at the Centre for Geopolitics. His research focuses on maritime disputes, security arrangements and institution-building in the Indo-Pacific. He completed a PhD in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge about the negotiation processes between China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, ASEAN and further claimant states in the East and South China Sea disputes. He has regional experience from various academic and think tank positions in East and Southeast Asia. He also published peer-reviewed articles on legal aspects of East Asia’s maritime disputes. He is a regular advisor to the EU on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, on the East and South China Sea disputes as well on the disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.