Kristin Smith Diwan

Senior Resident Scholar

Kristin Smith Diwan is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She works in both comparative politics and international relations and specializes in Arab and Islamist politics. Her current projects concern Gulf political economy, the politics of sectarianism, generational change, and the evolution of Islamism in the GCC. Her analyses of Gulf affairs have appeared in many publications, among them Geopolitics, Middle East Report, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy.

Diwan was previously an assistant professor at the American University School of International Service where she still teaches in an adjunct capacity. She has held visiting scholar positions at both the George Washington University Institute for Middle East Studies and the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. From 2013-14 she served as a visiting senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Hariri Center for the Middle East where she published on youth movements and participated in the Strategic Dialogue for a New US-Gulf Partnership.

Diwan received her PhD in political science from Harvard University, and holds an MA in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She completed her undergraduate degree at Baylor University in Texas, her home state.

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Mohammed bin Salman’s Media Obsession – and What it Means for Dissent

Control over the media is central to the Saudi crown prince’s transformation program – and to Jamal Khashoggi’s death.

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Mohammed bin Salman’s Short Visit to Kuwait

Kuwait has made the strategic decision to deepen bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia, but navigating this critical relationship will be a challenge for the small emirate.

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The GCC is Becoming More – and Less – than the Sum of Its Parts

As the United States and its Gulf partners intensify deliberations toward convening a U.S.-Gulf summit once scheduled for May, all parties are adjusting to new objectives and a shifting strategic landscape.

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Saudi Arabia Sets Goals for Football On and Off the Pitch

New Saudi leadership has high hopes for economic and political payoffs tied to a heightened priority on football.

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Internal Political Realignment Targets Saudi Women Activists

On June 24, Saudi women will be allowed to operate their own cars, ending the ban on women driving and effecting a momentous change in the conservative kingdom.

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Saudi Nationalism Raises Hopes of Greater Shia Inclusion

The April 15 Arab League meeting in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia earned the name “the Jerusalem summit” due to the strong support Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and assembled Arab delegates declared for the Palestinian capital.

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Let Me Entertain You: Saudi Arabia’s New Enthusiasm for Fun

Social outings with mixed genders, open cinemas, and performing arts represent a dramatic reversal from the past when Saudis pursued their amusements in private or abroad. What explains the government’s new enthusiasm for fun?

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Jerusalem Declaration Unites – and Divides – the Gulf

The decision by U.S. President Donald J. Trump to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel elicited universal condemnation from Gulf Arab states.

In the Media

Diwan on Kuwaiti Youth

Speaking with Middle East Eye, Senior Resident Scholar Kristin Smith Diwan commented on Kuwaiti youth challenging conservative norms in political debates, as well as entertainment.

Diwan on Saudi Arabia

Speaking with Bloomberg and The New York Times, Senior Resident Scholar Kristin Smith Diwan commented on the Saudi government’s arrests of activists and business leaders.