Natali, Denise

Director, Center for Strategic Research

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Areas of Expertise:  Middle East; Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief; International Political Economy; Farsi (Conversant); French (Fluent); Kurdish (Fluent)

Dr. Denise Natali is the Director and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Strategic Research at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) where she specializes on the Middle East, Iraq, trans-border Kurdish issue, and post-conflict stabilization. Dr. Natali joined INSS in January 2011 as the Minerva Chair, following more than two decades of researching and working in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria.  

At INSS, Dr. Natali provides Middle East security analyses and strategic support to senior leaders at the Department of Defense, unified combatant commands, State Department, intelligence communities, and the broader national security community.  She is a subject matter expert and part of the Senior Advisory Group for the strategic assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in support of the Joint Staff, SOCCENT and CENTCOM.

Dr. Natali is the author of numerous publications, op-eds, and short analyses on Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Kurds, and countering ISIL.  Her books include; The Kurdish Quasi-State: Development and Dependency in Post-Gulf War Iraq and The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, which was the recipient of the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title (trans. to Turkish Kurtler ve Devlet: Iraq, Turkiye ve Iran’da Ulusal Kimligin Gelismesi). Dr. Natali is currently writing a second edition of The Kurds and the State to include chapters on Syria.

Dr. Natali also specializes in post-conflict relief, reconstruction, and stabilization.  She worked as the director of cross-border operations for a non-governmental organization in Peshawar, Pakistan (1989-1991), specialist for the American Red Cross Gulf Relief Crisis Project in Washington D.C., and information officer for the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, U.S Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort II (1993-1994).  Dr. Natali returned to post-Saddam Iraq (2005-2010), where she engaged in research, teaching, and university start-ups in the Kurdistan Region, including positions as Associate Professor, director of Research Institutes, and Dean of Students at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimaniya (AUI-S).

Dr. Natali received a Ph.D in political science at the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of International Affairs (MIA) at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a B.A. in government at Franklin&Marshall College. She has also studied at the L’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Tehran (Deh Khoda Language Program) and Tel Aviv University.  Dr. Natali speaks French (fluent) and conversational Kurdish and Farsi.

Dr. Natali provides frequent commentary on national and international media sources. She is an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and columnist for al-Monitor.

Recent Publications: