Nawaf Obaid

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Nawaf Obaid
نواف عبید
Nawaf Essam Ahmad Obaid
Alma materGeorgetown University

Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

University of London (King’s College)
Known forDiplomat, columnist, academic, philanthropist

Nawaf Essam Ahmad Obaid (Arabic: نواف عصام احمد عبید) is a political scientist, and a former Saudi Arabian foreign policy & media advisor. He currently serves as the CEO of the Essam & Dalal OBAID Foundation (EDOF) in Geneva,[1] a Commissioner at the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) in The Hague,[2] and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.[3]


Nawaf Obaid's family originate from Yanbu Al-Nakhal in the Medina Province (Saudi Arabia). They are distant cousins to the Moroccan royal family.

He is a grandson of Sayyid Ahmad Mohammed Obaid (born 1912), one of Saudi Arabia's leading technocrats and media publishers under the Kingdom's founding monarch, King Abdulaziz.[4] After the establishment of the Saudi Kingdom in 1932, King Abdulaziz named Sayyid Ahmad Obaid to various positions as the central authority of the emerging Saudi state began to expand over all the conquered territories of the founding monarch.

Sayyid Ahmad Obaid was initially named as the communications battlefield coordinator in King Abdulaziz military campaign in the Saudi-Yemeni War that culminated in the Treaty of Taif (1934) that officially incorporated Jizan, Asir, and Najran into modern Saudi Arabia. He was then named as a senior inspector in the Ministry of Finance directly reporting to King Abdulaziz's finance minister, Abdullah bin Suleiman Al Hamdan, and dispatched to the northern and southern border regions of the Kingdom to establish customs offices at the new Saudi entry points with Yemen, Kuwait, and Iraq. He was subsequently named as the Saudi financial & customs attache to pre-independence Kuwait (before formal diplomatic ties were established), then director general of the Finance Ministry, and when the first Saudi Council of Ministers was formed in 1953, he was named the deputy minister in the newly formed Agriculture Ministry to its first minister, former Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. After more than twenty years in public service, he retired in 1955.[5]

Sayyid Ahmad Obaid is widely credited for introducing the modern printing press into the Kingdom in 1955 by launching Al Riyadh Magazine.[5]

Nawaf Obaid's eldest uncle, Taher Ahmad Obaid, served as the deputy agriculture minister during the time of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. And his another uncle, Ibrahim Ahmad Obaid, served as the deputy Post, Telephone & Telegraph (PTT) minister during the time of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

He's also a nephew of Dr. Thoraya Obaid, the former United Nations Undersecretary for Population Affairs and former executive director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


During Obaid’s time at Harvard Kennedy School, he studied under American international relations theorists Graham Allison and Joseph Nye. Professor Nye served as the academic mentor and supervisor to Obaid while he wrote a controversial master’s thesis on US-Saudi relations.[8] Although Obaid was a student of Professor Nye, he subscribes to the neorealism school of thought in international relations theory and has been heavily influenced by eminent theorists Kenneth Waltz of Columbia University, Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, and Barry Posen and Stephen Van Evera of MIT.


Public career[edit]

Obaid started his public career in February 2003 by being named, alongside murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as a Special Advisor for Strategic Communications to the Saudi Ambassador to the UK and then to the US. Based between London and Washington DC, he held the position until December 2006.[9] Obaid is widely considered to having been an intimate friend of Khashoggi after working closely together for over fifteen years.[10] They had a significant falling out several months before the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul because, according to former French intelligence officials, Obaid discovered that Khashoggi was involved in several covert political initiatives to attempt to undermine Saudi domestic security.[11]

In December 2006, Obaid was fired from the staff of Prince Turki Al Faisal, then Saudi Ambassador to the United States, for publishing an opinion piece[12] in The Washington Post "contending that 'one of the first consequences' of an American pullout of Iraq would 'be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.'"[13] The article also suggested that the Kingdom could cut oil prices in half, which "would be devastating to Iran."[12] While the Saudi government disavowed the piece and Prince Turki Al Faisal cancelled his contract as a result, "Arab diplomats said...that Mr. Obaid's column reflected the view of the Saudi government, which has made clear its opposition to an American pullout from Iraq."[13]

Then, in February 2007, he became a Special Advisor to the President of Citizens Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, based between Riyadh and Jeddah. Leaving that position in January 2011, he shortly thereafter became the Counselor for Foreign Media Affairs to the Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin Khoja, then Saudi Minister of Culture and Information in Riyadh. In May 2011 he became the Counselor to Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf Al Saud, then Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom.[14] He held this position until January 2016.

From September 2014 up to the present, Obaid has also served as CEO of the Essam and Dalal Obaid Foundation (EDOF), based in Geneva, Switzerland.[15] EDOF was founded by Obaid and his two brothers to honour the humanitarian legacy of their parents. EDOF supports organizations that are doing important work in the fields of medical research and social progress in order to help them fulfill their already proven track record of success. Some of the projects that EDOF has supported include initiatives with the Mayo Clinic, the CNN Freedom Project, and the International Committee of the Red Cross,[16] among others. EDOF also funded the creation of the Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.[17]

Since April 2018, Obaid has been a Commissioner at the Commission for International Justice & Accountability (CIJA). CIJA is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation dedicated to conducting criminal investigations during armed conflict and analysing evidence of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. CIJA is apolitical and carries out its investigative activities independently from any government. Through its work CIJA provides support for local police forces, war crimes and counterterrorism investigations, and countering violent extremism (CVE) programmes.[18]

CIJA has been especially implicated in the Syrian civil war. Since 2012, CIJA Investigators have smuggled more than a million government documents out of Syria, many of them from top secret intelligence facilities. “The documents are brought to the group’s headquarters, in a nondescript office building in Western Europe, sometimes under diplomatic cover. There, each page is scanned, assigned a bar code and a number, and stored underground. A dehumidifier hums inside the evidence room; just outside, a small box dispenses rat poison.”[19]

The so-called “Assad Files” have allowed CIJA investigators and criminal lawyers to capture top secret intelligence and security reports and tie the Syrian regime to mass torture and killings, and crimes against humanity.[20]

For the past several years, CIJA has been at the receiving end of a massive covert Russian disinformation campaign to discredit it.[21] In 2021, the BBC revealed that CIJA operatives had unraveled a network of Russian informants within Britain's elite institutions of higher education. These academics, masquerading as members of the so-called "Syria Working Group" are aiding Russia's main intelligence services to wage a war of false news and alternative facts using conspiracy theories to justify their support for the Assad regime in Syria. As the BBC reported, "A British professor corresponded for months with a man called only "Ivan", seeking assistance to discredit an organisation [CIJA] that helps bring Syrian war criminals to justice. He also asked "Ivan" to investigate other British academics and journalists. The email exchange, seen by the BBC, reveals how, a decade on from the start of the Syrian conflict, a battle is still being waged in the field of information and misinformation."[22]

Academic career[edit]

Past Honoured Academic Appointments[edit]

  • May 2015 - May 2017 | Distinguished International Affairs Fellow at National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) in Washington, DC.
  • September 2014 - June 2017 | Senior Visiting Lecturer at Stirling University’s Division of History & Politics in Stirling, Scotland.

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ "Nawaf Obaid". Nawaf Obaid - Essam & Dalal Obaid Foundation.
  2. ^ "Nawaf Obaid |". Commission for International Justice and Accountability.
  3. ^ a b "Nawaf Obaid".
  4. ^ "أحمد عبيد محمد". 9 February 2021 – via Wikipedia.
  5. ^ a b "أحمد عبيد.. من أوائل من أدخلوا المطابع الأوتوماتيكية للمملكة". 3 November 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019.
  6. ^ "SAUDI ARABIA : HOW TO IMPROVE U.S. INTELLIGENCE - 02/07/1998". Intelligence Online. 2 July 1998.
  7. ^ "Nawaf Obaid - Research Portal, King's College, London".
  8. ^ "Saudis secretly funding Taliban". 22 September 2015. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022.
  9. ^ "Saudi Arabia's Emerging New Strategic Doctrine". Brandeis University.
  10. ^ Rubin, Barnett. "The Jamal Khashoggi I Knew".
  11. ^ "Barnett Rubin, ami de Jamal Khashoggi : "Il ne pouvait se taire pour sauver sa vie"". L'Obs. 22 October 2018.
  12. ^ a b Obaid, Nawaf (29 November 2006). "Nawaf Obaid – Stepping into Iraq". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  13. ^ a b Cooper, Helene. "Saudis Say They Might Back Sunnis if U.S. Leaves Iraq".
  14. ^ "Egypt no friend of the Gulf say prominent Saudis". Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. December 2015.
  15. ^ "Saudis, Russians and Italians: the murky world of Joseph Mifsud".
  16. ^ Org, EDOF. "Essam and Dalal Obaid Foundation Partners with the International Committee of the Red Cross". PR Newswire. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Dov'è Joseph Mifsud, il prof. del Russiagate?". Il Foglio (in Italian).
  18. ^ "The Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA)". BIRN. 18 December 2018.
  19. ^ Taub, Ben. "Exposing Assad's War Crimes". The New Yorker.
  20. ^ "Shame on the Arabs". Foreign Policy.
  21. ^ "The UK professor, a fake Russian spy and the undercover Syria sting". the Guardian. 28 March 2021.
  22. ^ "The UK professor and the fake Russian agent". BBC News. 26 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Nawaf Obaid Named Visiting Fellow with Belfer Center's Intelligence and Defense Projects".
  24. ^ "Saudi & GCC Security Project Series". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
  25. ^ "Obaid joins Belfer Center as visiting fellow". Harvard Gazette. 29 June 2012.
  26. ^ wgunning. "Nawaf Obaid". Al-Monitor.
  27. ^ "National Security in Saudi Arabia". Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  28. ^ "Nawaf Obaid". The Washington Institute.