As director for the Center for the Study of the Middle East at Indiana University, Istrabadi researches legal and political institution-building in countries transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. From 2004-07, Istrabadi served as “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, New York.” Prior to this diplomatic appointment, he served as a legal adviser to the Iraqi minister for foreign affairs during negotiations which recognized Iraq’s reassertion of its sovereignty. He was also the principal legal drafter of Iraq's interim constitution, the Law of Administration of the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period, and principal author of its Bill of Fundamental Rights.
Before contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq, Istrabadi spent 15 years as a practicing trial lawyer in the United States. He also served a Senior Legal Fellow for Legal Reform and Development in the Arab World at the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University's College of Law in Chicago
Istrabadi lectures on Iraq-related issues at universities and think tanks and appears frequently in national and international media.