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  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: In early May 2019, the United States announced it would deploy an aircraft carrier, B-52 strategic bombers, and a Patriot missile battery to the Gulf region, declaring it had received information that Iran intended to strike US targets or those of its allies, directly or through a proxy. The United States followed with a new round of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Iran
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: Although both the United States and Iran say they do not want a direct military confrontation, such escalation by the United States necessarily invites an Iranian response, particularly since Tehran is butting heads with US regional allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this new Transition 2017 paper, Institute expert Andrew J. Tabler argues that Syria remains de facto partitioned, making the establishment of safe zones in non-Assad-controlled areas the Trump administration's most expedient course of action. Moreover, it would further Washington's cause to drive a wedge into the country's Russia-Iran alliance, and both isolate and pressure the Assad regime. If Washington's objectives in Syria are to defeat U.S.-designated terrorist groups and stem the outflow of refugees, President Bashar al-Assad is under no circumstances the right person to entrust with these missions. Simply in practical terms, he lacks the manpower to retake and hold the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control any time soon, despite having sufficient support from Russia and Iran to maintain control in large parts of the country. But more important, Assad is an avowed adversary of the West, undeserving of its cooperation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil War, International Security, International Affairs, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek, Athanasios Manis
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This paper argues that the future political stability of Nineveh depends on a two-level normalisation. A potential agreement between competing local actors, such as Baghdad and Erbil, is not the only necessary condition to stabilise the area. It also requires that Turkey and Iran decide to desecuritise Nineveh to the extent that it ceases to play the role of a buffer zone in the Middle East regional security complex. This argument is underpinned by the close examination of Turkey’s and Iran’s involvement together with their respective local allies in Nineveh in the post-2014 period. Developments referring to the cases of Bashiqa, Shingal, Tal Afar, as well as activities in favour or against Mosul leaders’ post-Islamic State (IS) vision illustrate that Nineveh’s securitisation has transcended Iraq’s borders. All in all, Turkey and Iran are vying for greater influence in Nineveh, or at least attempting to ensure that it will not become a satellite area of a competing power. Partly through their direct diplomatic and military engagement, but most importantly through their military and economic support to their local allies, the two regional powers pursue their security and diplomatic goals. At the same time, their involvement in the area has compounded the friction between local actors. Accordingly, the paper argues that in order to avoid greater polarisation in Nineveh and prepare the ground for constructive negotiations in the post-IS environment, Turkey and Iran should work on institutionalising their relationship beyond trade. Working together on issues of security between them, but also specifically in Nineveh, would improve trust and confidence in their relationship and help overcome the catch-22.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey
  • Author: Hawraman Ali
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Iran and its opposition Kurdish groups have been involved in intermittent armed conflict for decades. Considering the new political realities of the region and the domination of US politics by the Republicans after the recent election, Iran should engage in dialogue with its Kurdish opposition parties.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iran, Kurdistan
  • Author: Joel Wuthnow
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute for National Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: China is poised to increase economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran as a result of sanctions relief under the recent Iran nuclear deal, though a close geopolitical alignment between the two states is unlikely. Sino-Iranian relations will remain limited by several enduring constraints, including China’s desire for positive ties with other states, its pursuit of energy diversification, and its need for regional stability. Renewed Chinese arms sales to Iran could constitute an emerging challenge for the United States. This could increase Iran’s antiaccess/ area-denial threat to U.S. military forces and create proliferation risks. U.S. officials should press Chinese interlocutors to avoid exporting advanced weapons, which could embolden Iran to conduct a more brazen foreign policy that would threaten China’s fundamental need for regional stability
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: China, Iran
  • Author: Brenda Shaffer
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In last week's State of the Union Address, President Obama threatened to veto new legislation affecting five issues, four of them in the domestic policy arena and just one covering foreign policy. The foreign policy issue in question involved the prospect of new sanctions legislation targeting Iran. Correspondingly, the administration has recently ramped up efforts to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran.
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: While the threat of an immediate escalation between Israel and Hizballah appears to have subsided after deadly tit-for-tat attacks, the trend lines suggest greater conflict ahead In an important and ominous speech on January 30, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah created, in effect, one long front against Israel that now includes Syria and the Golan Heights as well as Lebanon, increasing the potential for conflict with Israel Iran is no longer moving in the shadows but rather is openly coordinating strategy with its proxy Hizballah as the two seek to strengthen and expand 'the resistance' against Israel All parties involved have specific reasons to avoid a near-term conflict-the upcoming Israeli elections, ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, Hizballah's commitments in Syria-but shifting regional power dynamics will only increase the likelihood of serious fighting between them.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Outside of its own borders, Iran now has significant proxy presence and influence in four countries encompassing 1.1 million square kilometers and 82 million people, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon It has done this by leveraging tactical decisions made by other countries into its own strategic expansion; from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen, Iran is taking advantage of the short-term actions of others in its long-term plan The complete collapse of the U.S.-aided Yemeni president and the associated counterterrorism and military support is just the latest example of measures intended to address immediate pressures, which ultimately benefit Iran-all while U.S. airstrikes support Iraqi and Iranian militias in Tikrit against the immediate threat of the Islamic State It's not that Iranian leaders are all-knowing, masterful chess players but rather that the Middle East has for decades been a battlefield of ad hoc stability measures by numerous countries that have enabled Iran to steadily project power, to the extreme concern of countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has now launched airstrikes in Yemen.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iraqi security forces, which include more Shi'a militia than Iraqi army personnel, have retaken nearly all of Tikrit, with Islamic State fighters still holding out in the center of the city The tomb of former dictator Saddam Hussein was destroyed during the fighting; the Islamic State is placing the blame on Shi'a militia while the Iraqi government says Islamic State fighters were responsible It is unlikely that the destruction of the tomb will rally many Sunnis to the Islamic State's cause, though it doesn't help lower sectarian tensions; it will be far more destructive if sectarian fighting follows the fall of Tikrit and other towns The Islamic State will seek every opportunity to turn this conflict into a repeat of Saddam's 1980-1988 war on Iran, where the Iraqi Sunni battle the Shi'a of both countries; only if the Shi'a militia oblige the group by perpetrating atrocities and oppression towards the Sunni population they liberated will this be achievable.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran
  • Author: Jean-Francois Seznec
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Despite the sectarian barbs traded between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Iran's unique ability to meet the kingdom's fast growing demand for electricity may help spur a reconciliation, according to the Atlantic Council's Jean-François Seznec. In his report Crude Oil for Natural Gas: Prospects for Iran-Saudi Reconciliation, Seznec argues that the two dominant energy producers do not necessarily need to see their energy production as competition. Saudi Arabia's currently fuels its stunning 8 percent annual rise in demand for electricity with precious crude oil due to little low cost domestic natural dry gas reserves. Iran's vast gas reserves could be used to meet the kingdom's growing needs, but after decades of punishing sanctions its dilapidated gas fields need an estimated $250 billion in repairs. If Saudi Arabia used its investment power or buying power to help revitalize Iran's gas industry, it would both secure the energy it needs to meet its citizens' demands and free up its crude oil for export. While the sectarian rhetoric hurled back and forth may seem unstoppable and the timeline for reconciliation may be long, Seznec contends that both sides are rational at heart and highlights that that the benefit of economic cooperation on energy issues could open up better relations on a range of issues.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Natural Resources
  • Political Geography: Iran, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Bilal Y. Saab, Barry Pavel
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: President Barack Obama's summit meeting with Gulf leaders at Camp David on May 14 will end in failure if the administration does not propose a substantial upgrade in US-Gulf security relations that is as bold and strategically significant as the nuclear agreement–and likely formal deal–with Iran. While the summit will not suddenly eliminate mistrust and resolve all differences, it presents an historic opportunity to put back on track a decades-old US-Gulf partnership that has served both sides and the region well, yet lately has experienced deep turbulence. Failure to strengthen these ties will have consequences, the most dramatic of which could be the acceleration of the regional order's collapse. In a March 2015 Atlantic Council report entitled Artful Balance: Future US Defense Strategy and Force Posture in the Gulf, we made the case for a mutual defense treaty between the United States and willing Arab Gulf partners. In this issue in focus, we offer a more comprehensive and detailed assessment of the risks, concerns, benefits, and opportunities that would be inherent in such a treaty. We recommend a gradualist approach for significantly upgrading US-Gulf security relations that effectively reduces the risks and maximizes the benefits of more formal US security commitments to willing Arab Gulf states.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iran, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Jacob Stokes, Nicholas Heras
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: With nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States restarting today, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Middle East Security Program Director Ilan Goldenberg, CNAS Bacevich Fellow Jacob Stokes, and CNAS Middle East Program Research Associate Nicholas Heras have produced a new policy brief on potential cooperation with Iran in the wake of a nuclear deal. The authors argue any thawing of the relationship would face tremendous challenges.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Erzsébet N. Rózsa
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: On July 14, 2015 the so-called P 5 + 1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) concluded a historic deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The present paper argues that the Iranian nuclear program and the international controversy over it are derivatives of both the experimental model of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its behaviour, in which it acts as an empire.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: James Andrew Lewis
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Gulf has become a flashpoint for cyber conflict. Cyberspace has become an arena for covert struggle, with the United States, Israel and other nations on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other. Iran has far outpaced the GCC states in developing its cyber capabilities, both for monitoring internal dissent and deploying hackers to disrupt or attack foreign targets. Several such attacks over the past two years were likely either directed or permitted by Iranian state authorities. Even if Iran holds back from offensive actions as nuclear talks progress, the growth in Iranian capabilities remains a potential security threat for other Gulf states. The GCC countries have begun to develop their defensive capabilities, but they will need to expand their defenses and collaborate more effectively to deter future threats.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Defense Policy, Development, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Since Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, it has been only the world's second Shi'ite-led state after Iran. Azerbaijan respects separation of mosque and state, and despite pressure from its neighbors, remains independent from political domination. Given its strategic importance, safeguarding the country's independence remains a US priority. And the threat from Iranian meddling is particularly acute. From Tehran's perspective, the combination of Azerbaijan's pre-19th-century Iranian past, modern Azerbaijan's embrace of secularism, and its relative economic success challenge Iran's legitimacy. As Iranian authorities have sought to undermine and destabilize Azerbaijan through political, clerical, charitable, and media channels, Azerbaijan's counterstrategy has been both restrained and effective.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Sovereignty, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Steven Blockmans, Luigi Scazzieri
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies
  • Abstract: On January 20th, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had been implementing its commitments as part of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed by the E3+3 in Geneva on November 24th of last year. In particular, the Agency confirmed that Iran had not installed new centrifuges, that it had stopped enriching uranium above 5%, that it had disabled connections between cascades being used to enrich up to 20%, and that it had begun the process of diluting half of its stockpile of 20%, while the other half is to be converted to oxide over the next six months. Over the next six months, the IAEA will continue to monitor Iranian enrichment, and activities at Arak, Fordow and Natanz. Immediately following the IAEA announcement, the US and EU suspended some of the sanctions currently imposed on Iran. Sanctions relief, quantified at $7 billion, comprises both the suspension of some sanctions and the repatriation of $4.2 billion of oil revenues in tranches.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, International Cooperation, International Organization, Treaties and Agreements, International Security, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's proxy groups have been working closely with Iraqi government forces for some time and will likely become more important to Baghdad in light of recent events.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Nima Gerami
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's compartmented nuclear program and fears of sabotage have complicated efforts to address IAEA concerns about the program's suspected military side.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Franklin D. Kramer, Melanie J. Teplinsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Cyber has become the new conflict arena. It ranks as one of the greatest national security challenges facing the United States for three reasons. First, as the revelations about the National Security Agency's (NSA's) activities suggest, cyber offense has far outpaced cyber defense. Second, cyber capabilities are prevalent worldwide and increasingly are being used to achieve the strategic goals of nations and actors adverse to the United States. Third, it is highly unlikely that cyber espionage and other cyber intrusions will soon cease. While the NSA disclosures focus on the United States and the United Kingdom, there is little doubt that China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and others are engaged in significant cyber activities. The fundamental question is whether the cyber realm can, consistent with the national interest, be made more stable and secure.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, North Korea
  • Author: Kenneth Katzman
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Since the seizure of US hostages in Iran following the 1979 revolution, the US government has imposed a succession of economic penalties against the Islamic Republic. The complexity and severity of these sanctions intensified following Iran's resumption of a uranium enrichment program in 2006. However, there are a variety of ways to provide extensive sanctions relief should there be a deal placing long-term restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties ha d made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran's enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial- scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Economics, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Iran, Middle East, France
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iran is attempting to link greater cooperation against the so-called Islamic State (IS) organization to concessions by the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program Iran and the P5+1 remain far apart on the core issue of Iran's uranium enrichment program, increasing the likelihood that the talks will be extended beyond the current deadline of November 24 Iran requires a nuclear deal to satisfy public expectations and to increase its influence on regional events, including the US-led effort against IS A key Iranian goal is to dissuade the coalition from expanding the anti-IS campaign to include destabilizing the Assad regime in Syria.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, Middle East, France, Germany, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: As if sustaining an effective coalition against the anti-Islamic State coalition weren't complicated enough, increasingly open Iranian support for Syrian and Iraqi Kurds has the potential to further destabilize the situation Geopolitical machinations have excluded Iran from the international coalition but geographical realities will ensure the country has a significant role to play in the future of both Iraq and Syria Iran is seeking to leverage its support for the Kurds as a way to bolster its beleaguered ally in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, and increase Iranian influence in Kurdish regions at the expense of Turkey and the West Overt Iranian support for the Kurds-while reaffirming support for Assad-will further stress the coalition, inevitably increasing sectarian tensions among members already grumbling that Assad and not IS is the true enemy; all while the West remains focused on IS and how to avoid entanglement in Syria As a sign of Iran's surprising Kurdish influence, Turkish and Iranian officials met on October 9 to discuss the unfolding events in Kobani, remarkable in that neither country is a member of the coalition but both hold most of the cards to resolve the immediate crisis.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Kroenig
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: US President Barack Obama has called the international dispute over Iran's advanced nuclear program "one of the leading security challenges of our time." Fitting for a problem of this magnitude, analysts have thoroughly examined the major policy options for addressing the challenge, including most notably, diplomacy, containment, and military strikes. Lost in this focus on the broad policy options to prevent or deal with a nuclear-armed Iran, however, is the acknowledgement that Iran already possesses a latent nuclear weapons capability and that this capability poses several threats to international peace and security at present. Moreover, it is almost certain that Iran will retain such a capability in the short to medium term regardless of how the nuclear diplomacy progresses-and even if the international community and Iran agree to a "comprehensive" nuclear deal. Rather than an exclusive focus on broad strategies for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, therefore, it would also be prudent to identify and mitigate against the challenges posed by Iran's extant latent nuclear capability, a capability that will likely remain in place even if Washington's policy of prevention is successful.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Amid electoral boycotts and continued concerns about ISIS and Iran, King Hamad has reappointed a prime minister whom Washington regards as an impediment to political progress.
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Bahrain
  • Author: Patrick Clawson, Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Implementing a nuclear agreement will be no easier than reaching one, and Washington will have little influence over what Iran decides to do over time about the deal.
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Olli Heinonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: While the purpose of multilateral negotiations with Iran is to reduce proliferation concerns, successful talks may in fact accelerate nuclear plans in the Gulf states and Jordan.
  • Political Geography: Iran, Jordan
  • Author: Boaz Ganor, Hussain Abdul-Hussain
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A detailed discussion of the various factors fueling or constraining chaos on Syria's borders, including Arab tribal politics, Israeli security calculations, Iranian-Hezbollah military strategy, and a seemingly hesitant U.S.-led air campaign.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Israel, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the Iran deadline approaches, violence flares up in Jerusalem, and respective election cycles ebb and flow, U.S. and Israeli officials will need to work harder than ever to manage bilateral tensions. In the coming weeks, a number of foreign and domestic developments will affect U.S. and Israeli policy, with each potentially testing the already tense bilateral relationship. One key date is November 24, the deadline for negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. President Obama has publicly said there is a "big gap" between the parties, making the prospects of a breakthrough unclear, but high-level U.S., EU, and Iranian envoys have completed two days of talks in Oman in a bid to reach such a breakthrough. If a deal is in fact made and the terms are not to Israel's liking, then the war of words with Washington may resume on this very sensitive issue.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Israel, Oman
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The death of Sultan Qaboos with no clear successor would jeopardize U.S.-Iran diplomatic contacts, the latest of which will be the meeting tomorrow in Muscat between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. On November 5, the Omani state television channel broadcast a video of seventy-three-year-old Sultan Qaboos bin Said, currently undergoing medical treatment in Germany. He greeted Omanis in anticipation of their national day, November 18, and expressed regret that he would not be back in Oman for the celebrations. No information has been given on what is wrong with the ruler but, though his voice was strong, he looked emaciated and frail. An unnamed diplomat in Muscat, the Omani capital, had been quoted in August as saying Qaboos has colon cancer.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Germany, Oman
  • Author: Daryl Press, Keir A. Lieber
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Nuclear terrorism is often described as the single biggest threat to U.S. national security. The fear is that a hostile state could surreptitiously transfer a nuclear weapon or fissile material to a like-minded terror group, thus orchestrating a devastating attack on the United States or its allies while remaining anonymous and avoiding retaliation. This fear served as a key justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and it helps drive current arguments in favor of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In a region that recently has produced virtually nothing but bad news, Hassan Rouhani's 4 August swearing in as Iran's president offers a rare and welcome glimmer of hope. There are still far more questions than answers: about the extent of his authority; his views on his country's nuclear program, with which he long has been associated; and the West's ability to display requisite flexibility and patience. But, although both sides can be expected to show caution, now is the time to put more ambitious proposals on the table, complement the multilateral talks with a bilateral U.S.-Iranian channel and expand the dialogue to encompass regional security issues.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Democratization, Diplomacy, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Nusbaum
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Nuclear research reactors are used in many countries for many different purposes. Most of the reactors are used for research (mainly in physics), training for nuclear operators and engineers, materials testing in radiation conditions, or the production of radioiso¬topes for medicine and industry. Some countries, like Iran, are building new reactors ostensibly to fill these needs. Many of these reactors operate with highly enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear fuel — in most cases, enriched to around 90 percent, the same as fuel for nuclear weapons. The production and fabrication of HEU fuel, and the handling, transport, and storage of both fresh and spent fuel containing HEU entails considerable proliferation, security, and safety risks as well as very high costs. The global stockpile of highly enriched uranium was about 1500 tons in 2012, which was enough for more than 60,000 simple, first gen¬eration implosion weapons. About 98 percent of this material is held by the nuclear weapon states, with the largest HEU stockpiles in Russia and the United States.
  • Topic: Security, Education, Energy Policy, Health, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran
  • Author: Rouzbeh Parsi
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: When the 2009 presidential election in Iran went awry, and its aftermath rocked the authority and legitimacy of the system (nezam), it seemed that nothing could bring the Islamic Republic back to normalcy. Back then, the next presidential elections looked far away and beyond anyone's ability to imagine. Yet, for all other things that can be said about the Islamic Republic, it has insistently and regularly held its presidential polls, wars and political crises notwithstanding. And now, in 2013, we are yet again trying to grapple with the complicated game of politics in Tehran as the official campaign has started. Doubts exist about how many citizens will actually go to the polls this time (it was a remarkable 80 per cent in 2009), but the fact that - on 14 June - presidential elections are to be held in conjunction with local and city council votes may increase the chances of a decent voter turnout.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Tehran
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Kuwait is perhaps America's closest Arab ally; it remains the only country in the Middle East on whose behalf the United States went to war. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has at times tried to leverage Kuwait's large Shi'ite minority against the Kuwaiti state, it has mostly been unsuccessful. Indeed, Kuwait's Shi'ite ­community has repeatedly worked to prove its loyalty to Kuwait. Recent political instability, however, is again opening the door for sectarian forces to undermine Kuwait and, by extension, an important pillar of US defense strategy.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Defense Policy, Islam, Bilateral Relations, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Aki Peritz
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: The U.S. is currently leading a multinational effort to squeeze Iran and force them to give up its weapons program. Here's how to make the case for that approach and why it makes sense: A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Sanctions are working—they are wrecking the Iranian economy—but they need more time to have their full impact. We can blunt Iran's capabilities by strengthening our allies' missile defense systems. Military strikes now could exacerbate the problem, but all options must remain on the table.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, North America
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Jason Healey
  • Publication Date: 07-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When most people think of the "military option" against Iran, they imagine a US attack that takes out Iran's most important known nuclear facilities at Natanz, Fordow, Arak, and Isfahan. They expect Iran to retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, sending missiles into Israel, and/or supporting terrorist attacks on US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Richard LeBaron
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Tension between the United States and its partners in the Gulf flared up visibly in the last several months, notably with Saudi Arabia's public displays of displeasure with the US approach to the Syria conflict, nervousness about an interim nuclear deal with Iran, and sharp differences over Egypt. Gulf distrust of US intentions and actions is nothing new, and is in no small part rooted in the Gulf states' deep frustration with how the United States executed the war in Iraq, which they perceive as placing Iraq under Iran's sphere of influence. But these latest tensions also point to a fundamental gap in expectations about the US role in the region and its commitment to security for the Gulf states.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Fatemah Aman
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When compared to its often rocky relations with Arab countries to the west, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to retain largely cordial ties with its neighbors to the east. Historic linguistic, religious, and cultural connections have helped Iran keep its influence in South Asia and become a key trading partner despite US-led sanctions. Because of its strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, Iran provides India with access to Afghanistan and Central Asia that does not require transit through Pakistan. However, Iran and its neighbors, including Pakistan, face acute challenges such as scarce and poorly managed water resources, ethnic insurgencies, energy imbalances, and drug trafficking that require regional solutions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Iran, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Arabia, North America, Persia
  • Author: Philip K. Verleger
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The United States has initiated new sanctions against Iran aimed at preventing it from collecting revenue from exports of crude oil. The European Union has followed, embargoing all imports of Iranian crude from July 1, 2012 and preventing any firms from entering into new contracts to import Iranian oil after January 23, 2012. The new US and EU sanctions could be the most draconian in many years. If implemented fully, US sanctions would force trading partners to choose between the United States and Iran. EU sanctions would cut Iran off from an important market. These sanctions, while reducing Iranian income, could pose a very serious economic threat to countries that have significant trade with the United States and/or import significant quantities of oil from Iran.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Oil, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Hanna Ojanen, Barbara Zanchetta
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The increasing tension around the Iranian nuclear programme and the uncompromising positions of the protagonists have made the goal of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East seem utopic. Yet, the current strategy of maintaining a low profile in the discussions on the zone, while keeping the focus exclusively on Iran, is not likely to lead to progress. Instead, combining the Iranian question with the zone and enlarging the content and scope of the negotiations even further by including Iran's neighbours could be a better strategy. Turkey could play a key role because of its unique relations with Iran, and because of its strong quest for a more prominent international position — if it can only strike the right balance between the role of lead actor and team player. Turkish-Iranian relations could notably inspire the consideration of accompanying pragmatic agreements on regional cooperation in other fields as a way forward for the upcoming Middle East disarmament negotiations in Finland.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Finland
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Yasmin Alem
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: As the nuclear standoff between Iran and much of the rest of the world deepens, Iranian domestic politics are in turmoil. Trying to reduce endemic conflict within the system, the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has succeeded in recent years in expelling discordant voices and closing off institutional loopholes for dissent.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Mohammed ElBaradei
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: "For years, the West has bought Mr. Mubarak's demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood lock, stock and barrel, the idea that the only alternative here are these demons called the Muslim Brotherhood who are the equivalent of Al Qaeda's... I am pretty sure that any freely and fairly elected government in Egypt will be a moderate one, but America is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression."
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Israel, Arabia, Egypt, Vienna
  • Author: Shirin Pakfar
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The European Union has a unique opportunity to prove its relevance as a global foreign policy actor through resolving the international community's standoff with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Using its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and its member states, the EU should utilize its powerful trade and energy ties with Tehran to embark on a dialogue with the regime that goes beyond the nuclear programme and addresses a broader set of issues of mutual concern.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Tehran
  • Author: Emile Hokayem
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The unrest in Syria offers the Gulf States an opportunity to weaken or even dislodge an Assad regime aligned with Iran, but their ability to project power or shape events in Syria is limited. Dislike of the Assad regime doesn't necessarily align Gulf interests and long-term vision for Syria. Moreover, cooperation on diplomacy and strategy is lacking. Sectarianism, most evidenced in media commentary and clerical statements, is already a major feature of Gulf discourse on Syria. Parts of the Syrian opposition have approached and have been courted by Gulf governments. Still, a degree of unease and mistrust continues to define their relations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Annie Tracy Samuel
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This policy brief seeks to contribute to and inform the debate concerning a possible attack by the United States and/or Israel on Iranian nuclear and military facilities. The presumed aim of such an attack would be to weaken the Islamic Republic, particularly by hindering its ability to build a nuclear weapon. However, the history of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in September 1980 calls into question the contention that an attack will weaken the regime in Tehran. This policy brief examines Iran's reactions to the Iraqi invasion in order to shed light on Iran's possible reactions to a U.S. or Israeli attack. It will assess how the Iranian people responded to the invasion and its effects on Iranian politics and the position of the new regime. It will also explore the nature of the policies adopted by the Islamic Republic in waging the Iran-Iraq War that carried on for eight years after the Iraqi invasion.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Barbara Slavin
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The broadest and toughest sanctions regime imposed on any country except Libya has not convinced Iran's leaders to abandon a program that appears aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Instead of seeking even more crippling economic penalties—such as an oil embargo—that would fracture the international consensus on Iran, the United States should tighten implementation of measures already in force and enact more sanctions linked to human rights, which have a wide constituency in Europe and demonstrate to the Iranian people that international concerns extend beyond nuclear weapons. The U.S. should also work with its diplomatic partners to craft new proposals that would couple acceptance of limited uranium enrichment with rigorous international monitoring, and encourage China, Iran's major trading partner, to use its leverage in support of nonproliferation.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran
  • Author: Barbara Slavin
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: For a country that has been accumulating nuclear know-how since the Eisenhower administration, Iran has hardly been sprinting toward a bomb. Indeed, repeated prognostications that Tehran was on the verge of becoming a nuclear power have a Chicken Little quality: The sky did not fall over the past decade, and it seems unlikely to do so for the next year or two or three. Still, Iran has made steady progress accumulating the elements and expertise required to make nuclear weapons, and it would be naive and irresponsible to discount what appears to be a cottage industry of piecemeal proliferation.
  • Topic: Security, Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Barbara Slavin
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Sanctions and China's growing economic clout have altered Iran's trading patterns in ways that are reducing Iran's access to hard currency but may also be insulating the Iranian government and political elite from further US unilateral pressures.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia