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The Implications of a New President in Iran

September 18, 2021 05:28 PM
The newly elected president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, is the first hard-line conservative to take office since the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005–13). With Raisi as president, hard-line conservatives control each branch of the Iranian government - conservatives closely aligned with supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Hard-line conservative dominance of the government will likely mean that the negotiations with the United States, focused on a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, will become much more difficult. Iranian backing of regional militias, which have been problematic to United States interests, will almost certainly continue. Negotiations regarding the Iranian ballistic missile program will almost certainly not happen. Most importantly, regional disputes will likely become more contentious under a hardliner-controlled Iran.
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Monthly Archives: December 2020

The Aftermath of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s Death

June 26, 2021 09:03 PM
The killing of the Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was the latest event to escalate tensions in the Middle East between the US and Israel, and Iran. The head of the Iranian nuclear program was killed in his car in an ambush supposedly done by satellite-controlled machine guns near the Iranian capital, Tehran. The killing has naturally attracted widespread outcry from the international community. The European Union condemned it as a “criminal act” against human rights, and they and many other countries call for restraint.
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UAE-Iranian Relations

June 25, 2021 11:29 PM
The UAE’s primary goals in its relations with Iran are to avoid conflict and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Recently, the UAE has pursued these goals through a warming of relations with Iran. Traditionally however, the UAE pursued those goals by joining the Saudi-U.S.-led pressure campaign on Iran. Most notably, the UAE provided funds, air support, and thousands of troops to fight the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UAE also ardently supported the U.S. in its campaign to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and welcomed Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in favor of a more aggressive approach.
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Monthly Archives: February 2020

America and Iran Enter a New Phase of Outright Aggression

June 24, 2021 11:36 AM
For the past few decades, Iran and the United States have been locked in a political dance in which both states attempted to control the domestic, regional, and international politics of the Middle East. From the US using its allies to implement strong-arm tactics, like sanctions against Iran, to Iran inciting anti-American riots in Baghdad, to both states backing opposite sides in war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen, the two countries have favored using other nations to further their interests instead of using direct force against each other. However, the recent assassination of the powerful Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and his entourage in Iraq by the US military has moved this decades-long conflict between the two states from a proxy war into a new stage of outright aggression.
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Monthly Archives: August 2019

U.S.-Iran Relations

June 16, 2021 10:01 PM
US-Iran relations have grown increasingly troubled since the election of President Trump. Given the recent rhetoric from the current administration, some worry about the possibility of conventional armed conflict between the two states. Military maneuvers on both sides have postured the two nations for conflict despite some congressional efforts to prevent war. In June, an unmanned US drone was shot down in what Iran claimed was its airspace. President Trump accused Iran of “warmongering”[1] while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the drone had “violated Iranian airspace.”[2] In July, Iranian officials detained a British tanker in response to Britain’s detainment of an oil tanker in Gibraltar.[3]
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Monthly Archives: August 2019

U.S. Options on Iran

June 16, 2021 09:57 PM
This summer has been notably characterized by a heating up of tensions between the US and its allies, and Iran. President Trump’s hardline, “maximum pressure” approach against Tehran, which dates back to his withdrawal from the JCPOA in the spring of 2018, has been firm and constant. The US has imposed strict economic sanctions, sent 2,500 troops to the region, an aircraft carrier, and conducted cyber attacks, while Iran has shot down a US drone and allegedly attacked ships in the region.[1] Iran’s acts of aggression and recent breaches of sections of the JCPOA are primarily meant to coerce the US into lifting the series of economic sanctions it has enacted since its withdrawal from the accord.
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Syrian Violence Spreads to Lebanon and Iraq

April 27, 2021 10:41 AM
The Syrian civil war has escalated significantly in recent days. As the Syrian regime forces have begun a campaign to take back the strategic city of Qusayr, Sunni jihadists, among them the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in Iraq, have begun operations against Shi’ites in Lebanon and Iraq. These terrorist activities could spark protracted civil wars in both Lebanon and Iraq along sectarian lines.
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Cybersecurity: Closing the Back Door to America's Enemies

April 27, 2021 09:13 AM
On October 25, 2012, The New York Times published an eye-opening report on an extensive, billion-dollar business empire constructed by relatives of China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao. Three months later, the Times revealed it had been undergoing intense cyber attacks even before the report was publicly released. Cooperating with AT&T, the FBI, and a leading cybersecurity firm, the Times pinned the digital break-ins on Chinese hackers, adding that the Chinese military was likely involved.
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The Dangers of an Anxious Iranian Government Perceiving a ‘Psychological War’

April 26, 2021 06:29 PM
On Tuesday, President Ahmadinejad accused the United States and “internal enemies” of waging a “psychological war” against Iran in an attempt to stop Iranians from ditching the weakening rial for U.S. dollars. This “war” refers to the significant problems Iran faces, including the U.S.-led economic sanctions, a threatened Israeli military strike, and now internal protests. While this perceived psychological war against Iran has yet to turn into a physical conflict, the United States and Israel must be aware that increasing pressure may cause the Iranian military and government to act erratically, which may lead to Iranian military action.
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Is Deterrence a Viable Option for a Nuclear Iran?

April 26, 2021 05:33 PM
Iran’s nuclear program has again entered the spotlight of U.S. foreign policy debates in a election cycle in which foreign policy has taken the backseat. The current debates often result in three scenarios: 1) Iran gives up its nuclear program, 2) Israel (with or without U.S. assistance) makes a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, postponing Iran’s progress, or 3) The parties involved wait until Iran develops nuclear weapons and thus assure a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel. Essentially, these scenarios ultimately result in either Iran ending its nuclear program or an unavoidable war between Israel (and therefore the U.S.) and Iran. These scenarios leave no room for the possibility of a nuclear Iran without war.
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Israel's Next Step

April 22, 2021 06:50 PM
Next Monday the Prime Minister of Israel will arrive in Washington, D.C. for an important security meeting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The focus of the meeting will be the ever-rising threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli newspapers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will request that the U.S. deliver an explicit military threat to Iran following the meeting. On the other hand, White House reports say that the President will likely want more time for the current sanctions and diplomatic actions to take effect.
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The Iran-Al Qaeda Connection

April 22, 2021 06:29 PM
This past week has seen Al-Qaeda rise after a period of weakening and transition. After losing a number of its leadership, most notably Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, it was thought that the organization would be further crippled until it could no longer operate effectively. However its recent actions in Iraq, Somalia, and possibly even Syria demonstrate that Al-Qaeda is transitioning itself to regain a foothold in the Middle East. At the same time, Iran has been penalized by the U.S. Treasury for its support of Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, a district court in 2011 found Iran guilty of being linked to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania by Al-Qaeda. Although it has long been known that Iran is the largest state-backer of terrorism, this link to Al-Qaeda is especially important to understand the Iranian regime’s attempt to gain dominance in the Middle East.
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Buying Time

April 22, 2021 03:57 PM
Recently the European Union has been building up to the implementation of “crippling” new sanctions against the government of Iran. These new sanctions were finally revealed on January 23 and their primary focus is on limiting Iran’s oil export capability. Despite the strong rhetoric, these sanctions will not truly be effective in the short-term as they bar only new oil contracts with Iran while honoring current contracts until 1 July. Why are we seeing this apparent weakening of the economic hammer against Iran? Why not simply crush Iran into submission and force them into immediate negotiations? The basic answer is that the West is not capable of dealing effectively with Iran right now and needs more time to prepare.
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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Why Sudan Needs an Agreement Before Regional Powers Settle In

July 14, 2019 05:54 PM
The constant tumult in Sudan is keeping the international community on its toes. After months of protesting and violence, the military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir in April of this year and established a transitional military council. The TMC declared there would be a two-year transitional period after which the state would hold elections. Pro-democracy protests continued as demonstrators called for a civilian-led transitional body, citing that the TMC was no better than the previous regime they had fought to remove. On June 3, the TMC massacred hundreds of protestors and instituted an internet black out worse than any during al-Bashir’s rule. After another mass protest on June 30, the TMC and the civilian opposition began negotiating with the help of envoys from Ethiopia and the African Union. These negotiations led to an agreement on a joint sovereign council comprised of eleven members: five military, five civilian, and an unknown eleventh member. This council would govern for three years while organizing elections. The military will rule for the first 21 months, and the civilian government will assume control for the next 18 months. On Thursday, Sudan was rocked by another military coup, an attempt that was shortly foiled by security forces. Skeptics say the coup was fabricated by the military in order to pressure the civilian opposition group into signing the deal. This constant political flux works in the military’s favor, leaving civilians at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.
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Monthly Archives: January 2019

Iranian Dissident Groups in Europe: The Increasing Complexity of the MEK

January 28, 2019 01:56 PM
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Mojahedin-e Khalq), otherwise referred to as MEK, is a left-wing resistance party that aims to overthrow the current Iranian ruling regime. Born from various factions of dissident Iranian students in Tehran, the MEK has operated since the 1960s in various locations throughout Southwest Asia and, most recently, Europe. The group’s name, Mujahedin-e Khalq, roughly translates from Persian (Farsi) into “the People’s Holy Warriors.” With this notion, the MEK has consistently operated against the Iranian government to promote its often liberal-democratic agenda (Goulka 2).
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Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Iran Deal and its Related Sanctions

January 26, 2019 01:17 PM
One of the most persistent and enduring enemies of the United States is the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Formed in 1979 following mass protests against the repressive, U.S.-backed Shah, Iran’s government has proven itself to be a significant threat to both the US and its allies in the region (particularly the Sunni-dominated countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel). Moreover, the ideological underpinnings of the Islamic Republic, its strategic concerns, and its perennial drive to export its revolution using malicious proxies continue to influence its foreign policy (Hilal 2017; Central Intelligence Agency 1980; International Crisis Group 2018; Nasr 2007, 143).
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Syria Update August 2013: Part II

August 28, 2013 02:57 PM
The events in Syria in past weeks show that the civil war has transformed into a greater regional sectarian conflict. Because of the nuanced and complex nature of this conflict, a deeper look at many aspects is required for an adequate analysis. This analysis is the second of two parts. The first focused on al-Qaeda operations and Iranian influence in Syria; this second part focuses on the Balkanizing of the Syrian state, Kurdish autonomy, and the implications of potential US intervention in Syria after the large-scale use of chemical weapons.
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