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  • Author: Monica Duffy Toft, Dominic D.P. Johnson
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Badme region in the Horn of Africa is claimed by both Ethiopia and Eritrea. It contains few natural resources, and neither state considers it to have strategic value. As one local merchant put it, however, "It's territory, you know. We'll die for our country."
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iran, Ethiopia, Eritrea
  • Author: Keir A. Lieber, Daryl G. Press
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: For the last two decades, U.S. leaders have focused on the possibility of nuclear terrorism as a serious threat to the United States. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, those fears grew even more acute. In his State of the Union Address four months after the attacks, President George W. Bush warned a worried nation that rogue states “could provide [weapons of mass destruction] to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.” Both Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice amplified the president's warning in order to justify the war against Iraq. According to Rice, “Terrorists might acquire such weapons from [Saddam Hussein's] regime, to mount a future attack far beyond the scale of 9/11. This terrible prospect could not be ignored or wished away.” Such fears continue to shape policy debates today: in particular, advocates of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities often justify a strike based on the idea that Iran might give nu-clear weapons to terrorist groups. Even President Barack Obama, who as a senator opposed the war against Iraq, declared, “The American people face no greater or more urgent danger than a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon.” For U.S. leaders, the sum of all fears is that an enemy might give nuclear weapons to terrorists. But are those fears well founded?
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Iran
  • Author: Paul R. Pillar, James K. Sebenius, Michael K. Singh, Robert Reardon
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: James Sebenius and Michael Singh are to be commended for advocating rigor in the analysis of international negotiations such as the one involving Iran's nuclear program. Although they describe their offering as a neutral framework for analyzing any negotiation, they are not at all neutral regarding the negotiations with Iran; and they present conclusions that derive directly from specific substantive assumptions, especially about Iranian objectives. The authors repeatedly describe their assumptions as “mainstream,” implying that they are uncontroversial and that any differing ones are too extreme to be worth considering. For an assumption to reside within the mainstream of popular and political discourse about Iran, however, does not make it correct. Sebenius and Singh do something similar with assumptions about U.S. interests, while sliding silently between the descriptive and the prescriptive in a way that fails to contrast actual policies with possible ones that would be consistent with those interests. Many readers' principal takeaway from their article will be that a zone of possible agreement probably did not exist as of the time of their writing and probably will not exist unless the United States takes steps toward going to war with Iran. That answer, however, given the questionable assumptions on which it is based, is very likely wrong.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: James K. Sebenius, Michael K. Singh
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since assuming the presidency of the United States in January 2009, Barack Obama has tried both outreach and sanctions in an effort to halt Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapons capability. Yet neither President Obama's personal diplomacy nor several rounds of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-plus Germany (the "P5 1") nor escalating sanctions have deterred Tehran. Iran has not only continued but accelerated its nuclear progress, accumulating sufficient low-enriched uranium that, if further enriched, would be sufficient for five nuclear weapons. Consequently, as Iran makes major advances in its nuclear capabilities, speculation has increased that Israel or a United States-led coalition may be nearing the decision to conduct a military strike to disable Iran's nuclear program.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, France
  • Author: Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, Miranda Priebe
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The United States and its Persian Gulf allies have been increasingly concerned with the growing size and complexity of Iran's ballistic missile programs. At a time when the United States and its allies remain locked in a standoff with Iran over the latter's nuclear program, states around the Persian Gulf fear that Iran would retaliate for an attack on its nuclear program by launching missiles at regional oil installations and other strategic targets. An examination of the threat posed by Iran's missiles to Saudi Arabian oil installations, based on an assessment of Iran's missile capabilities, a detailed analysis of Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure, and a simulated missile campaign against the network using known Iranian weapons, finds no evidence of a significant Iranian missile threat to Saudi infrastructure. These findings cast doubt on one aspect of the Iranian threat to Persian Gulf oil while offering an analytic framework for understanding developments in the Iranian missile arsenal and the vulnerability of oil infrastructure to conventional attack.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Persia
  • Author: Miroslav Nincic
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Positive inducements as a strategy for dealing with regimes that challenge core norms of international behavior and the national interests of the United States ("renegade regimes") contain both promises and pitfalls. Such inducements, which include policy concessions and economic favors, can serve two main purposes: (1) arranging a beneficial quid pro quo with the other side, and (2) catalyzing, via positive engagement, a restructuring of interests and preferences within the other side's politico-economic system (such that quid pro quos become less and less necessary). The conditions for progress toward either purpose can vary, as can the requirements for sufficient and credible concessions on both sides and the obstacles in the way of such concessions. For renegade regimes, a primary consideration involves the domestic purposes that internationally objectionable behavior can serve. An examination of the cases of North Korea, Iran, and Libya finds that negative pressures have been relatively ineffective, suggesting that more attention should be given to the potential for positive inducements to produce better outcomes.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, North Korea, Libya
  • Author: Jeremy Pressman
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The administration of President George W. Bush was deeply involved in the Middle East, but its efforts did not advance U.S. national security. In the realms of counterterrorism, democracy promotion, and nonconventional proliferation, the Bush administration failed to achieve its objectives. Although the United States did not suffer a second direct attack after September 11, 2001, the terrorism situation worsened as many other countries came under attack and a new generation of terrorists trained in Iraq. Large regional powers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia did not become more democratic, with no new leaders subject to popular mandate. The model used in Iraq of democratization by military force is risky, costly, and not replicable. Bush's policy exacerbated the problem of nuclear proliferation, expending tremendous resources on a nonexistent program in Iraq while bolstering Iran's geopolitical position. The administration failed because it relied too heavily on military force and too little on diplomacy, disregarded empiricism, and did not address long-standing policy contradictions. The case of the Bush administration makes clear that material power does not automatically translate into international influence.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Egypt