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  • 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: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day, the Department of Defense will provide informal notification of the U.S. intention to sell up to $60 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The likely deal is part of a U.S. commitment predating the Obama administration to strengthen regional allies in the face of a growing threat from Iran. For the Saudis, the transaction represents a clear return to considering the United States as its principal arms supplier, a position the Americans risked losing to France as recently as 2006.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Patrick Clawson, Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: While the United States is concentrating on the G-20 summit and the October 1 meeting with the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Iranian attention has been focused on the potentially destabilizing protests planned for September 18, Quds Day. This critical difference of agenda -- with Iran focused more on its domestic turmoil than on simmering international issues -- will be a major complicating factor in negotiations between the international community and Iran in the coming weeks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, International Cooperation, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: Michael Singh
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Iran's September 14 acceptance of a meeting with the P5+1 countries on October 1, the Obama administration finally appears poised to engage in direct talks with Iran. In entering these talks, Washington faces two obstacles: first, Iran's reputation for recalcitrance in negotiations and its stated refusal to discuss the nuclear issue, upon which American concerns center; and second, the perception that the administration is lending legitimacy to a regime fresh from violent repression of its political opponents.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Despite the public bluster of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime's behavior shows that it suffers from deep self-doubt. The arrests of visiting Iranian-born U.S. scholars Haleh Esfandiari (director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center) and Kian Tajbakhsh (a consultant for philanthropist George Soros's Open Society Institute programs) reflect Tehran's fear that political change could be easily sparked. A May 22 ABC News report that President Bush has authorized a covert CIA program against the regime will only add to Iran's suspicions.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The May 28 meeting between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq was mostly notable for its length -- four hours -- and the lack of anything to show for all that time together. And the very next day, Iran announced that three detained Iranian Americans visiting their homeland, including renowned scholar and women's rights advocate Haleh Esfandiari, were being formally charged with espionage -- charges that would be merely laughable if they were not so tragic.
  • Topic: International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: At an April 3 news conference in Tehran, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad unexpectedly announced the decision to release fifteen captured British marines and sailors. In a theatrical gesture that included assailing Western policy in the Middle East and accusing the British crew of entering Iranian waters, he pardoned the detainees to mark both the Prophet Muhammad's birthday on March 30 and what he reportedly called "Christian Passover." (In Farsi, "Pesah" means Passover and "Fash" means Easter. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency report of his remarks, the president used Pesah instead of Fash.)
  • Topic: International Relations, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released on March 1, offers a little-noted reference to a dubious claim: an Iranian government statement (made to the UN) that Tehran has established a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The report notes that Iran has provided no further details. Even if the Iranian claim were true, the creation of an FIU would do little to combat terrorism financing in the nation, given Tehran's official support for terrorist groups. In other countries, FIUs are an important element of effective counterterrorism policy -- though the record of key Middle Eastern nations is somewhat mixed in this regard.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 23, at 10:30 a.m. local Iraqi time, fifteen British naval personnel were seized by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the northern Persian Gulf. The British personnel -- eight from the Royal Navy and seven from the Royal Marines -- were in two light craft returning to the frigate HMS Cornwall after successfully inspecting a merchant ship for goods being smuggled into Iraq. Iran has accused the personnel, who include one woman, of illegally entering Iranian territorial waters, and has threatened to put them on trial. The incident is a diplomatic and military embarrassment to Britain. Meanwhile, fears of escalation in the Gulf have contributed to a global surge in oil prices.
  • Topic: International Relations, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Britain, Iraq, United Kingdom, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Seth Wikas
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the coming weeks, Syria will participate in two important regional conferences. On March 10, it will join Iraq's other neighbors and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in Baghdad. On March 28-29, it will participate in the Arab League summit in Riyadh. Syria's detractors continue to criticize Damascus for failing to seal the border with Iraq and for meddling in Lebanese internal affairs in violation of UN Security Resolution 1701. Of equal importance is the downturn in Syria's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Last week's Saudi-Iranian summit has Damascus worried about its role in Lebanon and the possibility of an international tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a crime for which Syria is widely believed to be responsible. Will the upcoming conferences give Syria a chance to improve its regional standing, or will its isolation continue?
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Baghdad, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 20, the Lebanese cabinet—with a Hizballah-led opposition boycott—extended the term of the UN commission investigating the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. While the commission's work can now continue for as long as one more year, any future decision about organizing an international tribunal to try those indicted for the murder remains hostage to a vote—requiring the opposition's assent—in the paralyzed Lebanese parliament. Meanwhile, Hizballah continues to press its demand for increased political power within a “national unity” government, threatening civil disobedience should its demands not be met.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement reached in Mecca last week has powerful implications for all regional players. The most serious challenge it poses is to U.S. diplomacy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Mecca
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As international pressure on the Iranian government toughens, the Iranian regime is facing more fragmentation at home. In an unprecedented action against a sitting president, 150 of the 290 members of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) signed a letter blaming President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad for raging inflation and high unemployment, and criticizing his travel to Latin America at a time when he has not sent the Majlis a draft budget for the fiscal year that starts March 21. Under Iranian law, this letter constitutes the first step required if the Majlis wants to remove the president from office.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Latin America
  • Author: Christopher Hamilton, Barak Ben-Zur
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In a July 17 article in Kayhan, a newspaper sponsored by Iran's supreme leader, editor Hossein Shariatmadari wrote, “The Muslim nations should not let the engagement [with Israel] remain in its limited regional boundaries. The Zionists are scatted in many parts of the world and their identification is not that difficult. . . . Everywhere in the world must be made insecure for the Zionists.” Even without this exhortation from Iran, there is a real possibility that the conflict could expand beyond the borders of Lebanon and Israel. History has shown that Iran and Hizballah together have significant capabilities to conduct violent terrorist attacks anywhere in the world.
  • Topic: International Relations, War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: Ali M. Koknar
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recently in Iran, tens of thousands of Iranian Azeris took to the streets for several days of demonstrations touched off by the May 12 publication of a racist cartoon in the state-run Iran newspaper. (The cartoon depicted an Azeri-speaking cockroach.) Iranian security forces cracked down violently on the demonstrators, killing at least four people (Azeri nationalists claim twenty dead), injuring forty-three, and detaining hundreds of others. These developments indicate brewing discontent among Iran's Azeri population and should be studied for their implications for U.S. and Western policy toward Tehran.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Tehran
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany consult today about what measures to take to influence Iran's decisions about its nuclear program, it is worth evaluating what impact outside pressure would have on President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's administration and its ability to overcome internal political and economic challenges. International pressure has already increased tensions between different factions within the Islamic Republic and laid bare the contradictory aspects of the president's political and cultural management.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: Iran, Germany
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 7, Lebanese Druze leader and member of parliament Walid Jumblat told reporters in Cairo that Hizballah should disarm. These comments came just four days after Jumblat offered his assistance to the Syrian opposition in establishing "a democratic and free Syria." Jumblat has always been an enigmatic and unpredictable interlocutor, and his recent statements on Syria and Hizballah typify his disregard for the conventions of the Lebanese political establishment. While many Lebanese may quietly support Jumblat's truth telling, his statements are sure to increase his list of powerful enemies.
  • Topic: International Relations, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khalid Mishal, a Hamas leader currently residing in Damascus, visited Ankara today. Despite fierce debate in the Turkish press and objections from the secular-minded foreign policy elite, Mishal's visit went ahead with backing from Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. From the American perspective, the visit is important for three reasons. First, it could potentially hurt Turkey's longstanding role as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Second, it serves as yet another foreign policy breech between Turkey and the West. Third, the visit is a telltale sign of the AKP's policy of “strategic depth” toward the Middle East, a policy that Washington needs to understand given U.S. objectives in Iraq, Syria, and Iran.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent months, the growing controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program and Western suspicions about the military intentions of the Iranian regime has reached a crucial phase. A serious problem for the Western campaign to press the Islamic Republic about its nuclear program is that Iranian society has been indifferent or hostile to the West's efforts. The United States in particular needs to find ways to reenergize its outreach to Iranian society.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: Mohsen Sazegara
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Mohsen Sazegara, recently a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute and now at Yale University, posted on several Persian-language websites (including gooya.com) a long open letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Hossein Khamenei. Below are translated extracts from that letter.
  • Topic: International Relations, Human Rights, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Khairi Abaza, Mark Nakhla
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On November 2, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee is due to consider a Canadian resolution condemning Iran for human rights violations. A similar resolution was approved by the General Assembly in 2004 by a vote of 71-54 with fifty-five abstentions. Iran's human rights violations have recently worsened, and the Iranian government is becoming less concerned about international complaints on the matter.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iran, Canada, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The July 16–18 visit to Tehran by Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jafari and ten other members of his council of ministers has been hailed by some as the beginning of a new era in Iran-Iraq relations. In fact, the pattern of near-term relations was set during Iraqi defense minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi's preparatory visit to Iran on July 5–7. At a joint press conference on July 7 with his Iranian counterpart, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Iraqi official fell victim to the oldest trick in the Iranian diplomatic playbook. Speaking well beyond what had been agreed by the two sides, Shamkhani announced “wide defense cooperation” and alluded to the imminent conclusion of a defense pact between the two countries (as Iran has done in the past with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia). Al-Dulaimi was likewise forced to clarify the limited nature of the discussions while also taking pains to state, “Iraq will not be a source of insecurity and instability for any of its neighbors. Nobody can use [Iraqi territory] to attack its neighbors.” The message to both Tehran and Washington was clear: the three-way game between the governments of Iran, Iraq, and the United States has begun again. With Iraq caught in the middle, Baghdad intends to play an increasingly autonomous role as the game unfolds.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Oil
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Alan Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Turkey's economic crisis is naturally the leading issue in bilateral U.S.-Turkish relations, and it is almost certainly topping the agenda of today's meetings of Foreign Minister Ismail Cem with Vice President Richard Cheney and other senior officials. Of course, these meetings pose the difficult question of how much Washington should do, if anything, to bail out its strategically vital ally. But this is only one of several uncertainties characterizing U.S.-Turkish relations in the early days of the Bush administration. Because so much of Turkey's importance to the United States derives from its critical strategic location, bilateral relations are greatly affected by U.S. policies toward other states in Turkey's region. Of most concern to Turkey will be the evolution of Bush administration policy toward Iraq, Iran, and Russia, and also toward Europe's nascent bid to develop an autonomous security capacity.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Defense Policy, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iraq, Europe, Iran, Washington, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Yossi Baidatz
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent weeks, a simmering debate between the two major power centers in domestic Lebanese politics has spilled into public view. This debate pits newly installed Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who represents those who want Lebanon to take advantage of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon to focus on internal stability, economic reconstruction and securing foreign investment, against Hizballah leader Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah, who — with the support of Syria and Iran — champions maintaining Lebanon's role on the front line of the ongoing revolutionary resistance against Israel. This tension was described in the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar as the choice between "Hanoi" (Nasrallah) and "Hong Kong" (Hariri). As with most Middle East crises, the development of this delicate and flammable dispute carries both risks and opportunities for Lebanon and other players on the Middle East scene.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, International Political Economy, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria, Hong Kong
  • Author: Brenda Shaffer
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iranian president Mohammed Khatami will conduct an official visit to Russia on March 11 through March 15. This constitutes the highest-level visit of an Iranian official to Russia since 1989. There could be an intensification of cooperation between Russia and Iran during Khatami's visit — including on arms sales. In addition to military issues, the delineation of borders along the Caspian Sea will be a focus of discussion. Following talks in Moscow, Khatami will visit St. Petersburg and Kazan, the capital of the autonomous Russian republic of Tatarstan.
  • Topic: International Relations, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: Ray Takeyh
  • Publication Date: 01-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After much experimentation, the Clinton administration settled on a policy of incremental normalization with Iran, whereby the United States and Iran would gradually improve their relations through mutual concessions and confidence-building measures. As the Bush team assesses policy options towards Iran, it is important to note the meager results of the Clinton team's creative efforts.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Reuven Paz
  • Publication Date: 03-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As Arab leaders gather in Amman for the first regular Arab summit in a decade, non-Arab Iran is keenly watching to see whether Arab heads-of-state once again make grandiose promises to support the Palestinians. If Arab leaders fail to deliver on these promises, as has been the case with Arab financial commitments to the Palestinians, it would open the door for Tehran to build on Hizballah's success in Lebanon and to deepen its already worrisome role in the Israeli–Palestinian arena.
  • Topic: International Relations, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Tehran, Palestine, Arabia, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Beirut