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  • Author: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran marks its 40th anniversary this week. But, with the country beset by a severe economic crisis, the question on everyone’s lips –within Iran and the diaspora alike – seems to be whether the Islamic Revolution has actually improved Iranians’ lives.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Olli Heinonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Iran's nuclear program dates from the late 1950s. By the 1960s, the united states had supplied the iranians with a small research reactor. Later, the shah had ambitious plans to construct twenty-three nuclear power reactors, and initial orders were placed with west german and french companies. Iran also started to invest in nuclear fuel-cycle services, though was unable, due to u.s. Pressure, to obtain reprocessing or uranium enrichment plants. It did, however, invest in the eurodif enrichment plant in france and the roessing uranium mine in namibia, shareholdings it maintains today. When iran signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1968 and ratified it in 1970, all its nuclear activities became subject to inspection by the international atomic energy agency (iaea).
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Namibia
  • Author: Gary Samore
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This report has been produced in the interest of contributing to informed Congressional review and public discourse on a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It provides a concise description of the agreement and the accompanying UN Security Council Resolution 2231. It also includes a balanced assessment of the agreement's strengths and weaknesses with respect to its central objective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The team of experts who prepared the report includes Democrats, Republications, independents, and internationals. Noting areas of disagreement among themselves, they agreed that this report provides an accurate description and balanced assessment of the agreement.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • 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: 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
  • 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: Olli Heinonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: International diplomacy efforts dealing with Iran's nuclear program continue to fill the daily news headlines. The efforts of P5+1, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have tried, in various formats, to encourage and enforce Iran to comply with the provisions of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is not used as a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. The challenge of discovering what has taken place as well as currently with Iran's nuclear ambitions is difficult not only because of Tehran's obstructionism, but also because the same nuclear technologies, particularly uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Olli Heinonen
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: At a time of hot debate over possible military action against Iran's nuclear program, the need for a clear understanding of the issues and the controversial science and technology behind them has never been more acute. Toward that end, scholars from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs have copublished an interactive online glossary of terms used in the discussion about Iran. The report was prepared by proliferation expert Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Covering the jargon and history behind IAEA inspections, centrifuge enrichment, basic nuclear physics, and early nuclear weapons development in Pakistan and the United States, the glossary provides an indispensable guide to an increasingly complex problem.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Defense Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • 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: 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: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Young people in Iran have emerged as important players on the country's political scene but remain marginal on its economic scene. They were a vital part of President Khatami's political base and contributed to his landslide victories at the polls, in 1997 and 2001. In June 2009 they again played a key role, this time in challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection, which led to massive anti-government protests in the nation's largest cities. A year later the political crisis appears to have subsided, but the economic crisis that has engulfed the country since early 2008 has deepened, and with it the crisis facing Iran's youth. Youth unemployment is at record high levels and, for the majority of youth, marriage and family formation are increasingly becoming challenges to overcome rather than celebrations of reaching adulthood.
  • Topic: Islam, Labor Issues, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • 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: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The effect of the international sanctions on Iran is to deepen its current economic recession and make recovery very difficult if not impossible. In doing so, it will inflict pain on the general population. By prolonging the recession, the sanctions will hurt Iran's youth (15-29 year olds) particularly harshly, as they will bear the brunt of the resulting unemployment. They account for 70 percent of unemployment, and any improvement in their condition depends on economic recovery.
  • Topic: Economics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • 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
  • Author: Whitney Raas, Austin Long
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The use of military force to halt or reverse nuclear proliferation is an option that has been much discussed and occasionally exercised. In the 1960s, for example, the United States considered destroying China's nuclear program at an early stage but ultimately decided against it. More recently, the key rationale for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the threat posed by Iraq's suspected inventory of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Although significant evidence of WMD was not found in the Iraq case, the potential utility of military force for counterproliferation remains, particularly in the case of Iran. The possibility of military action against Iranian nuclear facilities has gained prominence in the public discourse, drawing comments from journalists, former military officers, and defense analysts. This makes the Iranian nuclear program a potential test case for military counterproliferation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Asia