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  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Rouhani has taken a remarkably austere fiscal approach ahead of the looming parliamentary election, but the country’s economic situation is still not sustainable over the long run. On December 8, following established procedures, President Hassan Rouhani visited parliament to present his budget for the Iranian year 2020/21, which begins in March. Notwithstanding the government’s rosy rhetoric, his spending proposals show the tough times the Islamic Republic is facing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Budget, Elections, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Sara Nowacka
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In October, mass protests over poor living conditions and Iran’s influence on the country’s internal policy erupted in Iraq. Brutal attempts to quell the demonstrations led to the escalation of violence. On 30 November, Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi resigned, which was one of the demands of the demonstrators supported by the prominent Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq Ali al-Sistani. The PM’s resignation, the proposal of reforms put forward by the president of Iraq, and the UN plan to stabilise the country backed by Sistani indicate the possibility of abolishing the model of consensual democracy prevailing in Iraq.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Elections, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Yuval Steinitz, Ofer Shelah, Merav Michaeli, Yisrael Beiteinu, Nitzan Horowitz, Ofer Cassif
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: On 9 September 2019, the Mitvim Institute convened a pre-elections event on Israel’s foreign policy. The event focused on paths to advance peace with the Palestinians; to deepen Israel’s regional belonging in the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean; and to empower Israel’s diplomacy Foreign Service. Senior politicians from six political parties spoke at the event: Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Member of Knesset (MK) Ofer Shelah (Blue and White), MK Merav Michaeli (Labor-Gesher), MK Eli Avidar (Yisrael Beiteinu), Nitzan Horowitz (Chair of the Democratic Union) and MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List). Each of them was interviewed by Arad Nir, foreign news editor of Channel 12 News. Dr. Nimrod Goren and Merav Kahana-Dagan of Mitvim delivered opening remarks in which they presented recent trends in Israel’s foreign policy and findings of a special pre-elections Mitvim poll. This document sums up the key points made at the event.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Christopher Datta
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: American Diplomacy
  • Abstract: To win the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan did something for which he is never credited: he dramatically increased the budget of the United States Information Agency, the public diplomacy arm of our struggle against communism. Senegal, in September of 1999, was about to hold a presidential election. Because of USIA's long history of promoting journalism in Senegal, the embassy decided to work in partnership with the local Print, Radio and Television Journalists Federation to hold a series of workshops on the role of journalists in covering elections. USIA was uniquely organized to promote democratic development through the long term support of human rights organizations, journalism, programs that helped build the rule of law, educational programs that encouraged the acceptance of diversity in society and, perhaps most importantly, through partnering with and supporting local opinion leaders to help them promote democratic values that stand in opposition to ideologies hostile to the West.
  • Topic: Cold War, Diplomacy, Human Rights, Elections, Democracy, Rule of Law, Ideology, Networks, Journalism
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Soviet Union, West Africa, Syria, Senegal
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Iraqi election in May 2018 has both highlighted Iraq's political uncertainties and the security challenges the United States now faces in Iraq and the Middle East. What initially appeared to be a relative honest election gradually emerged to have involved massive potential fraud, and forced a manual recount of the results of a failed electronic voting system. Its results have cast Iraq's ability to form an effective post-ISIS government into serious doubt, along with its ability to carry our follow-up provincial and local elections in October. At the same time, even the initial results of the election raised serious concerns over the level of future U.S. confrontation with Iran. The United States faced grave uncertainties regarding Iran's influence in Iraq even when it seemed that Iraq's existing Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, was likely to win the election. The election's uncertain results, and U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement, now virtually ensure that a far more intense struggle for influence will take place in Iraq and the rest of the region.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, ISIS, Election watch, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Fariba Abdelkhah
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Internationales
  • Abstract: Elections have been trivialized in Iran. They allow for the expression of diversity, in particular ethnical and denominational, of historical regional identities, and prove the growing professionalization of political life. Paradoxically, such professionalization withdraws the Republic away into the levels of family, parenthood, autochthony, and even neighborhoods or devotional sociability, which are all institutions that instill a feeling of proximity, solidarity, communion; close to the notion of asabiyat. As the saying goes, the Islamic Republic has become a « parentocracy » (tâyefehsâlâri). The country’s industrial development isn’t at odds with such ponderousness since it lies on a web of very small family businesses. The analysis of the 2016 legislative elections in four wards reveals how important the issue of property is in political life, indivisible as it is of the various particularistic consciences. The connections with notables are still there, revealing lines of continuity with the old regime as well as longstanding agrarian conflicts that have not been erased by the Revolution and that are being kept alive through contemporary elections.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Sociology, Governance, Elections, Borders, Networks, Identities
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, Clay Ramsay
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Summary of Findings 1. Rouhani’s Re-election Seen as Endorsement of His Foreign Policy and JCPOA, Not Revolutionary Change There is no consensus among Iranians about what type of mandate Rouhani was given by the 57 percent of Iranians who voted to give him a second term. Fewer than 12 percent offered the same answer when asked an open-ended question. When presented with alternative interpretations, large majorities agree that Rouhani's re-election means that most Iranian people approve of his foreign policy and the nuclear deal he negotiated with the P5+1 countries. They disagree with the assertion that his re-election means most people disapprove of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, or that they want religion to play a lesser role in policy making. 2. Approval of Nuclear Deal Increased during Presidential Campaign, Despite Disappointment with its Economic Benefit After steady declines in enthusiasm for the JCPOA prior to the May 2017 presidential election, approval of the agreement rose during the election process. Two in three Iranians approve of the agreement, while about a third oppose it. The agreement divides those who voted for Rouhani from those who did not. While eight in ten Rouhani voters approve of the deal, only four in ten of those who voted for Raisi approve of the agreement. Two years since the signing of the agreement, majorities believe that Iran has not received most of the promised benefits and that there have been no improvements in people’s living conditions as a result of the nuclear deal. A plurality thinks that the agreement for Iran to purchase passenger airplanes from the United States will likely have little impact on Iran’s economy. Still, there is some optimism that the deal will eventually improve people’s living conditions. 3. U.S. Seen as Actively Obstructive, Contrary to Commitment under JCPOA Most Iranians lack confidence that the United States will live up to its obligations under the JCPOA. They believe either that the United States is finding other ways to keep the negative effects of sanctions that were lifted under the deal, or that the United States has not even lifted the sanctions it was supposed to lift. A growing majority also believes that contrary to the terms of the agreement, the United States is trying to prevent other countries from normalizing their trade and economic relations with Iran. While a majority still express some confidence that other P5+1 countries will abide by the agreement, most say Europeans are slow in investing and trading with Iran primarily due to fear of punishment by the United States. 4. Majority Support Retaliation if U.S. Abrogates JCPOA Iranians expect President Donald Trump to be more hostile toward Iran than was former President Barack Obama. Seven in ten Iranians believe it likely that Trump may decide not to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement. Attitudes about how Iran should respond if the United States violates the JCPOA have hardened: A clear majority now thinks that instead of taking the matter to the UN, Iran should retaliate by restarting the aspects of its nuclear program it has agreed to suspend under the JCPOA, if the United States abrogates the deal. A large majority see the new sanctions that Congress is likely to impose on Iran as being against the spirit of the JCPOA, with half saying it would violate the letter of the agreement as well. 5. No Appetite for Renegotiating the Nuclear Deal with Trump Large majorities say that Iran should refuse to increase the duration of the special nuclear limits it accepted under the JCPOA, or to terminate its nuclear enrichment program, even if offered more sanctions relief in return. 6. Majority Opposes a Halt to Missile Testing, Even in Return for More Sanctions Relief Over three in five say that Iran should continue testing ballistic missiles despite U.S. demands for Iran to halt such tests and find the proposition that Iran reduce testing missiles in return for the lifting of more sanctions unacceptable. Two thirds reject the notion that Rouhani’s re-election means most Iranians oppose testing of missiles by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 7. Greater Support for Self-Sufficiency An increasing majority think Iran should strive to achieve economic self-sufficiency rather than focusing on increasing its trade with other countries. Six in ten say current changes in the world make it necessary for Iran to have a president who will stand up for Iran’s rights and refuse to compromise. Majorities reject offering various steps in exchange for more sanctions relief—steps such as Iran reducing its missile testing, or recognizing Israel, or ceasing its aid to the Syrian government and Hezbollah. Rejection of these steps is significantly lower, though, among those who think the nuclear deal has improved the living condition of ordinary Iranians. 8. Economy is Seen as Bad, and Reducing Unemployment is Given the Highest Priority Large majorities say Iran’s economic situation is bad, and less than a quarter think the economic condition of their family has improved over the last four years. Half think that the country’s economic situation is getting worse. Eight in ten say reducing unemployment should be a top priority for Rouhani in the next four years. 9. Rouhani Seen as Successful in Foreign Policy, not in Reducing Unemployment Majorities see Rouhani as being successful in improving Iran’s relations with other countries and getting international sanctions on Iran lifted. Majorities also see his re-election to mean that most Iranians approve of his foreign policy and the JCPOA. In fact, the nuclear agreement is regarded as Rouhani’s most important accomplishment during his first four years in office. Rouhani, however, gets low marks on the unemployment situation in Iran. Six in ten say he has been unsuccessful in reducing unemployment and half say he has thus far failed to improve the economy. 10. Rouhani's Reelection was Not Certain until Ghalibaf Left the Race Election polls were quite accurate in predicting the outcome of the election. Pre-election polls suggested that if Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf had been Rouhani’s main opponent rather than Raisi, the election results would have been much closer. After the second presidential debate, Rouhani was ahead of Ghalibaf by less than 6 percentage points, while his lead over Raisi was more than 20 points. While an overwhelming majority of Raisi supporters said that if Raisi pulled out they would vote for Ghalibaf, less than half of Ghalibaf supporters said they would vote for Raisi if their candidate pulled out. Indeed, when Ghalibaf pulled out of the race nearly half of his supporters switched to Rouhani and helped him pass the 50 percent threshold. 11. Turnout Helps Rouhani About a quarter of those who said they rarely vote in Iranian presidential elections reported that they voted in the May 2017 election, and seven in ten said they voted for Rouhani. Large majorities believe that both the Guardian Council and the Interior Ministry were fair and impartial as they fulfilled their election-related responsibilities. About five percent, however, say that they went to their voting stations but for one reason or another were not ultimately able to cast their ballots. 12. Rouhani and Zarif's Popularity Increase after Re-Election, but General Soleymani is Most Popular Political Figure The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is the most popular politician in Iran, with President Rouhani coming in second. Although Rouhani’s popularity increased somewhat during the recent election, it is still substantially lower than the first time he ran for office and after he signed the JCPOA. 13. Post-election Terrorist Attacks: ISIS Seen as Primary Culprit, but Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States Likely Helped A large majority of Iranians thinks that ISIS conducted the June 7 attacks in Tehran. Most Iranians also think that Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States probably provided guidance or support to the perpetrators. 14. Strong Support for Fighting ISIS, but Not for Collaboration with U.S. The June 7 attacks seem to have increased support for Iran playing a more active role in the Middle East. More than eight in ten call increasing Iran’s security a top priority; seven in ten say this about fighting ISIS and increasing Iran’s influence in the region. A growing majority of Iranians support their government helping groups that are fighting ISIS, although the number that favors sending troops has remained roughly constant. Two in three support Iran sending military personnel to Syria to help the Assad government against armed Syrian rebels, including ISIS. Support for Iran and the United States collaborating with one another to help Iraq’s government counter ISIS is at its lowest, with an increasing majority saying they would oppose such cooperation. 15. Views of P5+1 Countries Majorities regard Russia, China, and Germany—half of the P5+1—favorably, and the other half—the U.S., France and Britain—unfavorably. While six in ten believe that most P5+1 countries (but not the United States) will fulfill their obligations under the JCPOA, views toward all the Western powers that took part in the JCPOA negotiations are now less positive. Though a majority believes that Iran’s relations with European countries have improved as a result of the deal, only a quarter say that about the United States. Still, far from showing implacable hostility toward the West, a majority continues to think it is possible for the Islamic world and the West to find common ground.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East