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  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Ebrahim Mohseni
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This report covers findings from two surveys fielded in September and early October 2020 and late January through early February 2021 to assess how Iranians were faring as the covid-19 pandemic intensified the challenges their country was already facing, what they thought about the parliamentary election in Iran and the presidential election in the United States, and how the inauguration of Joe Biden impacted their attitudes towards nuclear diplomacy and regional security. Iran was one of the earliest countries to be hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, with the country’s first cases confirmed on February 13, 2020, two days before the parliamentary election, senior officials among those soon infected, and high death rates reported. Western reporting depicted widespread government incompetence and cover-ups exacerbating the pandemic’s toll. As in other countries, Iranian officials struggled to decide whether to close schools, curtail economic activities, and restrict religious observances in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread, but cases and deaths remained high through 2020. When we fielded the first survey wave, the daily number of new confirmed covid-19 cases in Iran was starting to climb sharply again after having been relatively flat since May. Some world leaders, including the U.N. Secretary General, called for an easing of sanctions on Iran as part of global efforts to fight the pandemic. The United States, which had withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, maintained that medicine, personal protective equipment, and other humanitarian supplies were exempt from the steadily increasing sanctions applied as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. But, the United States’ designation in September 2019 of the Central Bank of Iran as a terrorist organization made most foreign suppliers of humanitarian goods reluctant to sell to Iran. A decision in October 2020 to also designate the few Iranian banks that were not previously subject to secondary sanctions further impeded humanitarian trade, caused another sharp drop in the value of Iran’s currency, and had other negative economic effects. The Trump administration’s stated objective was to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesced to a long list of U.S. demands articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The original twelve points include the types of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that the government rejected during previous negotiations and that the Iranian public has consistently opposed. It also included stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles and ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, International Community
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anahita Motazed Rad
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As the Biden and Rouhani administrations’ position to renew diplomatic efforts on the Iranian nuclear file with European support, they face more challenges than their predecessors did in 2015, when the Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was originally signed. Today, domestic, regional and international confrontations have increased; hardliners and conservatives in Tehran and Washington, on the one hand, and in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the other, are now more aligned and coordinated against a diplomatic success than they were in 2015.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Pat Shilo, Todd Rosenblum
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: President Biden has announced plans to re-engage with Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In this paper, we briefly outline the five most likely pathways ahead, each of which has strengths and challenges: Return to the JCPOA as it was. Return to the JCPOA plus new commitments that address other security concerns with Iran. Restore the JCPOA as it was plus a set of confidence-building measures to address other security concerns. Formally link a requirement for Iran to address our other concerns as a pre-condition for further talks. Return to the pre-JCPOA Middle East, where US and allies work to rollback Iran’s nuclear program and actively deter its regional actions by confrontation, punishment, and isolating measures. Each path carries risk and opportunity for restoring American leadership in the world, and congressional Democrats should remember the perfect deal does not exist. Members of Congress would be wise to measure the next deal against the status quo ante: an unconstrained, belligerent Iran again racing to a bomb.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Military Strategy, Denuclearization, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ido Yahel
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Iranian involvement in the Syrian civil war has often made headlines in Israel. Particularly in the context of the Israel Defense Force (IDF)’s so-called campaign between the wars (the Hebrew acronym is Mabam), which has included attempts to prevent Iran from establishing military bases in Syria, keeping Iranian forces away from the Syrian-Israeli border, and thwarting the transfer of precision weapons to Hizballah. But Iranian involvement in Syria goes far beyond the confines of the Israeli-Iranian conflict. As a result of the "Arab Spring" uprising and the Syrian civil war, Iran has succeeded in establishing itself in areas far from the Israeli-Syrian border and extended its influence in Syria beyond the military sphere.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Joel Parker, Sarah Cahn
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: On August 6, Hizballah fired 20 rockets towards the Shebaa Farms area of the Golan Heights, highlighting the growing political instability in Lebanon. Hizballah's behavior should be viewed in light of the ongoing financial and political crisis that has affected every aspect of Lebanese life since late 2019 and has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into poverty. Hizballah may not be the primary or sole cause of the crisis, but it is important to understand how it may have contributed indirectly to it, how it may benefit from it, and why it may not have an interest in fully resolving it. Hanin Ghaddar, the Friedmann Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), argues that despite the collapsing economy in Lebanon, Hizballah has been able to expand its array of social-welfare institutions to deepen their Shiʿi constituency's dependence and even expand the reach of these programs by providing support to a growing number of Lebanese who are struggling to survive. Hizballah also receives funding from Iran and through its commercial activities around the world, so one might ask how much Hizballah really needs the Lebanese state. Lina Khatib, a scholar at Chatham House and SOAS University of London, contends that Hizballah benefits from its hybrid role as a part of the state and, at the same time, free to operate outside the official channels of government and public scrutiny. Michael Young, senior editor at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, however, has argued that the group might indeed benefit from a collapse of the state, which will allow Hizballah to continue to fill a growing political, economic, and social power vacuum.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Hezbollah, Regional Power, Economic Crisis
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Iqtisadi Paul Rivlin analyses the causes of shortages in electricity and water supplies in the Persian Gulf region. In Iraq and Iran, in particular, spontaneous protests have gained momentum this summer as a result of these critical problems. The Gulf is well known for its oil and gas resources, but the lack of water may be its outstanding feature. Between 2000 and 2020, the population of the Gulf states rose by almost 50 percent but the supply of fresh water from sources other than desalination fell. This edition of Iqtisadi examines recent developments in the Gulf with an emphasis on the water crisis. The oil producers in the Gulf are divided into two groups: the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman – and Iran plus Iraq. The GCC states are all monarchies while Iran and Iraq are republics. The differences between the two groups are not only constitutional and political, but also socio-economic.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Water, Economy, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Persian Gulf, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Joshua Krasna, George Meladze
  • Publication Date: 10-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this inaugural MDC Occasional Paper, Josh Krasna and George Meladze analyze the structure of power in the Middle East during the past decade, mapping the main regional players and the interrelationships between them, and assessing the potential for future change in the politics of the region.
  • Topic: Politics, Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United States of America
  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean