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  • Author: George Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)
  • Abstract: This essay by Dr. George Tzogopoulos, focuses on the multidimensional nature of Greek-Israeli relations. The understanding of the depth of these relations can explain why the two countries – along with Cyprus – are interested in coming closer. On the other hand, the effort of Israel and Turkey to normalize bilateral ties – already under way since 2016 – is a logical development that deserves attention. However, it is not related to the future evolution of Greek-Israeli collaboration. The evolution of Greek-Israeli relations in the last decade and trilateral Greece-Israel-Cyprus summits outline the common interest of the three countries to enrich their cooperation. Israel and Turkey have started since 2016 to normalize their relations. This is an ongoing process that has evolved in a period during which Greece, Israel and Cyprus charted a joint course in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Turkey are expected to find a modus vivendi by agreeing on some issues and disagreeing on others. A potential Turkish-Israeli collaboration against Iran in Syria might pave the way for new synergies between Israel and Turkey. This is a highly controversial and complicated matter that entails risks for Ankara.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Syria
  • Author: Jadranka Polovic
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The Middle East as one of the most heterogeneous and politically conflicting regions in the world and has long been at the center of international interest. Faced with sectarian wars and comprehensive social crises for decades the Middle East, due to its geostrategic importance and especially the imperative of controlling the region’s vast energy resources, has once again become a battle ground for major powers whose interests affect the concentration of participants in the region. The competition between global powers and growing influence of Russia and China, who undermine the US power and European Union’s influence and also undermine established alliances in the Middle East, undoubtedly require a rethinking of Western strategies for the region. A series of geopolitical challenges, especially after September 11 attacks against the United States, as a result of military interventions and civil wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria) and uprisings (Arab Spring) and thus the collapsed regional order, confronted the international community with the changing nature of security threats, as well as with the new balance of power of regional and international actors in the Middle East. Among the many aspects of the Middle East conflicts, the fundamental issue of regional security today is the Sunni-Shiite conflict, which has since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 directly defined the approaches and policies of great powers and significantly changed regional dynamics. In this context, Iran’s role is particularly significant. Namely, over the last two decades, Iran has consolidated its goals in the Persian Gulf and strategically expanded its influence to other countries in the Middle East, primarily Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The growing influence of Shiite Iran, and its close relations with Shiite communities in the region with which it forms a strategic coalition, have become a key geopolitical challenge for the international community.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, International Cooperation, Natural Resources, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Seth G. Jones, Nicholas Harrington, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, Russia is engaged in covert and overt cooperation with Iran in ways that undermine U.S. national security interests. This analysis of commercial satellite imagery at Tiyas Airbase in Syria indicates the scope and proximity of Russian and Iranian military ties. If Washington wants to contain Tehran and prevent further Iranian expansion, U.S. policymakers will need to increase pressure on Moscow to curb Tehran’s activities in countries like Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Intelligence, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ian Williams
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Tensions with Iran are once again increasing. The slow implosion of the nuclear accord, Iran’s harassment of cargo ships, and the downing of a U.S. unmanned aircraft have made plain the risk of conflict between Iran and the United States. The dispute should also draw attention to the questionable preparedness of the United States and its allies to fight a war with Iran on short notice and deal with that war’s blowback across the Middle East and Europe. Regional missile defense architectures are an important part of that preparedness. Iran has the largest and most diverse supply of ballistic missiles in the Middle East region, and Tehran has shown an ability and willingness to use them in combat operations.1 Iran is also learning to employ other kinds of aerial threats, such as long-range cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In a conflict with Iran, U.S. and allied forces would likely face a wide spectrum of air and missile threats. The biggest U.S. investment in Iran-centric missile defenses has been the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). EPAA is a phased buildup of U.S. missile defense assets in and around Europe to deter and, if necessary, limit damage from an Iranian missile attack on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet the EPAA architecture is heavily dependent on the nominal, unencumbered performance of a single radar deployed relatively close to Iran. This produces a single point of failure susceptible to malfunction or operator error. It also presents an Achilles’ heel that a determined or imaginative adversary could exploit. Iran certainly fits both descriptors. In 1958, strategist Albert Wohlstetter wrote that U.S. confidence in its nuclear second-strike ability was achieved only by “ignoring the full range of sensible enemy plans.”2 This same critical judgment should be applied to confidence in the EPAA as currently configured. Inasmuch as a sensible adversary such as Iran relies upon its missile forces to achieve its defense goals, it should be credited with the foresight to target single points of failure that would preclude the effective application of that missile force. Fortunately, there are practical steps that NATO and the United States can take to further adapt EPAA for greater resiliency. Upgrades to existing radars, the integration of allied radars into the missile defense mission, and the addition of air and space-based sensors would do much to improve EPAA’s capability and survivability, improving U.S. and NATO preparedness for an unexpected Middle East conflict.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, North Atlantic, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Although both the United States and Iran say they do not want a direct military confrontation, such escalation by the United States necessarily invites an Iranian response, particularly since Tehran is butting heads with US regional allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, Clay Ramsay
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) has been conducting in- depth surveys of Iranian public opinion on nuclear policy, regional security, economics, domestic politics, and other topics since the summer of 2014. Each survey includes a combination of trend-line questions, some going as far back as 2006, and new questions written to assess and inform current policy debates. This report covers findings from three surveys fielded in May, August, and early October 2019 to evaluate how the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is affecting public opinion in Iran. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and began re-imposing sanctions on Iran that the Obama administration had lifted under the terms of the 2015 agreement it had negotiated with Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In the fall of 2018, it blacklisted hundreds of Iranian entities and threatened to impose secondary sanctions on anyone who did business with them. In spring of 2019, it tried to prevent Iran from getting any revenue from oil sales, its main export, by ending exemptions for key customers. In the summer of 2019, it tightened constraints on Iran’s access to the international financial system, including channels that had been used to pay for medicines and other humanitarian goods that were officially exempted from earlier sanctions. It also sanctioned Iran’s foreign minister, complicating his ability to interact with U.S. officials, experts, and media figures. The Trump administration’s stated objective is to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesces 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 includes stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles, ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East, halting cyberattacks and other threatening activities, and releasing all U.S. and allied detainees. Pompeo subsequently added other demands related to civil liberties in Iran. The Iranian public enthusiastically supported the JCPOA when it was first signed, partly due to unrealistic expectations about how much and how quickly economic benefits would materialize. After the International Atomic Energy Agency certified in January 2016 that Iran had met all of its nuclear obligations and implementation of sanctions relief began, foreign companies were slow to ramp up permissible trade with Iran or to make major investments there before they knew how the next U.S. president would view the JCPOA. By the end of the Obama administration few Iranians said that they had seen any economic benefits from the deal and most lacked confidence that the other signatories would uphold their obligations. But a solid majority of Iranians (55%) still approved of the agreement.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Udi Dekel, Carmit Valensi
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The rescue of Bashar al-Assad’s regime by the pro-Assad coalition, comprising Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxies, led to the victory of the regime over the rebels; the coalition’s achievements stem primarily from the effective cooperation between Iran and Russia since 2015 in fighting the rebels. Now, with the battles over, despite shared interests in consolidating the Assad regime, inherent tensions between Russia and Iran regarding influence in Syria have emerged in greater relief. Yet despite the disagreements, this it is not a zero-sum game between Russia and Iran. Both continue to cooperate on a range of issues in the Syrian arena and beyond. Iran for its part continues to see its consolidation in Syria as a strategic objective, and despite difficulties that have emerged, it seems that Tehran remains determined to continue, even if to a lesser extent than originally planned. After the success of Israel’s military actions to halt Iran’s military consolidation in Syria, Jerusalem should maximize the political potential and the shared interest of Russia and the United States to stabilize the situation in Syria, and to reduce Iran’s influence and capabilities in the country.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Joshua Krasna
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Arab countries are re-normalizing their relations with the Assad regime, seeking to balance the strong Iranian and Turkish influences in Syria and to achieve some degree of influence in a new Syrian political-strategic structure. This further cements a Russian-oriented strategic architecture in the region. In the long term, this could lead to tensions between conservative Arab states and Israel, if Israel targets the Syrian military and government in the campaign against Iran, or if Israel continues to promote diplomatic recognition of its Golan annexation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Governance, Normalization, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Micky Aharonson, Yossi Mansharof
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The Houthi rebellion in Yemen, with its horrendous consequences for the country’s civilian population, is being instigated primarily by Iranian assistance and direction for the rebels, together with Russian growing involvement in the conflict. An end to the fighting therefore depends to a large extent on the willingness of external countries to continue their fomenting of the conflict.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Conflict, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Yemen
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The EU’s insistence on preserving the nuclear agreement with Iran and its persistent efforts to establish a mechanism for evading American trade sanctions are encouraging Iran to escalate its subversion throughout Europe.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Appeasement
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East