Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

20
Aug

The Myth of a Better Deal

Foreign policy is serious business, because getting it wrong has real consequences. When countries conduct foreign policy in a cavalier or incompetent way, real human beings lose their lives or end up much poorer than they would otherwise have been. In extreme cases, states that mismanage relations with the outside world end up completely isolated and maybe even conquered and occupied. This is rarely, if ever, a pleasant experience.

That’s why it is so surprising when allegedly “serious people” rely on various forms of Magical Thinking when they talk about foreign affairs. Like FP contributor Jeffrey Lewis, by “magical thinking,” I mean analysis and prescriptions resting on unrealistic assumptions, unspecified causal relationships, inapt analogies, a dearth of supporting evidence, and wildly naïve optimism. People who do this are like the scientists in that old cartoon whose blackboard solution to a thorny problem consists of writing, “And here a miracle occurs.” Read more…

By Stephen Walt, published on Aug. 10 in Foreignpolicy.com

17
Aug

Iraq’s reforms may help it avoid Lebanon’s sectarian fateYesterday afternoon, Iraq’s parliament approved some of the most significant changes to the country’s political system since the 2003 invasion.

Most analysts have focused on the proposals of prime minister Haider Al Abadi that tackle corruption. But the reforms also have another aspect, one that has the potential to fundamentally change how democratic politics is done in Iraq. Whether that change will be for the better is as yet unknown.

Mr Al Abadi proposed removing the positions of the two vice-presidents and three deputy prime ministers. The two vice-presidents were meant to be shared between the Sunni and Shia communities (one and two respectively), and the three deputy prime ministers divided among Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities. When it was first proposed, in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, it was an inelegant solution to a problem of representation.

Mr Al Abadi has also banned a quota system across ministries, which, again, had a sectarian element meant to placate various communities. He has replaced it with a committee to oversee appointments – chosen by him.

If the old system of allocating political positions based on religion sounds familiar, that is because it has been tried before, in Lebanon.

Read more…

Published on Aug. 11 in http://www.thenational.ae by Faisal Al Yafai

14
Jul

The historic deal between Iran and world powers reportedly reached on July 14 in Vienna has paved the way for international sanctions against Tehran to be lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities. While the six powers have said the deal will slow Tehran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, the accord could also have other far-reaching ramifications linked to Iran’s possible reintegration into the global community.

From potentially stoking a Middle East arms race, to enabling political reforms in Iran, to undercutting Russia’s energy might by freeing up massive oil and gas supplies, here are some possible implications of the agreement.

‘Destabilizing’ Factor?

The prospect of a prospering Iran has sparked concern among skeptics of the nuclear deal — and even some U.S. officials who back it — that Tehran could use this financial windfall to destabilize the already volatile Middle East.Sanctions relief could allow Iran to repatriate more than $100 billion in oil revenues currently frozen overseas , and some experts estimate that sanctions relief could help Iran’s $420 billion economy grow by 5 percent to 8 percent annually.

“We are, of course, aware and concerned that, despite the massive domestic spending needs facing Iran, some of the resulting sanctions relief could be used by Iran to fund destabilizing actions,” The Daily Beast quoted a U.S. State Department official as saying in a July 8 report. 

However, Mohsen Milani, the executive director of the Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, told RFE/RL that the deal could be a “transformative event” in the Middle East because it opens the door to better ties between Iran and the West, which could reduce tension in the region.

Richard Nephew, who served as the State Department’s principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy and as director for Iran at the National Security Council, argues that fears that Iran will use money from sanctions relief to bankroll its regional ambitions are overblown.

“Iran’s domestic economic needs are real, as is [President Hassan Rohani’s] imperative to deliver on the promises that got him elected,” Nephew wrote earlier this month. “To ensure the stability of their government, Iran’s leaders must tend to the problems at home and make the investments necessary to sustain their future. Supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other regional actors is an important, but secondary, objective.” 

Shifting Alliances

The U.S. push for the nuclear deal with Iran has also raised fears among Sunni-dominated Arab states that Washington, their traditional guarantor, is essentially stepping back to allow Shi’ite Iran free rein in the region. Amid these concerns, Gulf Arab states are increasingly talking about diversifying their international alliances.

“[U.S. President Barack] Obama is going to be remembered as the U.S. president who restored relations with Iran. But he may also be remembered as the U.S. president who lost his traditional allies in the region,” Sami al-Faraj, a Kuwaiti security adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), told Reuters in June. Read more…

Written by By Carl Schreck and Golnaz Esfandiari

Published on July 14th in http://www.rferl.org/

13
Jul

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Iran, unshackled from economic sanctions, would have free rein to domineer its vulnerable Persian Gulf Arab neighbors and cause trouble for Israel. As the fearful refrain goes, if an Iran restrained by crippling sanctions has managed to assert its influence over four Arab capitals — those of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen — what will an Iran freed from sanctions and a global arms embargo do? As noted Iran hawk Ray Takeyh recently wrote, “the most important legacy of the prospective agreement [may be that it] enable[d] the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge.” This same line has been pushed so hard that it has become accepted fact in Washington.

The problem is, the line isn’t true. But, nonetheless, it is threatening to upend a lasting nuclear deal with Iran.

As the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries head down to the wire in Vienna, the issue has arisen in the question of whether the arms embargo imposed on Iran as part of the U.N. Security Council resolutions would be maintained following a nuclear deal. The United States and its European partners say yes; Russia, China, and Iran say no.

The timing is troubling to say the least. Just as solutions have been found to constrain and roll back elements of Iran’s nuclear program, this issue — one that’s outside the scope of the nuclear talks — is now taking on such exaggerated importance that it threatens to undo the serious progress of the past 18 months. Having performed so well at insulating the nuclear talks from outside complications, U.S. and Iranian negotiators have nearly reached agreement only to come to a standstill over this regional dimension. Of course, no one imagined back in 2010 that a conventional arms embargo — part of what was otherwise a U.N. Security Council resolution focused squarely on Iran’s nuclear-proliferation activities — would rear its ugly head in quite this manner.

The Russian and Iranian position is that the Security Council resolutions rested on the understanding that the arms embargo would be lifted once concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program were resolved. Provided that a deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program, Russia and Iran thus argue, the arms embargo loses its legal justification. The current U.S. position, however, may be less interested in maintaining coherence with past policy than it is with ensuring that it mitigates regional allies’ concern as much as possible as part of a nuclear deal with Iran. Understandably, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration fears that undoing the arms embargo on Iran would be a step too far for some of the United States’ key regional allies, all of which — but particularly Saudi Arabia — threaten to undermine the administration’s case for a nuclear deal should they perceive their interests to dictate in favor of doing so. Read more…

Published on July 10th in http://foreignpolicy.com/

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran.

Tyler Cullis is a legal fellow and policy associate at the National Iranian American Council.

19
Feb

IE International Relations_logo

IE School of International Relations is pleased to invite you to the conference:

“The New Regional Role of Iran in Taming Violence in the Middle East”

Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo,

Associate Professor of Political Science and a Noor-York Visiting Chair in Islamic Studies at York University and an advisory board member of PEN, Canada

With Comments by

Amb. Roberto Toscano, Former Ambassador of Italy to Iran

 

 The event will take place on Monday, 2 March 2015 at 12:00 – 13:30 in Room MM-401 (C/ María de Molina 31)

 

Please kindly confirm attendance to International.Relations@ie.edu

  Read more…

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