Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

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…

28
Dec

Tunisia Wins Again

Written on December 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

image post

With the election of its first freely chosen president, Tunisia has taken another important step on its post-Arab Spring transition toward democracy. Although the country faces many difficult challenges, it remains a symbol of hope and sanity in a region consumed by chaos and dominated by authoritarian governments.

The winner, Beji Caid Essebsi, is an 88-year-old former government official and leader of the secular, anti-Islamist party Nidaa Tounes. Mr. Essebsi received 55.68 percent of the vote, while Moncef Marzouki, the interim president, received 44.32 percent.

Mr. Essebsi served as interior minister under Tunisia’s repressive first president, Habib Bourguiba, and as speaker of Parliament under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. During the campaign, he promoted himself as an establishment figure whose experience could help ensure Tunisia’s security. Mr. Marzouki, a former human rights advocate, embodied the ideals and fervor of the revolution.

Read more…

24
Nov

There’s No Clear Solution in Iran

Written on November 24, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Middle East, Security

<p>Will we get more than a handshake between John Kerry and <span>Mohammad </span>Javad Zarif?</p>
 Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

In the anticipatory tumult leading up to Monday’s putative climax of the Iran nuclear talks, it’s become easy to forget that there is no truly satisfactory solution to the problem posed by the Tehran regime’s deep desire to reach the nuclear threshold. (The most likely outcome of the talks, I’m hearing this week, is that there will be an agreement to continue talking.)

There are two main camps in the West focused on the negotiations. The first includes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, much of the U.S. foreign-policy elite and most European governments. This group believes that a negotiated settlement with Iran will more or less guarantee that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the ayatollahs who will succeed him (Khamenei is not a young man) will never find themselves within easy reach of the bomb. This pro-negotiation camp believes that a treaty could perpetually keep Iran a year away from going nuclear. The more Utopian of these advocates for a negotiated solution think that a nuclear treaty will also spark a process of liberalization inside Iran. The capitalists among them believe — with greater proof than the Utopians — that a treaty will open a large market that sanctions has put off-limits.

The other, opposing, camp, in essence believes that no deal the Iranians would ever accede to would be good enough. This group includes the Israeli government, most Arab governments (the Arabs, not the Jews, are the traditional rivals of Persian Iran), Iranian dissidents (who loathe the cruel and authoritarian Iranian regime) and much of the U.S. Congress. This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear program in international law — an idea it finds an anathema. It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Both camps make strong arguments. But evidence suggests that each is wrong to think it possesses the foolproof solution to a nuclear challenge. Read more…

Published by Jeffrey Goldberg on Nov. 21 in http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-21/theres-no-solution-in-iran

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