• 2020-12-27

    If an Israeli submarine arrives in the [Persian] Gulf, Iran will consider that an act of aggression and “in this case, we will have the right to take revenge,” Abolfazl Amouei, spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told Aljazeera on Saturday night, just a few days after Israeli and American news media reported that an Israeli submarine has openly crossed the Suez Canal en route to Iran. 

  • 2020-12-26

    The role of Iraqi militias, which probably fired the rockets in Baghdad, points to how the Trump administration could be given an excuse to attack Iran even if Iran itself continues to restrain itself while counting the days until Trump leaves office. A widespread undercurrent of Iraqi resentment against the U.S. presence has continued ever since the destruction and misery that followed the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003. That resentment was reflected in the agreement for a pullout of U.S. troops that was negotiated during George W. Bush’s administration. […] On top of that history comes Trump’s pardon in the past few days of four Blackwater security guards who had been convicted and imprisoned for the massacre of seventeen Iraqi civilians, including children, at a road intersection in Baghdad in 2007. This pardon sends a terrible message to all Iraqis. It says not only that the rule of law in the United States is a sham but also that the United States does not value or respect Iraqi lives. With this one act, Trump has increased the chance of future Iraqi shots being fired in anger at Americans—and the sort of incident that Trump could use as an excuse for starting a military conflagration with Iran. 

  • 2020-12-23

    In a Twitter post that came after a meeting with senior officials at the White House, Mr. Trump said that Iran was behind rocket attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday. “Some friendly health advice to Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.” […] In the past two weeks, Central Command has flown B-52 bombers in the region in a show of force, sent an extra squadron of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, kept the aircraft carrier Nimitz in the area, and announced that it is sending a Tomahawk-firing submarine. All of these measures, military officials said, are in the name of deterrence.

  • 2020-12-22

    This paper aims to analyze the pivotal points of the Middle Eastern crises and to which extent the interests of Moscow and Tehran overlap or contradict each other. Some of the key issues of the political situation in the region were assessed, such as the situation in Idlib, the prospects for a political process in Syria, Israel’s role in the region’s future, the path to Syria’s reconstruction and the impact of U.S. policies on the emerging new order in the Middle East. Both Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran regard each other as necessary components of the regional architecture that they envision for the Middle East. The paper attempts to shed light on the views of Moscow and Tehran on these issues.

  • 2020-12-15

    Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian nuclear physicist and key official in that country’s nuclear program, was killed in an ambush on a provincial road outside Tehran on 27 November 2020. The assassination was widely assumed to be the work of Israel, perhaps acting in coordination with the United States and local agents. Coming during the waning days of the Trump administration, the killing was characterized as an attempt to raise US-Iranian tensions at a sensitive point in time and frustrate the stated ambition of President-elect Joe Biden to resume United States compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear agreement from which Washington unilaterally withdrew in 2017. Mouin Rabbani, editor of Quick Thoughts and Jadaliyya Co-Editor, interviewed Pouya Alimagham, a specialist on Iranian affairs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to learn more about the context and potential consequences of the Fakhrizadeh assassination.

  • 2020-12-10

    The Gulf monarchies face a core dilemma: advancing their security interests through deterrence or through promoting a new diplomatic process. The arrival of the Biden administration in Washington, and the perception of US disengagement from the region, offers an opportunity for Europeans to help de-escalate tensions between GCC states and Iran. The European interest lies in supporting a return to the Iranian nuclear deal and a regional dialogue between the Gulf monarchies and Iran, an approach that is more likely to promote lasting stability. Europeans can support this process by strengthening their own regional security posture and confronting head-on the geopolitical tensions at the heart of regional rivalries.

  • 2020-12-10

    In immediate terms, the EU stance on the situation around Iran is becoming crucial. Germany’s attitude toward the Iran nuclear issue has undergone change, hinting at a possibly new EU policy that seeks to achieve what the US president Donald Trump failed to achieve through the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. In an interview with Der Spiegel earlier in the month, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “A return to the previous (2015 Iran nuclear) agreement will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of ‘nuclear agreement plus,’ which is also in our interest. We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region. Iran also needs to play a different role in the region. We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran. I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this.” […] Meanwhile, on December 3, Germany delivered to Israel the first of four advanced German-made warships equipped with rocket and missile defence systems, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and an upgraded launching pad for Israel’s newest attack helicopters. The Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, called them “one of the most advanced war machines in the world, which poses a significant leap forward in the Israeli military’s ability to ensure our strength at sea and in naval operations.”

  • 2020-12-10

    On November 12, President Trump reportedly asked his top national security advisers to prepare plans for attacking nuclear processing facilities in Iran after Tehran announced its intent to accelerate its uranium enrichment activities—a step taken in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and his imposition of crushing economic sanctions. According to White House sources, Trump was talked out of launching an attack on that date by some of his top advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who claimed it would ignite an eruption of violence all across the Middle East. But Trump never pledged to refrain from ordering strikes on Iran at some future time and there is growing evidence that he is preparing to initiate such an assault before his term ends. Indeed, it is entirely conceivable that he will give the go-ahead for an attack now that his legal options for preventing Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 appear to be vanishing and he gropes for a way to create pandemonium at home or, at the very least, punish his enemies abroad. 

  • 2020-12-07

    Biden says he wants – through diplomacy – to achieve a nuclear deal with Iran – i.e. a JCPOA ‘Plus + Plus’. The Europeans desperately concur with this aspiration. But the ‘deal protocols’ that his ‘A-Team’ inherits from the Obama era have always contained seeds to failure. And now, four years on, the prospect of failure seems assured – firstly by the hostages to fortune already offered up by Biden, and secondly (and decisively), by the fact that the ‘world’ today is not the ‘world’ of yore. The ‘chair’ at the head of the table of global leadership is no longer an American perquisite. Israel is not the same Israel, and Iran – for sure – is not the same Iran (as at the outset to the Obama initiative). The world has moved on. The last four years cannot simply be expunged as some inconsequential aberration to earlier protocols, still valid today. 

  • 2020-12-03

    Two decades of endless war and a bloated Pentagon budget that has proven useless in preventing Covid–19 deaths, now 270,000 and counting, are a jarring reminder that America’s foreign policy is thoroughly broken: It actually makes America and Americans less safe. […] President-elect Joe Biden appears to recognize the need for a serious reorientation. His just-named national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, recently said that Biden has tasked his foreign policy team with “reimagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad,” including pandemics and the climate crisis. Moreover, Sullivan said that American foreign policy has to be judged by a basic question: Does it “make life better, easier, and safer” for Americans at home? Our foreign policy, in Sullivan’s words, has to deliver for American families. […] This document spells out how the incoming Biden administration should embrace these principles in five specific contexts: China and East Asia, Afghanistan, the Greater Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. These fresh approaches will meet the challenge of reimagining our national security and ensuring that it delivers for the American people.