• 2021-11-19

    The short-term crisis between the two neighbors has dissipated. But in the longer term, relations have gotten a lot more complicated. As tensions subsided following weeks of saber-rattling and hostile rhetoric, the foreign ministers of Iran and Azerbaijan had a November 5 phone call in which they blamed “ill-wishers” for trying to exploit “recent misunderstandings between the two neighbors,” as the Iranian readout put it. But the short-term rapprochement and blame-shifting only serves to obscure larger shifts in the relationship: While the war games and insults have abated, diverging geopolitical choices continue to pull Baku and Tehran in opposite directions, augmenting the risks of periodic eruptions in the future.

  • 2021-11-18

    Iran has not acknowledged the attack, but U.S. and Israeli officials said it was retaliation for Israeli airstrikes, drawing the U.S. into Iran’s shadow war with Israel. […] An armed drone strike last month on an American military base in southern Syria was Iranian retaliation for Israeli airstrikes in Syria, according to eight American and Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. The drone attack, which caused no casualties, would be the first time Iran has directed a military strike against the United States in response to an attack by Israel, an escalation of Iran’s shadow war with Israel that poses new dangers to U.S. forces in the Middle East.

  • 2021-11-14

    Fearing a Western-inspired overthrow, Tehran has intensified enforcement of morality laws, purged professors from universities, and poured billions of dollars into the creation of a separate national intranet. To understand Iranian anxieties about Western cultural invasion, one need look no further than Psychological Operations Quarterly, a journal published until recently by the IRGC’s Social-Cultural Directorate. Focusing on the “soft war” waged by various Western entities, the periodical covers such material as supposedly anti-Iranian films (Alexander, The Wrestler, Argo), the relationship between McDonald’s franchises and the fall of the Soviet Union, and the harm done by English-language textbooks to the Iranian mind. Since 1979, in response to such perceived threats, the Islamic Republic has intensified enforcement of morality laws, purged professors from universities, and poured billions of dollars into creating a national intranet separate from the wider internet, among other repressive moves. In this deeply sourced Policy Note, Iran expert Amir Toumaj discusses the many dimensions of Tehran’s paranoia, all of which lead back to fears of a U.S.-spurred “soft overthrow.” Unfortunately, he argues, American leaders will struggle in vain to change the minds of Iran’s ruling hardliners, but they can facilitate longer-term progress by promoting access to diverse viewpoints for the Iranian people.

  • 2021-11-12

    The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed. After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.

  • 2021-11-10

    In his instructions to the new cabinet, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced US President Joe Biden as a “ravenous wolf,” telling his ministers, “Diplomacy should not be influenced and linked to the nuclear issue.” Instead, President Ebrahim Raisi’s team intends to focus on east-oriented economic diplomacy. Both Raisi and Ali Khamenei condemned the previous President Hassan Rouhani for being naive in negotiations with the West, with the Supreme Leader explicitly stating, “Trusting the West doesn’t work.” He considers Western negotiators on the nuclear program unreliable and deceitful. Accordingly, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh demanded that US President Joe Biden provide specific assurances that Washington “will not again renege on its commitments” under the renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

  • 2021-11-04

    Let’s begin with a few headlines: Pentagon says world will have three ‘great powers’ – and US will be ‘challenged’ / Biden ready to change US nuclear weapons policy – reports / The US imposes sanctions on Nicaragua / IRGC releases footage of blocking US oil seizure

  • 2021-11-03

    U.S. and Iranian officials gave conflicting accounts of a ship that was seized last month. Some reports said it was the same tanker the United States had seized last year. The Pentagon denied that.

  • 2021-10-28

    Neither country can afford the setbacks that often are the result of hubris. Both have bigger geopolitical, diplomatic, and economic fish to fry.

  • 2021-10-28

    A hacker group known as "Moses Staff" has carried out a cyberattack against the Israeli Defense Ministry, revealing files and photographs from the ministry's systems. […] In mid-October, Microsoft revealed that hackers allegedly linked to Iran had attempted to break into 250 Microsoft Office 365 accounts belonging to American and Israeli security firms using a hacking method known as "password spraying." Defense businesses that serve American, European Union, and Israeli government partners in the production of military-grade radars, drone technology, satellite systems, and emergency response communication systems, according to Microsoft, were the focus of the attacks.

  • 2021-10-27

    Iran president says cyberattack not the first, won’t be last. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited gas stations in Tehran a day after a cyberattack, presumably from a foreign country, caused long delays at the pump. Raisi said that this cyberattack is neither the first time nor will it be the last and asked people to be prepared for more. At a cabinet meeting, Raisi also said that the attack's purpose was to “disrupt the lives of people.” Officials did not become entangled in the problem and they quickly resolved it, Raisi said. He also noted that the Iranian people did not allow “others to take advantage” of the situation, meaning they did not make the attack into a reason for anti-government protests, which Raisi assumed was the intent.