• 2020-07-16

    „The partnership, detailed in an 18-page proposed agreement obtained by The New York Times, would vastly expand Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects. In exchange, China would receive a regular — and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted — supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. The document also describes deepening military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in a region that has been a strategic preoccupation of the United States for decades. It calls for joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing — all to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.” 

  • 2020-07-15

    Over the last few weeks, Iran has been hit by a series of unusual explosions at such sensitive facilities as its nuclear enrichment complex, factories and gas pipelines. Many analysts and diplomats suspect sabotage by Israel, the United States or some other outside force. While reliable information from within Iran is difficult to come by, and conflicting accounts are emerging, at least two of the incidents occurred at sites linked to Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. The New York Times quoted a “Middle Eastern intelligence official” claiming that Israel planted a bomb at the Natanz nuclear facility in the building where Iran had resumed work on advanced centrifuges. The Times of Israel reported that the “official” may be Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

  • 2020-07-15

    Iranian officials say that some of the explosions at factories and military facilities, and some forest fires, may have been sabotage but blamed weather and accidents for the others. [...] A large fire broke out at a shipyard in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr on Wednesday, burning seven ships and sending plumes of black smoke billowing above the city skyline, according to videos and Iranian media reports. The fire followed dozens of recent fires and explosions across Iran’s forests, factories and military and nuclear facilities in the past three months that have rattled ordinary Iranians. Iranian officials have said that some of the episodes may have been acts of sabotage but blamed weather, accidents and equipment malfunctions for the others. 

  • 2020-07-11

    Iran and Syria have signed different military and defense cooperation over the past years. The Islamic Republic commenced providing Syria with advisory military assistance after numerous countries, at the head of them the U.S. and its Western and regional allies, began funding and arming militants and terrorists with the aim of deposing the Syrian president’s government. Although the Syrian government initially lost considerable expanses of territory to ISIS and other terror outfits, the country rallied to retake the lost grounds and drive out terrorists from much of the country.

  • 2020-07-10

    It is unlikely that Iran would seek to respond to any destructive cyberattack in a disproportionate manner – don’t expect missiles to fly against either Israel or US bases in the region. Instead, Iran will probably deploy its own very capable offensive cyberweapons in targeted retaliation, either against facilities in Israel and/or the US, or against regional targets affiliated with either of those countries. Cyber warfare is a new phenomenon, one which can inflict significant collateral damage on civilian infrastructure both in the targeted nation, as well as third parties not directly involved in the conflict at hand. If Israel and/or the US were, in fact, to have conducted a destructive cyberattack on Iran, there will almost certainly be retaliation. Where this cycle of cyber warfare will end, however, is unknown. Given the complex realities of cyber warfare, where computer viruses are released in a manner conducive to causing a global cyber pandemic, the question must be asked if the outcome achieved at Natanz and Hemmat was worth the potential risk accrued. If history is any lesson, the answer is – and will be – a resounding ‘No.’

  • 2020-07-10

    As Iran’s center for advanced nuclear centrifuges lies in charred ruins after an explosion, apparently engineered by Israel, the long-simmering conflict between the United States and Tehran appears to be escalating into a potentially dangerous phase likely to play out during the American presidential election campaign.

  • 2020-07-07

    Throughout 2019, the escalation of tensions surrounding the Strait of Hormuz confirmed that the stability of the Persian Gulf is not simply a regional, but a global problem. Though Iran’s HOPE advances an intra-regional format, any feasible and lasting framework necessitates the involvement of all littoral states including all Persian Gulf littoral states as well as external powers with vested interests in maintaining stability in the region. Europe, in conjunction with regional and external actors, can assume an instrumental role by facilitating dialogue and improving mechanisms for direct communication at the inter-governmental level while also providing a forum for flexible engagement that allows for the exchange of information and dialogue among experts, military officials, and bureaucrats.

  • 2020-07-07

    Several days after the massive July 2 explosion that destroyed the upper level of Iran’s centrifuge upgrading and uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, reports emerged in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Mossad Director Yossi Cohen to stay on an additional year once his five-year term expires at the end of the year. However, "the head,” as the spy agency director is known, only agreed to a six-month extension. Shortly after, in the pre-dawn hours of July 3, Israel launched its Ofek 16 spy satellite carried on a Shavit rocket from its Palmachim military base. The satellite significantly enhances Israel’s ability to track events around the world, in particular Iran. 

  • 2020-07-06

    Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman on Monday appeared to call out Mossad chief Yossi Cohen for leaking to the press Israel’s alleged role in a blast at an Iranian nuclear facility last week. The right-wing opposition MK did not identify Cohen by name during an Army Radio interview, but hinted at his role. 

  • 2020-07-01

    Conventional wisdom holds that the presence of United States forces in the Middle East makes America and the region more secure. To the contrary, the U.S. military’s large footprint in the region, combined with voluminous U.S. arms sales and support for repressive regimes, drives instability and exacerbates grievances and conditions that threaten the United States. This presence has made Americans less safe and undermined U.S. standing abroad; it also leaves America less prepared to address more dangerous nonmilitary challenges such as pandemics and climate change, as the Covid–19 crisis makes clear. Given the manifest failure of the current strategy, growing calls for a demilitarized approach to the region should come as no surprise. However, translating concepts of military restraint into practical policy requires sustained effort. This paper is intended to move the debate forward by operationalizing a holistic approach to the region based on a narrow definition of vital U.S. interests, in accordance with a foreign policy centered on military restraint and responsible statecraft. U.S. policy toward the Middle East should be guided by two core interests: Protect the United States from attack; and facilitate the free flow of global commerce. While these objectives require the U.S. to prevent hostile states from establishing hegemony in the region, they are best served by enhancing peace and security within a framework of international law. Neither warrants a major U.S. military presence in the Middle East, let alone regional military dominance. A basic reorientation of U.S. policy is long overdue. Rather than allowing bilateral friends and adversaries define regional policy, the U.S. should center policy decisions across the region on their direct implications for U.S. interests, rigorously defined. Bilateral relations should be adjusted to this regionwide policy, not the other way around. A new approach based on responsible statecraft would not disengage from the Middle East, but would instead prioritize diplomatic and economic involvement over military domination, military interventions, and arms sales. 

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