• 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.

  • 2020-12-07

    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. 

  • 2020-12-02

    On November 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent nuclear scientist, was assassinated in a roadside attack about 40 miles east of Tehran. He was the fifth nuclear scientist killed since 2010. Iran usually blamed Israel, sometimes invoking the United States and often their local agents. Historically, Israel has not claimed responsibility for assassinations. But both countries have reportedly waged a covert campaign to sabotage Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

  • 2020-12-02

    The assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27 generated significant fallout in the wider Middle East and in the West. It heightened fears of retaliation and kinetic tensions in the region. The United States pulled back its diplomatic presence in Iraq. And the Iranian parliament passed a law requiring an escalation in production of enriched uranium, the fuel for a nuclear weapon and peaceful energy.

  • 2020-12-01

    In the weeks remaining before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Donald Trump is taking actions — including aiding and abetting murder — to prevent his successor from pursuing diplomacy with Iran.

  • 2020-12-01

    Many major powers around the world and in the Middle East denounced the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian nuclear scientist on November 27. Five of the six world powers that brokered the 2015 nuclear deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – rebuked the murder and urged an immediate de-escalation of tensions to avoid a regional conflict. The United States, the sixth and most important negotiator, had no comment; Trump pulled out of the deal in 2015. On December 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Israel is a key partner, and not a problem” when it comes to countering Iran. But he did not elaborate. A senior U.S. administration official told CNN that Israel was behind the assassination. 

  • 2020-12-01

    We now read that the Fakhrizadeh murder may have fatally sabotaged President-elect Biden’s plans to restore the U.S. to the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs, which President Donald Trump abandoned a year into his term. How does that work?  If Biden and his new advisers — Antony Blinken at State, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser — are serious about diplomacy with Tehran, now is the time to go full-tilt for it, wouldn’t you say? Gentlemen, mount those white horses. In the same piece presenting the weird argument about the damage just inflicted on Biden’s diplomatic aspirations, Sullivan is quoted as saying the U.S. will return to the accord “if Iran returns to compliance, for its obligations that it has been violating, and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements.” The “follow-on agreements” seem to be those Trump and Pompeo have insisted upon — no missile-defense systems, no efforts to secure its neighborhood, the latter mischaracterized as “acts of terror.” Let me get this straight: We’re here to correct the Trump regime’s mistakes, and we propose to do so by embracing them?  These people are simply not serious. My tentative conclusion: Biden, Blinken and Sullivan cannot see their way to recommitting to the 2015 agreement because Biden is inexcusably close to Israel and Israel has stated its opposition to this in the clearest of terms. For the time being, it looks as if they will take cover in the Fakhrizadeh murder as they slither out the side door on Iran: Golly, we wanted to talk to Tehran but events have foiled us. Shall we mark this down as Foreign Policy Failure No. 1 for our “responsible American leadership?” We will have to keep track as the numbers rise.

  • 2020-12-01

    The Iranian media expressed outraged at the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading nuclear scientist. Newspapers from across the political spectrum – reformist, centrist, conservative and hardline – published front-page photos of his bullet-riddled car and funeral casket.    

  • 2020-12-01

    Secretary Pompeo has been particularly forward leaning in the administration’s efforts to inflict damage on the Iranian government. In a recent trip to the Middle East, Pompeo met with leaders from Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain on ways all three countries could work together on countering the Islamic Republic. The trip followed on the heels of an announcement by the State Department that it had recently approved a massive sale of F-35 jets to the UAE. The deal has been widely viewed as a way to get Dubai to cooperate with Jerusalem on deterring Iran. And on Friday, Pompeo announced additional Iran-related sanctions, this time targeting Chinese and Russian entities for transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program. [...]  “If Iran takes the bait, which is clearly the intention behind [the Farikhzadeh assassination], then it probably makes it impossible to return to the JCPOA and diplomacy,” said Jarrett Blanc, the former coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation in the Obama State Department. “If Iran doesn’t take the bait… I don’t know that it really changes the choices that confront the Biden team or Iran in January.” Any negotiations between a Biden administration and Iran would include conversations about the lifting of some sanctions, two individuals familiar with the Biden team’s thinking on Iran said. But those sanctions would likely only be lifted if and when Tehran complies with a deal. “Iran says it is prepared to come back in compliance and reverse some of the decisions it’s made. And the U.S. says it would lift some of the sanctions. [There’s] no legal bar to reverse them. Many of them were imposed for political reasons,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s likely going to be a two-step approach for Biden—getting back in and then perhaps renegotiating a different, better deal.”

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