After the Aramco Attack: A Middle East One Step Closer to Its “1914 Moment”

by International Crisis Group For much of 2019, Crisis Group has warned that a trigger event could spark direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran on the other, precipitating a regional conflagration. The combination of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Iranian pushback, the spiralling civil war … Continue reading “After the Aramco Attack: A Middle East One Step Closer to Its “1914 Moment””

What Do Iranian Human Rights Activists Want from the West?

by Nader Hashemi What do Iranian human rights activists want from the international community, the West in particular? What guidelines should be followed that can better support their heroic efforts? As someone who has written on the topic and spent considerable time studying the topic, reading their statements, and interviewing some prominent voices, I would … Continue reading “What Do Iranian Human Rights Activists Want from the West?”

Sharpies in the Post-Truth Era

by Paul R. Pillar President Trump’s amateurish use of a felt-tip pen to alter an already outdated map from the National Hurricane Center, in an effort to sustain an earlier assertion about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama, bordered on self-parody. It was only slightly less contrived than the fun that online wags had in suggesting other … Continue reading “Sharpies in the Post-Truth Era”

Iran Reacts to Developments in the Kashmir Valley

by Giorgio Cafiero Without doubt, the Indian government’s bold decision to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution, thereby ending the special legal autonomy Kashmir has enjoyed for over 70 years, has left Tehran in a difficult position. Fostering closer ties with New Delhi is important to the Islamic Republic, especially given that India is … Continue reading “Iran Reacts to Developments in the Kashmir Valley”

Is Iran’s Economy Sliding?

by Djavad Salehi-Isfahani Last April, in a column for this blog I predicted that sanctions are very unlikely to force Iran to renegotiate the multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In particular, I argued that the belief held by Iran hawks in Washington foreign policy circles, that economic pressure will … Continue reading “Is Iran’s Economy Sliding?”

Saudi Oil Attacks Put U.S. Commitments to the Test

by James M. Dorsey Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United States is rushing to retaliate for a brazen, allegedly Iranian attack that severely damaged two of the kingdom’s key oil facilities. That is not to say that Saudi Arabia and/or the United States will not retaliate in what could prove to be a game changer … Continue reading “Saudi Oil Attacks Put U.S. Commitments to the Test”

The View from Syria’s Peace Talks

by W. Alex Sanchez Eight years since its inception in 2011, the Syrian civil war rages on, a conflict that has taken on grand geopolitical dimensions and resulted in tens of thousands killed and a massive exodus of refugees. While other tensions and conflicts around the world have since grabbed the attention of major media … Continue reading “The View from Syria’s Peace Talks”

Israeli Elections: Round 2

by Mitchell Plitnick On Tuesday, Israel held its second national election this year. With most of the ballots counted, neither Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition nor Benny Gantz’s Blue and White grouping had enough support for their parties and their natural allies to form a new government. The absentee ballots and those of the active military … Continue reading “Israeli Elections: Round 2”

Trump’s Wall is Alive in Hungary, which is why Orban is befriending Assad

by Nicolai Due-Gundersen “You’re respected all over Europe,” Trump insisted when meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House in May 2019. For his part, Orban confirmed that his views on immigration were aligned with Trump’s border wall mentality. “I would like to express,” Orban declared, “that we are proud to stand together … Continue reading “Trump’s Wall is Alive in Hungary, which is why Orban is befriending Assad”

Selling Oil From Our Strategic Reserve Is a Bad Idea

by Thomas W. Lippman Whatever else he may decide to do is response to the attack on Saudi Arabia’s critical oil installations last weekend, President Trump has already made one shortsighted, ill-advised decision. In a tweet on Saturday, Trump announced that he was authorizing the sale of some oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve … Continue reading “Selling Oil From Our Strategic Reserve Is a Bad Idea”

To Make a Deal with Iran, Consider Culture, Not Cliche

by Siamak Tundra Naficy When U.S. economic sanctions, military threats, and outright demands fail to ensure political success with Iran, there may be a temptation to put down Schelling and Clausewitz and instead pick up Franz Boas. While an understanding of anthropology and the nuances of culture is itself not a bad thing, a misinformed … Continue reading “To Make a Deal with Iran, Consider Culture, Not Cliche”

The Emperor’s New-Old Nuclear Clothes

by Helena Cobban How is it still possible to write a lengthy article about the military/strategic dynamic among the triad of Israel, Iran, and the United States while making zero mention of Israel’s robust nuclear-weapons capability? New York Times staffers Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti, and their editors at the Times magazine clearly think this … Continue reading “The Emperor’s New-Old Nuclear Clothes”

The Encirclement of Saudi Oil Production by Iran

by Jean-François Seznec The latest attacks on the Arab Gulf oil industry seems to be part of a strategy by Iran to warn the Gulf states that it can block all oil shipments, if it sees fit. Saturday’s extensive destruction of the Abqaiq oil processing plant passes the message that Iran has superior precision weapons that … Continue reading “The Encirclement of Saudi Oil Production by Iran”

The Balance of Power Has Changed in Yemen

by Abdulaziz Kilani In the early morning hours of September 14, Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco was the target of two apparent attacks. “At 4 am on Saturday morning, Aramco’s industrial security teams fought two fires in two of the company’s facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais after they were targeted by drones… the two fires … Continue reading “The Balance of Power Has Changed in Yemen”

Vladimir Putin’s Knowledge of the East

by Gareth Smyth Just five days before Israel’s general election, Likud party leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Sochi, Russia, to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Back home in Tel Aviv, a huge poster of Netanyahu and Putin was fluttering from the Likud headquarters, presumably to … Continue reading “Vladimir Putin’s Knowledge of the East”

An Israeli Election That Will Decide Nothing

by James J. Zogby Before a single vote is cast in Israel’s second national election this year, two disturbing facts are clear: the outcome will be as muddled as it was after the April contest and whoever wins, despite the permanent state of denial in which Western liberals find themselves, Israel/Palestine has become one state … Continue reading “An Israeli Election That Will Decide Nothing”

Iran Struggles With Food Security Amid Sanctions

by Austin Bodetti As Iran wrestles with devastating economic sanctions imposed after the United States’ withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the news media has highlighted the impact on Iran’s economy as a whole, noting predictions by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that it would contract by between 3.8 and … Continue reading “Iran Struggles With Food Security Amid Sanctions”

Stoking Middle East Conflicts Has Just Become More Damaging

by Paul R. Pillar The Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia has always been regarded as a vulnerable choke point in the world petroleum trade. Essential for separating harmful gas and stabilizing crude oil to make it safe to transport on ocean-going tankers, the facility can process some seven million barrels of crude per … Continue reading “Stoking Middle East Conflicts Has Just Become More Damaging”

A U.S.-Israeli Mutual Defense Treaty: It Won’t Happen

by Robert E. Hunter In the Middle East, there is an old admonition: be careful what you wish for. Winning the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003 was a prime example, in that it created a continuing mess that does not promise to get better anytime soon. Now in the Levant, President Donald Trump … Continue reading “A U.S.-Israeli Mutual Defense Treaty: It Won’t Happen”

Attacks On Saudi Arabia’s Oil Installations Could Escalate Persian Gulf Tensions to Dangerous Levels

by Shireen T. Hunter Sautrday’s apparent drone attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil installation at Abqaiq and its oil field at Khurais—both located in the kingdom’s predominantly Shia Eastern Province—have once more raised the political temperatures in the Persian Gulf. Reportedly, as a consequence of these attacks Saudi Arabia’s oil production has been reduced by over … Continue reading “Attacks On Saudi Arabia’s Oil Installations Could Escalate Persian Gulf Tensions to Dangerous Levels”

“Never Again,” Yet Again and Again

by Henry Siegman It is well over half a century since the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust were tried in Nuremburg, and a decade and a half since the International Criminal Court was launched following the crimes committed in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia. Yet today the international community is still failing to confront barbarism … Continue reading ““Never Again,” Yet Again and Again”

The Days of One-Way Pain Are Over

by Gary Sick The Global War on Terror (GWOT) has operated from the start on the unspoken assumption that the enemy—usually scattered and primitive—was unable to strike back effectively. U.S. drones keep watch 24 hours a day over al-Qaeda hideouts in the wilds of Waziristan, occasionally launching missiles at suspected leaders, with little worry about … Continue reading “The Days of One-Way Pain Are Over”

On 18th Anniversary of 9/11, Media Worry About ‘Premature’ End to Afghan War

by Joshua Cho On the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the illegal US occupation of Afghanistan continues as the longest overseas war in American history. Although President Donald Trump recently declared that peace negotiations over the withdrawal of US troops with the Taliban are “dead,” reportedly because of the death of a US … Continue reading “On 18th Anniversary of 9/11, Media Worry About ‘Premature’ End to Afghan War”

The Systemic Problem of “Iran Expertise” in Washington

This piece was originally published at Jadaliyya as part of the launch of their new Iran Page and is excerpted and republished here with permission. Congratulations to Jadaliyya on the new venture! by Negar Razavi In this piece, I want to draw attention to the systemic problem of “Iran expertise” in Washington, which is neither … Continue reading “The Systemic Problem of “Iran Expertise” in Washington”

Gulf Wealth: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

by James M. Dorsey Little suggests that fabulously wealthy Gulf states and their Middle Eastern and North African beneficiaries have recognized what is perhaps the most important lesson of this year’s popular uprisings in Algeria and Sudan and the 2011 Arab revolts: All that glitters is not gold. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and … Continue reading “Gulf Wealth: All That Glitters Is Not Gold”

The Adelsons May Have Cut Ties with Netanyahu More than a Year Ago–and No One Noticed

by Marsha B. Cohen In the days leading up to the Israeli election on Sept. 17, President Donald Trump appears to have left Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu twisting in the wind. While most observers have been attributing Trump’s cooling toward Netanyahu to either rational foreign policy differences–particularly rumors that Trump may make an overture … Continue reading “The Adelsons May Have Cut Ties with Netanyahu More than a Year Ago–and No One Noticed”

Why Ayatollah Khamenei Has Blocked Negotiation with the U.S.

by Kayhan Barzegar Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has defined the current status of relations between Iran and the United States as “no war, no negotiation.” His position, in addition to showing Iran’s indomitability or resistance against President Trump’s and his favorite regional allies’ so-called “maximum pressure” policy, is aimed at unifying Iran’s foreign … Continue reading “Why Ayatollah Khamenei Has Blocked Negotiation with the U.S.”

Afghanistan: A Failure to Tell the Truth

by John Glaser and John Mueller Speaking to the press in the Oval Office in July, President Trump acknowledged the need to “extricate ourselves” from Afghanistan. “We have been there for 19 years,” he complained. “It’s ridiculous.” This was not the first time Trump had talked about the war this way. He clearly does not … Continue reading “Afghanistan: A Failure to Tell the Truth”

Trump Provoked a Crisis with Iran, and Now May Try to Solve It

by Ryan Costello Trump’s firing of John Bolton has single-handedly dealt a two-pronged blow to those in Washington who sought to maneuver him into a devastating war with Iran. Not only has the likelihood of conflict gone down with Bolton dismissed from the White House, but the odds of negotiations that take war off the … Continue reading “Trump Provoked a Crisis with Iran, and Now May Try to Solve It”

Protecting Americans’ Right to Boycott Israel is More Important Than Ever

by Laila Ujayli In a letter this week, forty organizations urged members of Congress to support a resolution affirming Americans’ constitutional right to participate in political boycotts. The effort is a response to escalating attempts to stifle efforts like Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a Palestinian-led movement designed to pressure Israel to comply with international law. … Continue reading “Protecting Americans’ Right to Boycott Israel is More Important Than Ever”

A Crumbling Saudi-Emirati Alliance in Yemen May Change U.S. Gulf Policy

by Charles W. Dunne As recently as last June, the de facto alliance between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt appeared to be in the driver’s seat of US policy on the Middle East, influencing Trump Administration thinking on issues such as the boycott of Qatar, political turmoil in Sudan, and civil war … Continue reading “A Crumbling Saudi-Emirati Alliance in Yemen May Change U.S. Gulf Policy”

Challenging the World Order: Erdogan Wants Right to Develop Nuclear Weapons

by James M. Dorsey Brinkmanship may be his trademark, but Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to provoke the ire of the international community by launching a nuclear weapons program. Yet, his demand that Turkey have the right to do so highlights the fracturing of the rules-based international order as well as changing regional … Continue reading “Challenging the World Order: Erdogan Wants Right to Develop Nuclear Weapons”

Tunisian Democracy and Sinister Agendas from Abroad

by Giorgio Cafiero and Dr. Khalid al-Jaber Tunisia’s presidential campaign is in full swing, with an election set for September 15. This election will be held two months earlier than originally planned because of the sudden death of former President Beji Caid Essebsi—the “late maestro of Tunisian politics”—in July. For a host of reasons, this … Continue reading “Tunisian Democracy and Sinister Agendas from Abroad”

Is Iran at Risk of Becoming a Chinese Colony?

by Shireen T. Hunter According to an article in the Petroleum Economist, during Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to China in late August, Tehran and Beijing updated an agreement they had reached in 2016 called the China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and added new items to it. Most of these new points have not been … Continue reading “Is Iran at Risk of Becoming a Chinese Colony?”

The U.S. in Afghanistan: 18 Years and Still Counting

by Robert E. Hunter Always the man of surprises, President Donald Trump this past weekend sprang two: the first to schedule a “secret” meeting at Camp David to try settling the Afghanistan conflict; the second to cancel the meeting and the entire peace process. He was certainly wise to do the second. Just before a … Continue reading “The U.S. in Afghanistan: 18 Years and Still Counting”

Bolton’s Firing Undermines Netanyahu in Several Ways

by Mitchell Plitnick Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a very disappointing day on Tuesday. Struggling in the polls a week before the rerun of April’s Israeli national elections, the embattled prime minister was desperate for something to swing a chunk of voters in his direction, or at least in the direction of some of … Continue reading “Bolton’s Firing Undermines Netanyahu in Several Ways”

After Trump Calls Off Taliban Talks, What’s Next for Afghanistan?

by Fatemeh Aman President Trump’s abrupt cancellation of planned peace talks at Camp David between the Taliban and the Afghan government as part of a U.S. withdrawal plan seems to have had the immediate effect of ousting his national security adviser, John Bolton. But the larger implications of the latest foreign-policy surprise, particularly for prospects … Continue reading “After Trump Calls Off Taliban Talks, What’s Next for Afghanistan?”

The Catastrophic Tenure of John Bolton

by Joseph Cirincione John Bolton’s tenure was a complete disaster. The national security architecture after Bolton looks like the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.  Seventeen months ago, before Bolton became Donald Trump’s third national security advisor, the United States still had a deal that had stopped Iran’s nuclear program in its tracks. More, it had rolled … Continue reading “The Catastrophic Tenure of John Bolton”

Trump Makes the Right Call: Bolton Out

By Paul R. Pillar That President Trump will soon have his fourth national security adviser in less than three years reflects the lack of strategic sense underlying the president’s foreign and security policies. When policy is more a matter of applause lines and appealing to a domestic political base than of implementing a coherent view … Continue reading “Trump Makes the Right Call: Bolton Out”

UN Criticised for Link-up with Saudi Prince MBS

by James Reinl The United Nations is under growing pressure to scrap an event it is co-hosting with the private foundation of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been linked to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On Tuesday, Sunjeev Bery, director of Freedom Forward, became the latest leader of a campaign … Continue reading “UN Criticised for Link-up with Saudi Prince MBS”

Eighteen Years After 9/11, Has al-Qaeda Won the War on Terrorism?

by Peter Ford What blasphemy is this? al-Qaeda has won? Absurd! Most observers would say reflexively that, eighteen years after 9/11, the U.S. has cut al-Qaeda down to size, and if it has not quelled it altogether the remaining operations against Osama bin Laden’s organisation—such as the strike on al-Qaeda in Syria in Idlib on … Continue reading “Eighteen Years After 9/11, Has al-Qaeda Won the War on Terrorism?”

Turkey and Russia: An Asymmetrical Partnership?

by Bulent Aras Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Moscow in late August to raise his concerns over the Assad regime’s military offensive in Syria’s Idlib province. Putin extended him a warm welcome but offered him no assurances regarding the situation in Idlib, which is not what Ankara was hoping to get. … Continue reading “Turkey and Russia: An Asymmetrical Partnership?”

Is an American-Iranian Dialogue Coming?

by Daniel Brumberg When it comes to the clash between the Trump Administration and the Iranian government, three days can seem like a lifetime. This point was displayed by the sequence of events that began with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s August 25 visit to the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, France at the invitation … Continue reading “Is an American-Iranian Dialogue Coming?”

Is Iran Abnormal?

by Mohammad Ataie It is fashionable among Trump administration officials to call Iran “abnormal.” Unless Iran behaves like “a normal nation,” says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Washington’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against it will continue. Even in recent days, amid signs of a possible thaw in Iran-U.S. relations, both Pompeo and National Security Advisor … Continue reading “Is Iran Abnormal?”

Understanding Egypt’s Role in Libya’s Civil War

by Giorgio Cafiero and Emily Torjusen External actors continue their deep involvement in Libya’s multifaceted civil war. This year, Turkey has stepped up its support for militias allied with the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. The GNA’s rival—the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), which is allied with General Khalifa Haftar’s … Continue reading “Understanding Egypt’s Role in Libya’s Civil War”

Scholars, Spies and the Gulf Military Industrial Complex: A Scholar’s Tale

by Shana Marshall from the Middle East Research and Information Project In May 2018, Matthew (Matt) Hedges, a PhD student at Durham University in Great Britain, was arrested by United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) authorities while conducting dissertation fieldwork and detained for seven months in solitary confinement where he was interrogated daily and denied access to … Continue reading “Scholars, Spies and the Gulf Military Industrial Complex: A Scholar’s Tale”

Who Are the Real Invaders?

by Tom Engelhardt He crossed the border without permission or, as far as I could tell, documentation of any sort. I’m speaking about Donald Trump’s uninvited, unasked-for invasion of my personal space. He’s there daily, often hourly, whether I like it or not, and I don’t have a Department of Homeland Security to separate him … Continue reading “Who Are the Real Invaders?”

The Legacy of Jason Greenblatt’s Diplomatic Service

by Giorgio Cafiero Jason Dov Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s “special representative for international negotiations,” resigned on September 5. Greenblatt—along with Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Washington’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman—was responsible for formulating a plan to resolve the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Greenblatt’s decision to resign before the administration released its so-called “Deal … Continue reading “The Legacy of Jason Greenblatt’s Diplomatic Service”

The Russian-Iranian Axis: An Eternal Marriage (of Convenience)

by Ghoncheh Tazmini While the European Union’s plan to establish a “special purpose vehicle” to protect Iranian commerce from U.S. sanctions continues to underwhelm Iranian leaders, the Russian government has taken a decisive step to help Iran circumnavigate sanctions by allowing Tehran to transport crude oil through ports in Crimea. This is not the first … Continue reading “The Russian-Iranian Axis: An Eternal Marriage (of Convenience)”