43 Items

Iran Syria missiles

Associated Press

Journal Article - International Affairs

Iran's Syria Strategy: The Evolution of Deterrence

| Feb. 04, 2019

Iran has been a critical player in the Syrian war since 2011, crafting a complex foreign policy and military strategy to preserve its Syrian ally. What have been the drivers of Iranian decision-making in this conflict? And how has Iranian strategy evolved over the course of the war? This article argues that the logic of deterrence has been fundamental not just for shaping the contours of Iran–Syria relations since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but also for determining the overall trajectory of Iranian strategy in the Syrian war. The authors outline Iran's decision-making calculus and divide the country's strategy on Syria after the Arab Spring into four primary phases: 1) a ‘Basij’ strategy to establish local militias in Syria; 2) a regionalization strategy to incorporate transnational fighters and militias in the war effort; 3) an internationalization strategy to incorporate Russia and balance the United States; and 4) a post-ISIS deterrence strategy to balance against the United States, Turkey and Israel. Iran's Syria strategy progressively escalated in response to the possible defeat of its ally and the deterioration of its forward deterrence capacities against the United States and Israel. Today, the potential for direct inter-state conflict is rising as proxy warfare declines and Iran attempts to maintain the credibility of its forward deterrence.

Payam Mohseni Interview CNN Iran Saudi Arabia

CNN

Broadcast Appearance - CNN

Impact of the U.S. picking sides in Saudi-Iran battle

| Oct. 20, 2018

What would the repercussions be of the U.S. pulling its support of Saudi Arabia? What is driving U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia and what impacts do these policies have for America’s standing in the region and globally? Harvard’s Dr. Payam Mohseni and Dr. Qanta Ahmed weigh the pros and cons.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are welcomed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Saturday, May 20, 2017, on their arrival to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

White House

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

The United States Cannot Afford to Pick a Side in the Shia-Sunni Fight

| June 25, 2018

While many Shia movements may have differences of opinion with Iran, as long as the Trump presidency uncritically supports Saudi Arabia and the threat of military conflict with Iran remains on the horizon, it is unlikely that any popular Shia group will side with the United States. The administration’s narrow focus on Iran will provoke precisely what the Trump White House aims to prevent—a more cohesive regional Shia movement under Iran’s protection and aggrieved Shia supportive of countering U.S. influence in the region. In other words, the current U.S. course is narrowing policy discussions both within individual Shia organizations as well as across transnational Shia alliances by closing the door to pro-U.S. policy alternatives. This further consolidates Iran's position as the center of the Shia world and its long-standing partnership with various Shia transnational movements throughout the Middle East such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, many of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and Yemen's Ansarallah (the Houthis) all of whom are engaged in critical regional hotspots.

- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Symposium Aims to Reduce Sectarianism in Muslim World

| Summer 2018

The Belfer Center’s Iran Project presented the First Annual Symposium on Islam and Sectarian De-escalation at Harvard Kennedy School on April 14-15. The symposium was organized by Iran Project director Payam Mohseni and co-sponsored by Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies, the Asia Center, the South Asia Institute, and the Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program. 

President Trump withdrawing from the JCPOA

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Analysis & Opinions - Aljazeera

Closing the Deal: The US, Iran, and the JCPOA

| May 13, 2018

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA has laid bare the strategic contradictions inherent in this approach. The United States has abrogated its leadership position on global nuclear non-proliferation while demanding trust and support from allies. It has also reopened the prospect of Iranian nuclear armament while forfeiting the moral and institutional ammunition the US would need to clinch a better deal.

Qassem Suleimani Iran

Tasnim News

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

What Iran Really Wants in Syria

| May 10, 2018

At such a delicate moment, when the risk of miscalculation and confrontation is growing, it is essential that policymakers in Washington gain a clearer understanding of Iran’s goals in Syria, which are not offensive but focus on deterring Israel and other major foreign stakeholders in Syria. Misperceptions of Iran’s strategic intentions could lead to military confrontation and an escalatory cycle — especially on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

President Donald Trump signs a Presidential Memorandum on the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Washington. Trump announced the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president's isolation on the world stage.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center Experts on U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal

Calling it a “great embarrassment” that fails to “halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” President Trump today announced his intention to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and re-impose sanctions on Iran. The independent nuclear, national security, and regional experts of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs have been assessing the terms of the JCPOA for years. In the wake of Trump’s decision, many of them weighed in with thoughts on the significance of Washington’s policy change – and what comes next.

teaser image

Analysis & Opinions - World Politics Review

Iran and Pakistan Navigate Regional Rivalries as They Push for Deeper Ties

| Apr. 06, 2018

In mid-March, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Islamabad for a three-day visit, heading a 30-member Iranian delegation. During talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Zarif pledged to increase bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan from around $1.16 billion today to $5 billion by 2021. They also discussed other areas of cooperation. In an email interview, Payam Mohseni, the director of the Iran Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, discusses how Iran and Pakistan’s mutual desire for a deeper relationship must contend with regional rivalries. 

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Tasnim News

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Geopolitical Fight Club: Why Iraq Must Square off with Saudi Arabia

| Mar. 26, 2018

High mistrust of Saudi Arabia by Iraqi Shi’as is hampering any meaningful outreach Saudi is undertaking toward Iraq and any policy of balancing Iraq and Iran will not succeed unless serious steps toward sectarian de-escalation is taken in the region. In order to bridge the gap, there needs to be broad religious dialogue to discuss the role of Shia’s and Sunnis in the region and forge a common space for the inclusion of both denominations. Major Grand Ayatollahs—the highest authorities in the Shi’a world—have taken positive steps of forbidding the ritual cursing of certain companions of the Prophet Muhammad and the early caliphs considered reverential to the Sunni community. In this endeavor the role of Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf will be crucial as he has a track record of promoting better relations between Shi’as and Sunnis and is an authoritative moderating figure who can reign in hardline elements in Iraq who might be opposed to a détente.

Iranian IRGC Commandos

Tasnim News

Analysis & Opinions - CNN

2018 for Iran: Ripe for Miscalculation?

| Dec. 19, 2017

To end the year, Fareed Zakaria's CNN Global Briefing is running an exclusive series of quick takes this week from leading analysts. They will all be writing on the big issues to watch out for around the world in 2018. Iran was at the center of developments in a volatile Middle East throughout 2017. Expect more of the same in 2018, writes Payam Mohseni, Iran Project Director and Fellow for Iran Studies at Harvard’s Belfer Center.