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Photo of Chrystia Freeland and Rex Tillerson.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

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

Alumni Govern, Educate, Analyze Around the World

| Spring 2017

In late 2016, former Belfer Center research fellow Chrystia Freeland was named Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada. Iran Project associate Hussein Kalout was tapped as Special Secretary for Strategic Affairs for Brazil. They join a long list of Center alumni notable for their service in high levels of government, international and regional organizations, and academia who are serving the interests of their nations and people in tackling the world’s most critical challenges. Here we list just a few. We thank them all for their service.


Karbala Iraq Shia

David Stanley/Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Iran's Axis of Resistance Rises: How It's Forging a New Middle East

| Jan. 24, 2017

In 2006, in the midst of a fierce war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice famously stated that the world was witnessing the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” She was right—but not in the sense she had hoped. Instead of disempowering Hezbollah and its sponsor, Iran, the war only augmented the strength and prestige of what is known as the “axis of resistance,” a power bloc that includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas in Palestine.

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Journal Article - Global Discourse

The struggle for the Islamic supremacy

| January 2017

In the 5 years following the Arab Uprisings, it is apparent that the Middle East and Islamic world are undergoing a profound sociopolitical reconfiguration. The rise of armed resistance groups and the clash of nationalisms between secular and religious movements have only served to undermine regional stability and deepened the fragmentation of the social cohesion. As a consequence, many Arab countries are immersed in a process of counterrevolution and experience deep cleavages. A number of these have been categorized as sectarian in nature, between Sunni and Shi’a, yet this article seeks to show that the term requires broader intellectual development to understand contemporary events. To this end, it engages with the term by looking at the rise of Islamist groups and their evolution across the twentieth century, to stress that socioeconomic contexts are also important in shaping the emergence of groups that are described as sectarian in nature. From this position, we are better placed to understand the fluid nature of domestic and geopolitical change across the Middle East and Islamic world.


Tipping the Balance?

| December 2015

Standing before the United States Congress early in March 2015, in the face of a looming deadline in the Iran and P5+1 talks over the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu portrayed the negotiations in stark terms. Drawing a direct parallel between biblical plots to persecute Jews in pre-Islamic Persia and modern Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu framed Iran as nothing less than an existential threat to Israel. Anything short of a practical dismantling of Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be unacceptable. Largely perceived as an attempt to undermine President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran, Netanyahu’s actions thus proved quite contentious inside the United States.

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

Iran and the Arab World after the Nuclear Deal

| Aug. 13, 2015

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 presents significant implications for the future order of the Middle East. Just how it will impact that order remains uncertain. Will it shift Iranian foreign policy toward greater cooperation and reconciliation or produce greater Iranian regional empowerment and aggressiveness?

This report helps answer these and related questions. It includes views from leading experts in the Arab world to assess the impact of the nuclear agreement on Iran-Arab security relations.

Blog Post - Iran Matters

The Saudi-Iranian “Cold War” and the battle over Yemen’s strategic worth

| June 30, 2015

Hussein Kalout, Research Associate with the Iran Project at the Belfer Center, writes that the ongoing conflict in Yemen is best understood as a continuation of the Saudi-Iran regional "Cold War" that has gripped the Middle Eastern region in recent years. He argues that Saudi and Gulf support for Yemeni President Hadi was originally based on the idea that an autocratic system in Yemen would hamper the spread of Iranian influence, but that after Hadi proved unable to mollify opposition groups and was pushed out by the Houthi movement, was forced to intervene to try and prevent the "loss" of Yemen to Iran. He points out that the potential for an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear program has also pushed Saudi intervention, due to concerns about Iran's ability to further its regional designs after sanctions are lifted. He concludes that Yemen is significantly much more important for Saudi strategy than it is for Iran, but that the Saudi goal of placing President Hadi back in power is unrealistic, and Iranian and Saudi animus will likely continue for some time.