6 Items

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.

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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. 

Iran US America Flag

Wikimedia

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Recognizing the Limitations of American Influence in Iran

| Feb. 14, 2018

It is time for a reality check: despite claims to the contrary by Iran’s supreme leader, the United States is not the central actor in the drama that recently unfolded in Iran, nor was it the central actor in Egypt back in 2011. The mass protests that forced the Egyptian dictator from power were driven by the Egyptian public’s growing disenchantment with decades of political, economic and social mismanagement by a succession of military rulers. Contemporary observers noted with surprise the absence of references to the United States or other foreign-policy considerations during the protests. The demonstrators’ recurrent chant—“bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity”—encapsulated the domestic motivations behind the public’s mobilization.

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.

Iranian President  Hassan Rouhani

Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

How Rouhani could lose even if reformists win Iran’s election

| February 24, 2016

Iran is holding a high-stakes parliamentary election Friday. In mid-January, the conservative Guardian Council surprised some observers with the massdisqualification of reformist candidates in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections. This institutional gambit was partially rescinded a few weeks later, after a new review of the qualifications of the candidates. While the disqualifications show that the conservatives still hold the reins of power in Iran’s political system and set the terms of the game, as the reversals signal, they cannot dictate the final results or eliminate competition.

With the successful negotiation of the nuclear agreement, the coalition that backed President Hassan Rouhani on the deal will begin to fragment as factional rivalries and infighting increase and once again shape political competition inside Iran. The electoral results, however, will not have a significant impact on the continued implementation of the nuclear agreement. Instead, the conservative establishment in Tehran seeks to maintain leverage over Rouhani on broader international developments as well as domestic matters. In particular, these elections will be more important in determining the future path of development Iran chooses and how economic reform will be undertaken by the Rouhani administration.

Kurdish peshmerga forces stand by their armed vehicles in Mahmoudiyah, Iraq, a day after they take control of the village from the Islamic State group, as they patrol on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.

(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Bad Move, ISIS: Why America and Iran Should Work Together

| Oct. 06, 2014

"While a threat to U.S. interests, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) presents us with a unique opportunity to 'reset' the Middle East equation—to actively transform regional relations, to abate the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and to forge a new working relationship with Iran," writes Payam Mohseni. "As the United States moves to escalate its war against ISIS and forge a coalition against the terrorist group, it is important that Iran be included in the process. After all, U.S. and Iranian interests have increasingly converged in the Middle East with the emergence of a common enemy, and no power in the region is better suited to taking on ISIS than Iran and its affiliated Shi’a militias in Iraq."