10 Items

- 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. 

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.

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.

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

Relations with Iran: Questions to Consider

Spring 2016

With the successful implementation of the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, a new chapter has opened between Iran and the international community, including the United States. Nevertheless, the future path of bilateral relations between the United States and Iran is uncertain and many challenges exist as the two countries attempt to formulate new terms of engagement. What should U.S. policy be towards Iran after the nuclear agreement? Can the agree­ment open the door to effective collaboration on areas of mutual interest, especially given the rising security challenges and rapidly changing dynamics of the Middle East? Or, will strategic rivalries between Iran and the United States con­tinue to shape and impede cooperation?

Ahmadinejad Iran

Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - Indiana University Press

Factionalism, Privatization, and the Political Economy of Regime Transformation

| March 2016

This chapter explores the complexity of political processes in Iran and assesses the degree of change and continuity in the Iranian political system in light of the tumultuous events unfolding since 2009. Why have elite power relations in Iran been unsettled, and what is the impact of these factional fluctuations of power and processes of change on the institutional structure of the Iranian regime itself? It is critical to ask whether the manner by which institutional alteration occurs within the regime was conducive to the long-term monopolization of power by a single political faction. If so, has the multifactional and competitive nature of the regime been replaced by one of dictatorship, as may have appeared to be the case? Or, is the regime’s system of elite conflict management and institutional restraint a durable feature that will persist in the foreseeable future?

Iranian naval vessels excercising during war drills.

(YPA.IR)

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School The National Interest

Can Iran Stay Anti-American?

| January 22, 2016

The dramatic seizure of American navy sailors in the Persian Gulf by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards could have endangeredImplementation Day—when on January 16 Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement so far was verified and the international sanctions against Iran lifted. Instead of derailing the deal, however, the Guards used the incident, as well as the highly publicized prisoner swap, as symbolic events to send the world a message.By detaining the vessels and broadcasting images of its crew to a global audience, the Guards used the opportunity to reveal the future path of Iranian foreign policy in the wake of the nuclear agreement—a path that can be best described as ‘pragmatic revolutionism.’

Hezbollah political party religion Shia Shiism Lebanon Shiite

Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - Routledge

Organizing Politics: Religion and Political Parties in Comparative Perspective

| January 2016

This book chapter discusses in theory the various ways that religion and political parties can intersect, and then consider three sets of cases that have provoked considerable scholarship in recent years – Christian Democratic parties in Europe, religion and parties in the United States, and Islamic parties in the Middle East

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."