22 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.

Hassan Ahmadian

IIP

Broadcast Appearance

IIP Interview with Hassan Ahmadian on the Middle East

| Jan. 22, 2019

Interview with Hassan Ahmadian, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Iran Project, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, to discuss topics such as the role of the U.S. in Syria and broadly in the MENA region; identity issues; and the role of Iran and the future of the nuclear deal.

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Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Does the U.S. Have the Wrong Middle East Strategy?

| Dec. 11, 2018

Events in the Middle East tend to have serious policy implications for the United States given the range of important U.S. economic, political, counterterrorism, and broader military interests in the region. Although there is a healthy debate to be had about where the Middle East might fit into a potential recalibration or rebalancing of U.S. global priorities, at this juncture I don’t believe it would be in U.S. interests to turn its back on the region’s crises and just hope for the best. 

Secretary Pompeo Meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

U.S. Department of State

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Saudi Arabia’s Empty Oil Threats

| Nov. 01, 2018

The brazen murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi has elicited that rarest of reactions in contemporary U.S. politics: bipartisan consensus. President Trump’s administration, however, has adopted a notably restrained response thus far. US administration officials reportedly worry that by applying too much pressure on the kingdom, they could inadvertently “jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.” The Trump administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia, as the world’s swing producer, to increase its oil production to help offset the anticipated loss of Iranian supply come November 5, when sanctions lifted under the Iran nuclear deal are re-imposed. While Saudi Arabia does have the ability to impose costs on the United States if it is displeased by forceful action on the Khashoggi affair, Saudi threats to sabotage President Trump’s Iran policy through manipulating the oil market do not appear credible

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.

Trump Salman White House Meeting

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Analysis & Opinions - Al-Monitor

Why Iran isn't Concerned Over US plans for ‘Arab NATO’

| Aug. 09, 2018

Having been targeted indirectly by the “leading from behind” policy under President Obama, Iran is now faced with a more organized US effort under Trump to establish a regional setting — an "Arab NATO," the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) — that is supposed to “push back” against Iran. Against this backdrop, however, Iran does not seem worried about US efforts to create MESA. In fact, Washington’s new anti-Iran campaign in the Middle East and beyond is interpreted as falling within the “milking logic” of the Trump administration.

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. 

Trump MBS Saudi

White House

Analysis & Opinions

How Effective is Saudi Arabia’s ‘Counter-Iran Policy’?

| Apr. 07, 2018

This article is aimed at scrutinizing Saudi Arabia’s new policy toward Iran in the Middle East. While King Salman’s ascendance to power brought a new leaf to Iran-Saudi relations, Mohammad bin Salman’s approach has led to a trend of continued escalation between the two countries. And yet, that is not the whole story. The change of leadership in Saudi Arabia came alongside shifts in the regional balance of power, which, coupled with Trump’s presidency, created a momentum for an active – and opportunistic – Riyadh in the Middle East. Accordingly, there has been a growing focus on Iran’s regional role on the part of Saudi Arabia. The defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Syrian opposition, the regaining of control by Syrian and Iraqi governments over their territories and the continuation of the Yemeni war without any light at the end of the tunnel have all driven Riyadh to see its rival’s position as having been strengthened and its own weakened. Therefore, Riyadh came up with a counter-Iran policy aimed at controlling and, ideally, reversing that regional trend.