Iranians celebrated in the streets of their cities this past weekend out of relief that the most capable candidate on offer won the presidential election held on May 19.

Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani’s solid victory over a younger and more hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, was a triumph of competence over ideology and of openness over isolationism.

Read More

US President Donald J. Trump signaled through his meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Washington on May 15 his administration’s commitment to working closely with the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Arab world and fight al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

On May 19, Trump travels to Saudi Arabia where he will meet King Salman and up to twenty heads of state of Muslim-majority countries. MbZ’s visit to Washington has, in part, helped Trump prepare for his engagements in Saudi Arabia.

Read More

During US President Donald J. Trump’s upcoming trip to Riyadh, Gulf leaders will seek to portray themselves as capable partners for the United States in countering common threats, namely violent extremism and Iranian aggression, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

Throughout the summit, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will “want to make it clear that they have become more capable partners,” said Bilal Y. Saab, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council. He said they will try to communicate to Trump: “Rely on us more. Trust us more. We are happy to devote sufficient resources to common fights including counter-terrorism and countering Iran.”

“I think they will push that message more aggressively now, because this is what Trump wants to hear,” Saab added. Regarded as a “transactional” president and self-proclaimed dealmaker, Trump emphasized throughout his campaign that the fight against terrorism would top his foreign policy agenda. “He said during the campaign that he is looking for partners who are more willing to contribute, share the burden, and spend more money on defense,” said Saab, adding that US partners in the Gulf will seek to meet this need.

Read More

The outcome of its presidential election on May 19 will determine whether Iran is the next nation to succumb to a populist candidate seeking to upend the normative world order, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.   

“This is going to be the next test in that wave,” following the election of US President Donald J. Trump and the defeat of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

Iran’s upcoming election will have tremendous implications for both the future of Iran and the US-Iranian relationship. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, widely recognized as a moderate proponent of a rules-based world order, will face off against conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, generally considered the preferred candidate of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Read More

The ransomware attack that shut down a number of hospitals in the United Kingdom (UK) on May 12 should serve as a wake-up call to defend critical infrastructure against cyberterrorism, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

“I was never worried that ransomware was going to deliberately kill someone,” said Joshua Corman, director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Referring to hacking groups that identify as part of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), he added, “I was worried about adversaries like Cyber Caliphate extremist groups who have the means, motive, and opportunity to take life.”

In a cyber security environment in which low-capability actors can access tools in the public domain to launch a widespread cyberattack, “there are no technical barriers to a sustained attack on any or all hospitals globally,” Corman said.

Read More

The Washington Post reported on May 15 that US President Donald J. Trump disclosed highly classified information to two Russian officials—Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak—in their White House meeting on May 10.

“The information the president relayed had been provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government,” the Post reported, citing unidentified current and former US officials.

Read More

A cyberattack that has crippled 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries could have been prevented had the victims conducted a simple security update.

“One of the lessons learned here is that people just do not patch their systems,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a nonresident senior fellow in the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

“The reality is: the vulnerability that was exploited was not a zero-day vulnerability,” he said.

Read More

US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish rebels in Syria, despite objections from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicates that the new administration’s Turkey policy is secondary to winning the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

This decision “would suggest to me that Trump really doesn’t have a Turkey policy,” said Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “Turkey policy is secondary to the need to prosecute the war against ISIS quickly,” he added.

“The key actors in the US bureaucracy are not on team Turkey,” said Stein. “They don’t care. They are elevating different priorities now.”

Read More

Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, centers on investing in personal relationships in order to achieve success. US President Donald J. Trump has demonstrated an instinctive understanding of this principle in the way he has interacted with a succession of world leaders, whether over a round of golf at Mar-a-Lago or an informal dinner in Washington. Yet his administration is set to undermine one of the most effective vehicles for this on a global scale, through proposing a radical cut in funds for the State Department’s international scholarship and exchange programs.

Read More

Political crises, regional tensions, and the decline of democracy point to an increased risk of conflict and instability in the Balkans.

Peace, democratic reform, and stability in the Balkans have been guaranteed for the past two decades by the prospect of European Union (EU) membership and by US and NATO security guarantees. Both pillars of stability have been weakened, and we are witnessing a return of geopolitics in the region.

Read More