Mistrust in US’ ties with Persian Gulf states fuels regional anxiety about Iran, says Atlantic Council’s Bilal Y. Saab

Many of the United States’ Persian Gulf allies are anxious about Iran’s activities in part because of the high levels of mistrust in their own relationships with Washington, the Atlantic Council’s Bilal Y. Saab said July 7.

“The bottom line of it all is it is not just what Iran is doing, it is just the fact that they are so concerned about the current state and the future of the relationship with the United States. Had that been intact, had there been no concerns about that, I think that the partners would be far less concerned about what Iran is doing,” said Saab, a Resident Senior Fellow for Middle East security at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

“It’s just that there is so much uncertainty in that relationship and even mistrust—there is no secret about that—that the Iran challenge as a whole is amplified,” he added.

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The Greek economic tragedy has damaged all those involved. That is also true of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In May 2010, the IMF approved its biggest financial assistance program ever for Greece—no less than €30 billion—resulting in current Greek obligations of €21.2 billion to the IMF, though the European Union (EU) credits to Greece have been ten times larger.

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A deal on Greek terms will weaken Europe, says Atlantic Council’s Andrea Montanino

Europe will be weakened by a financial aid deal with Greece that is seen to be solely on Athens’ terms, says the Atlantic Council’s Andrea Montanino.

Greek banks are on the verge of running out of cash and the European Central Bank (ECB) decided not to expand an emergency assistance program, raising fears of imminent bankruptcy for Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras failed to present a new Greek proposal for an aid deal with creditors at an emergency Eurozone summit in Brussels July 7. The European leaders gave Greece until July 12 to avoid bakruptcy.

“If a deal is seen as fair to all European citizens, it will reinforce Europe because it will demonstrate to the world that Europe can maintain its rule-based system when dealing with a crisis,” said Montanino, Director, Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council.

“But if it is seen as a victory for Greece alone, it will weaken Europe,” he added.

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The “no” vote has won the day in Greece with a larger than expected majority of 61.5 percent.  Energetic campaigning by the Greek government, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, convinced the public to reject the (already expired) offer of bailout terms from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.  A weak Greek opposition and unfortunate absenteeism on the part of European leaders meant that the “yes” campaign had no real leadership.  As a result, the road forward is even less clear now than it was before the referendum.  Does this mean that “Grexit” is now inevitable? Will Greece leave the Eurozone and perhaps even the EU, as predicted by many who feared the “no” vote?  Will Greece now secure an agreement from its creditors “within an hour” as promised by then Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis?  The most likely answer to both of those questions is “probably not.”  In keeping with the European tendency for talk and grudging compromise rather than decisive actions, we can expect to see renewed discussions between Greece and its creditors in the coming days. The question is whether an agreement can be reached before the slow-motion crash of the Greek banking system becomes unrecoverable.

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Atlantic Council’s Bilal Y. Saab says Iran nuclear deal will not pacify the region

As US, European, and Iranian negotiators race to conclude a deal that would limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an end to punishing economic sanctions, the Atlantic Council’s Bilal Y. Saab says that alone won’t bring security to the region—nor will it satisfy Israel or Iran’s loudest critics on Capitol Hill.

On June 30, with only hours to spare, officials in Vienna extended their deadline for talks by another week when it became clear that all sides needed more time. But, as Saab, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, explained, “the hard work does not stop here, and in fact, it may have just begun.”

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For one year, Russia has pursued a long, costly war of aggression against Ukraine. Its objective is obvious: to destabilize Ukraine so that the new democratic regime fails. Therefore, the West should adjust its goals accordingly to offer Ukraine financial support.

The Kremlin has presented one false objective after the other for this aggression. On February 27, 2014, "little green men"—that is, Russian special forces in Russian uniforms but without insignia—occupied the Crimean regional parliament. The next day, they took over the peninsula's two international airports. Within two weeks, these troops had skillfully occupied all of Crimea.

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Leading up to the seventieth anniversary of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, seemingly every Russian media outlet buzzed about the unveiling of the country's new premier tank, the Armata T-14. Outfitted with an advanced remote-controlled armed turret, a new 125-mm 2A82-1M smoothbore cannon, the new tank was rumored to come with a specially developed 152-mm gun—the most powerful cannon ever to be mounted on a battle tank. Images of the new tank led some to write that the Russian military-industrial complex had finally "leapfrogged into the next generation of design."

While the tank was impressive—when it worked—it pales in comparison to Russia's other main weapon: its own history. Throughout the Ukraine conflict, Russia has weaponized its own history to suit its purposes. These range from absurd announcements, such as the recent proclamation by the Russian prosecutor general's office that it began investigating the legality of the 1991 independence of the three Baltic republics to its reliance on historically dubious ideologies like Novorossiya to justify the Donbas insurgency.

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has wrapped up her historic visit to the United States and is heading back home, where a shrinking economy and a growing corruption scandal at state-owned oil giant Petrobras have made her deeply unpopular among Brazilians.

In fact, it's that scandal—not the one involving spying by the National Security Agency two years ago—that's grabbing all the headlines in Brazil today. Back in 2013, the NSA's unauthorized eavesdropping of Rousseff's phone calls and emails led the Brazilian head of state to cancel her planned US visit.

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On June 30, Greece defaulted on a €1.5 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund, raising concerns about a Greek exit from the nineteen-member Eurozone. Despite a flurry of new proposals from the Tsipras government, its creditors—the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the other Eurozone countries—have agreed to delay further talks until after the July 5 referendum, when Greeks will decide whether to accept or reject terms of the latest bailout offer.

The Global Business and Economics Program will be monitoring and analyzing the situation closely, and will regularly update this page.

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The war in eastern Ukraine is a Kremlin-manufactured conflict. The arrival of "little green men" in Crimea in February 2014 transformed the conflict from a domestic altercation between citizens and their government to an international crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly acknowledged in a government-sponsored documentary that he carefully planned and orchestrated the military takeover of the Crimean peninsula. No such admissions have been made about the war in the Donbas. From the outbreak of fighting in the east, the official Kremlin narrative has framed the Ukrainian crisis as a civil war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists. In reality, for the first six months of the conflict, from March to August 2014, the Ukrainian civil war was a myth concocted by Russian state-sponsored media, reiterated by Russian officials, and then picked up by Western media outlets eager for objectivity and balance. But with the continued influx of Russian weapons, soldiers, and Russian recruitment and training of local Ukrainian forces, that myth is swiftly becoming a reality.

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