• Lessons from the Iran-Iraq War: Iranian Minorities Won’t Lead Transformative Change

    Before joining the Trump administration, National Security Advisor John Bolton penned an article on how to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement. In it, he also advocated helping ethnic minorities in Iran. Like previous American administrations, the Trump Administration seeks regime change in Tehran. And like the current White House, but more fervently, the Washington establishment assumes Iranian minorities will join in what is being called in certain circles “transformative change.”

    Recent nationwide demonstrations in Iran—over the state of the economy, Tehran’s regional activities, corruption, and general disenchantment with the Islamic government—are strengthening...

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  • Badr Brigade: Among Most Consequential Outcomes of the Iran-Iraq War

    The burly, graying men in the mismatched camouflage arrived in the late winter of 2003, setting up camp within the green hilly folds of northern Iraq. They were members of the Badr Brigade, a Shia fighting force that had been sheltering in exile inside Iran during the reign of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. They told visitors that they were Iraqi patriots returning to their country to help take on Saddam at the invitation of the Iraqi Kurds.

    But the stickers on the Badr militamen’s outdated equipment immediately gave their origins away: “Property of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the major branch of the Iranian armed forces. Their history as a veritable Iraqi unit of the IRGC during the war between the two countries was known to all Iraqis.

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  • Sixty-Five Years On: Iran Regime Change Advocates Haven’t Learned from Coup

    The Trump administration’s policy toward Iran aims for regime change. Possibly US President Donald Trump dreams of reaching some bold deal with the current leadership of Iran, but he has not laid out any feasible route to one. The administration’s dominant hope instead seems to be that stepped-up economic pressure will somehow lead disaffected Iranians to rise up against their rulers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent speech on Iran was essentially a call to do just that. 

    Earlier this year, Pompeo enumerated a list of demands on Iran so sweeping that they seem designed—like the demands that Austria-Hungary placed on Serbia in 1914—to be rejected. Sixty-five years ago this month occurred the one instance in which the United States was involved in a change of regime in Iran: the ouster in August 1953 of Prime...

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  • As Sanctions Return, India Caught between Iran and the United States

    As the first set of US sanctions against Iran went back into effect Aug. 7, India is applying its negotiations skills—effectively, so far—toward managing relations with both sides. 

    The United States and its Persian Gulf Arab allies may be able to provide India with enough crude to offset any reduction in India’s oil imports from Iran. But will Delhi give in to the Trump administration’s pressure to cut Iranian oil imports completely by Nov. 4, thereby endangering a long-standing relationship with Tehran that goes beyond energy?

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  • How US Sanctions Impede the Women’s Movement in Iran

    While the world’s attention was on US President Donald Trump’s Twitter war with Tehran the other week, some good news in Iran escaped notice. A group of women’s rights activists arrested in front of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on International Women’s Day were acquitted, after initially being charged for planning and participating in a protest on the economic situation of women. Many feared the mass arrests would result in heavy sentences and be used as a justification to crackdown on rights defenders who have slowly managed to rebuild the Iranian women’s movement over the last few years.

    The acquittal of the twenty-one activists seemed to confirm that part of the security apparatus isn’t fully intent on cracking down on women’s...

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  • Iran’s Turbulent Future

    The news coming out of Iran these days tells the story of a country in crisis. The economy is sliding towards collapse, even before the first round of US sanctions were reinstated on August 6. Nationwide protests are calling for regime change—a dirty word in Tehran up until recently. The Iranian government and its military leaders speak openly about looming conflicts. Ironically, only a few months ago, there were talks of Iran as a rising regional power in an otherwise volatile Middle East.

    So what are the major factors working against the Iranian government?

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  • Why Iran and the United States Should Negotiate

    The telephone conversation between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama in 2013, the numerous talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during two years of nuclear negotiations, and a multilateral meeting last year that included Zarif and then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, demolished many taboos in regard to direct contact between Iran and the US.

    The US and Iran should negotiate, but meaningful steps need to be taken in advance and the objective must be to solve all major bilateral issues.

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  • The Lose-Lose Rut of US-Iran Hostility

    The Islamic Republic of Iran has relied on enmity with the United States for its own legitimacy throughout its existence, using it – and the threat of US allies such as Israel and the Persian Gulf littoral sheikdoms -- to excuse violence against its own citizens and intervention in regional conflicts. Similarly, the US government and its allies have used Iran as a bogeyman to justify the large US military presence in the area, and huge military spending by its allies.

    This is a win-win situation for politicians and arms merchants; and a lose-lose situation for ordinary people, particularly Iranians, and all peace lovers who would rather see their resources spent on economic development.

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  • Trump and Iran: Nostalgia for Better Bumblers

    It’s a truism that every president makes us nostalgic for his predecessor. In the case of Iran, US President Donald Trump and his men are outdoing the bumbles and fumbles of Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, while making those earlier presidents appear as far-seeing statesmen.

    Earlier presidents at least knew Iran was a trap. They saw how Iran had destroyed Jimmy Carter’s presidency and almost did the same to Ronald Reagan’s. Although it proved impossible, their preference—at least until Barack Obama—was to ignore Iran.

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  • Keeping Rouhani Honest: Has Iran’s President Fulfilled His Promises?

    Today marks the fifth anniversary of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration on August 3, 2013. Many campaign promises were made during Rouhani’s 2013 and 2017 presidential runs. ASL19, a technology and research group working on freedom of expression and access to information in Iran, has been tracking Rouhani’s full-fledged promises over the years. Similar to PolitiFact’s Trump-O-Meter, Rouhani Meter monitors all one hundred promises, which includes: ending the house arrest of the Green Movement leaders, banking reform, providing security for women in public places, supporting start-up initiatives, attracting $8 billion in foreign direct investment, lifting of non-nuclear sanctions, and lowering the inflation rate.

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