South Asia Center

  • Iran Plays ‘Who’s the Rogue Now’ at the United Nations

    For a country that has so often been isolated in multinational forums, Iran is wrapping itself in international legitimacy and approbation not only from much of the United Nations General Assembly but four of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus the European Union.

    The night before US President Donald Trump excoriated the Islamic Republic as “brutal,” “corrupt” and “dictatorial” in a heavily nationalistic and bombastic speech at the General Assembly, the P4+1—Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Germany—affirmed their support for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and promised a special payment mechanism to allow foreign companies to circumvent sanctions re-instated by the Trump administration.

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  • Iran More Assertive Regionally After Trump Withdrawal From JCPOA

    Iran’s regional strategy is rapidly evolving as the Islamic Republic is trying to adapt itself to a new, and increasingly challenging, international environment.

    A key determinant has been President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the multilateral nuclear deal, clinched between Iran and world powers in July 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

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  • Khamenei Reversal on FATF Suggests US-Iran Talks Possible Under Trump

    President Donald Trump’s policy towards Iran is imposing “maximum pressure” purportedly aimed at bringing Iranians back to the negotiating table. Trump demands renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal which, according to him, has “terrible flaws.” He also wants restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and a change in the Iran’s aggressive policies in the region. Trump has said that he would start talks without pre-conditions.

    Iranian leaders have rejected the offer. The demands, many observers maintain, are non-starters. Meanwhile, they argue, by abandoning the multilateral nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers, Trump and his administration have lost their trustworthiness. Talks, therefore, would be pointless.

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  • Iran’s Alliance With Russia in Syria: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Partnership?

    Russia’s alliance with Iran to buttress embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is approaching a critical phase, as pro-government forces consider how to retake Idlib province, the last major stronghold of Syrian rebels. While this alliance has successfully shifted the balance of power in favor of the Syrian government, it will likely not lead to a long-term strategic partnership between Iran and Russia, as their strategic goals in Syria and the region at large are quite divergent.

    Iranians historically have been wary of their giant neighbor to the north. In the nineteenth century, the Persian Empire was forced to sign a series of humiliating treaties relinquishing claims over territories in the South Caucasus to Tsarist Russia. Even today, Iranians are concerned that after sacrificing millions of dollars and thousands of lives in Syria, Russia will throw Iran under the bus for its own benefit. Recently, an Iranian lawmaker, Behrooz Bonyadi...

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  • New Hardline Voices Rise in Iran’s Theocratic Center

    On August 16, a number of young hardline clerics held an anti-government protest in Qom that highlighted differences among conservatives.

    The rally was supposed to be against “financial corruption” and “government mismanagement,” but the banners held by the attendees, which contained messages threatening moderate President Hassan Rouhani, turned the event into an even more controversial demonstration, with moderates and reformists attacking the organizers.

    A few conservative grand ayatollahs unexpectedly came forward to condemn the rally. What angered them weren’t the banners but a speech by a hardline theorist.

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  • Iran’s Deteriorating Human Rights Situation and Trump Administration Policies

    Iran’s human rights record continues to deteriorate but there are effective ways to advocate for improvement that include making demands as specific as possible and enlisting broad multilateral support.

    These were the main conclusions of a September 13 panel on the topic organized by the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

    The system imposed in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution seeks a return to conservative social values through rigid interpretations of Islamic law. From women losing rights previously enshrined in a 1975 Family Protection Act, to intimidation and repression of civil society at large by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Judiciary, Iran has violated a wide spectrum of ethnic, social, and religious rights.

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  • Trump's Iran Endgame Undermines Major US Security Interests

    The logical conclusion of the Trump administration’s Iran policy seems not to be regime change but regime collapse.

    Though Secretary of Defense James Mattis has denied that either are on the agenda, the White House's rhetoric and actions betray a different motive. The US president himself has trumpeted the harsh impact of reinstated sanctions and said that it is a “question” as to whether the Islamic Republic “will survive.”

    President Donald Trump’s approach is slated to impoverish the Iranian population, cripple Iranian civil society, and eliminate prospects for peaceful democratic change. Indeed, state collapse and domestic turmoil loom larger on the horizon.

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  • Ahmad in Washington Post: I Will Still Support the US Presence in Afghanistan. But Now it's Time to Fight for Peace in my Country.

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  • The War For Peace in Afghanistan

    Challenge posed by ISIS affiliate must be addressed

    The message from Washington these days appears to be that severing the link between the Taliban and Pakistan is the silver bullet for peace in Afghanistan. It is, however, simplistic to portray the Taliban as the only insurgent group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only relevant outside actor. While the Taliban might be the insurgent group with the most sympathizers and members, there are other groups active in Afghanistan that may not be influenced by Pakistan. An enduring peace in Afghanistan is only possible if it involves a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and addresses the challenge posed by these other insurgent groups.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad as his Afghan envoy, tasked with mediating between the Taliban and Kabul, might help bring Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and at least some factions of the Taliban together. Khalilzad...

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  • Iran Through the Lens of al-Qaeda

    As the United States solemnly commemorates the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, questions about the relationship of Iran and al-Qaeda linger. Over the years, US courts have ruled that Iran provided al-Qaeda support to carry out its signature attacks, namely the 1998 East Africa bombings, the USS Cole in Yemen, and the 9/11 attacks.

    Asking members of al-Qaeda to address whether they collaborated with Iran to carry out international terrorism is unlikely to yield a credible response. “Listening in” on what al-Qaeda members, their families and jihadists in their orbit were “saying” about their ties to Iran is far more credible.

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