Publications

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As a second and more punishing wave of US sanctions hits Iran, the Islamic Republic is dusting off an old playbook for circumventing such penalties and maintaining a crucial level of oil exports and other trade. A new issue brief by Holly Dagres and Barbara Slavin -- How Iran Will Cope with US Sanctions – discusses the myriad techniques Iran developed before negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, when sanctions had wider international support. The Islamic Republic is already redeploying many of these techniques, from turning off tracking devices on tankers to co-mingling oil with that of other exporters to the use of barter with key trading partners.
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Recent Sino-Indian and Indo-Russian informal agreements to undertake joint projects in Afghanistan mark a geographical paradigm shift in the strategic ambitions of the region’s largest stakeholders. Partnerships in economic and regional connectivity offer the potential to reinvigorate interest in the Afghan peace process and to initiate shifts in regional alignments. But challenges to cooperation remain, including uncertainties regarding US policy in South Asia and Iranian sanctions, the threat of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran spilling over into the region, the role of Pakistan, and questions regarding the ultimate agenda of the Taliban. Despite these challenges, the opportunity for cooperation between India, China and Russia in the region signals new thinking regarding the Afghan War, and the potential beginning of enhanced cooperation between key stakeholders of an increasingly volatile and unpredictable international system.
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Environmental degradation has become a major issue in Iran. It is a source of economic hardship, ill health, social disruption and recent political protests. Climate change has been a factor in this deterioration but so has mismanagement of the country's once ample natural resources. Our latest issue brief, Environmental and Wildlife Degradation in Iran, authored by ecologist David Laylin, reveals the monumental challenges faced by the Islamic Republic as it contends with water shortages, disappearing lakes and wetlands, polluted air, sandstorms, desertification, biodiversity loss and shrinking forests. This comprehensive analysis also outlines practical steps that the government of Iran and international partners can take to begin to overcome these challenges.
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In recent years, China’s regional ambitions in the Indo-Pacific have become a serious security concern for both India and the United States. Chinese infrastructure projects in the region’s smaller and poorer countries—under China’s Belt and Road Initiative—have raised concerns about the susceptibility of these economies to the predatory economics that have recently characterized the Chinese regional approach. China’s economic ascension has been accompanied by the tendency of Chinese leaders to pay little heed to established international protocols—evident in Japan, the Philippines, and, most recently, in India. The country’s bellicose incursions in the Indo-Pacific are challenging US geostrategic supremacy in the region. Working in tandem with India to improve its capacity to play a stronger role in the region and uphold the existing liberal order, would be a critical stride for US grand strategy. 
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A predominantly Shia nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran has a substantial Sunni population that receives little attention compared to the country's other minorities. Last year's attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the capital Tehran have raised fears that disgruntled Iranian Sunnis, who have until now largely escaped extremist influences, could become targets of radicalization by regional jihadist groups.
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The Trump administration's vision of an Indo-Pacific where democracy and open seas can flourish, needs sharpening. India can aid in the optimization of this objective by using bilateral and sectoral lenses to find where the they can best cooperate in order to offset bellicose incursions in the region from aggressive foreign powers. An agreement that focuses just on the technical sector minimizes the risks of a broader bilateral accord and opens the door for the geostrategic cooperation that India seeks. Given the centrality and significance of IT and e-commerce to both India and the United States, the links between the two nations in these spheres would facilitate a grander coalescence with ramifications not only in trade but for security capacity, defense interoperability, and regional peace and stability. The Honorable Paula Stern analyzes these groundbreaking themes in "Unlocking US-India Trade: Why a Bilateral Technology Agreement Works for India and the United States," which illuminates the major trends that will shape the region and the US-India bilateral partnership in coming years.

 

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It is now a truism among foreign and defense policy practitioners that the post Cold War nuclear buildup in the India Pacific region constitutes the drawn of the "second nuclear age." From the 1990s onward, China's decision to stir out of its strategic languor and modernize its nuclear arsenal, along with the resolve of India and Pakistan to deploy operational nuclear forces, and, more recently, North Korea's sprint to develop reliable long range nuclear capabilities that can credibly threaten the continental United States, has led many to aver that the "second nuclear age" will rival the worst aspects of the first.

 
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On June 18, 2017, an Indian patrol disrupted construction of a Chinese road along the disputed border of Sikkim, a remote state in northeast India, reigniting a border conflict between China and India. This incident rapidly evolved into a standoff, with the apparent threat of militarized escalation between the two countries. The tension dissipated without consensus on the substantive issues, but under an interim diplomatic arrangement whereby India withdrew troops and China halted its road building, thus ending a seventy-one-day impasse.

 
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“It is vital for American interests in Asia to have India as an economic and strategic ally,” writes Bharath Gopalaswamy and former Minister Manish Tewari in “Transforming India from a Balancing to Leading Power,” a new brief from the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

 
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In the aftermath of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a major question has been whether the landmark nuclear deal would have any impact on Iran’s other policies, including its record on human rights. While US President Barack Obama’s administration stressed that in negotiating the JCPOA its focus was on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, there was an unstated hope that Iran’s reintegration into the global economy as a result of the deal would also promote a less repressive Islamic Republic.

 


    

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