Recent Events

In the aftermath of demonstrations in more than 100 Iranian cities and towns in late December-early January, analysts have been divided over whether the Iranian system can profit from the protests to enact meaningful reforms or whether the system is too repressive and brittle to change through relatively peaceful evolution.

Speaking Feb. 12 at a discussion organized by the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, Alireza Nader, an independent researcher on Iran and the Middle East, argued that the Iranian political and economic system is on the “verge of collapse” and mere reforms will not resolve its fundamental problems. Nader, who outlined his views in a new paper, Iran’s Uncertain Political Future, said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “is positioning himself” to become Iran’s Supreme Leader after the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but that the powerful Revolutionary Guards would block Rouhani’s ascension.
In the aftermath of widespread protests in more than 100 cities in Iran, a new public opinion poll conducted by the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, in conjunction with, suggests that the overwhelming majorities of Iranians agree with protestors’ critiques of government economic performance.

On Friday, February 2, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a panel discussion on the results of the new survey to examine key issues including climate change, unemployment, economic mismanagement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the broader set of regional and international issues faced by the nation.
As implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) marks its second anniversary in a climate of uncertainty over continued US compliance, Iran has increasingly looked to Asia for trade and investment, while cementing a strategic partnership with Russia.

On Friday, January 19, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, in partnership with The Iran Project, hosted a half-day conference in Washington on these evolving relationships between Iran, Russia, China, India, and Japan.
The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center hosted its first ‘Nuclear Strategy and Security in the Second Nuclear Age Conference’ on November 16 and 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The conference brought together experts, officials, and leaders from across the world and multiple international organizations with the aim of understanding the emergence of Asia as the epicenter of the second nuclear age.
The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center hosted the “Unlocking US-India Trade Potential Conference” in Bengaluru, India from November 6-8, 2017. This conference, launched in partnership with the US Consulate, Chennai, the Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), and the Takshashila Institution, explored the economic partnership between the United States and India. This conference convened American and Indian sector experts to enable direct interactions among global economic leaders and cultivate economic policies to bolster bilateral trade.

The conference addressed topics such as trade facilitation, ease of doing business in India, special economic zones, infrastructure, smart cities, intellectual property rights, development of information and communication technology, and global economic trends. Prominent speakers at the conference included Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Dr. Paula Stern, Consul General Robert Burgess, Mr. Philip Shaw, Mr. Michael Koch, Dr. Rupa Chanda, Mr. Bobby Majumder, Dr. Robert F. Ichord, Mr. Siddharth Roy and Ms. Sharmila Barathan among others.

By identifying factors that may impede increased trade and developing potential solutions to overcome these challenges, the conference managed to help the two countries reach new heights in their trade relations.

Watch the highlights of the conference here:

1) Opening Remarks by Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy

2) Welcome Remarks by Dr. Mukesh Aghi  

3) Remarks by U.S Consul General Robert Burgess

4) The Honorable Paula Stern on US Trade Policy: A First-Person Account  

5) Keynote Speech by Mr. Nandan Nilekani  

6) The Honorable Dr. Paula Stern and Mr. Nandan Nilekani in Conversation with Ms. Maya Mirchandani
As the Trump administration formulates a new policy toward Iran, it is important that that policy be informed by accurate information about the realities of Iran’s rapidly changing society. On October 18, 2017, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted sociologist and author Kevan Harris on the findings of the first Iran Social Survey, which challenged some prevailing views about the composition of Iranian society and presumed linkages between government benefits and voters’ political preferences.

The first nationally representative survey of social relations conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the 1979 revolution, the sample of 5005 respondents, fielded in December 2016, contains rich data on family history, electoral behavior, ethnic identity and contemporary state-society relations.

An Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris, spoke at length about the uniqueness of the survey through its five modules: Inter-generational mobility, political mobilization, state services, civic association and ethno-linguistic identification. Factors used in the survey included: voter choice and household income, employment, gender, age, marital status, location and educational attainment.
On September 13th 2017, the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council hosted a dialogue with Congressman Ro Khanna on his proposed bill centered on reforming the H-1B and L-1 visas for high skilled workers in the U.S. In addition to the central topic, Congressman Khanna discussed his views on broader immigration trends, the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the D.A.C.A Act, the long-term strengths of the U.S as a hub for foreign talent and the US’ relations with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This discussion was moderated by Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center.
The United States’ cultural diplomacy programs and science exchanges with the Islamic Republic of Iran have brought benefits to both countries and to people around the world.

Over the past two decades, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, in conjunction with several US universities, have identified key areas of mutual benefit, including seismic science and engineering, conservation and the effective use of water resources and resilient cities. Political developments in both countries, however, threaten the continuation of this important work, leading to an uncertain future.

On September 8, 2017, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a discussion coinciding with the publication of a new book, US-Iran Engagement in Science Engineering, and Health (2010-2016): A Resilient Program but an Uncertain Future by Glenn Schweitzer of the National Academies.
On August 21st 2017, the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion on the inroads made by The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) into South Asia. The panel discussed how ISIS operates as a group, how it impacts the states that make up South Asia internally, and how South Asian governments-and the United States-should respond to this growing phenomenon. Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center, moderated a discussion with Jasmine El-Gamal, resident Senior Fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, Javid Ahmad, nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, and Hagar Hajjar Chemali, former Middle East Policy Adviser at the US Department of the Treasury.
A new poll of Iranian public opinion shows rising support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) coupled with a willingness by Iranians to support restarting suspended aspects of the country’s nuclear program if the United States walks away from the JCPOA.

These findings were among those revealed on July 28, 2017, when the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a discussion of the ramifications of Hassan Rouhani’s re-election as Iranian president.

Ebrahim Mohseni, a research scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, spoke extensively about the new report, which reflected data collected by telephone in May and June 2017 and followed on two years of prior polls.