Issue Briefs

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While the United States and Europe are considered the pioneers of renewable energy, Asia is emerging as a major player in the renewable energy transition. Although experts predict Asia will remain the fastest growing market for oil, gas, and coal, even as an energy transition takes hold, slowing regional fossil-fuel consumption could have significant market and geopolitical implications—and signal that the world could be moving closer to reaching a peak in global oil demand. The transformation on the horizon, spurred by a shift from energy-intensive growth to improved efficiency and focus on electrification, has already occurred in major Asian economies, providing a model for shifts in the transportation sector, for example, to address the energy security and climate challenges facing the region. So, how plausible is electrification and deep decarbonization of Asia?

 

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Bilal Saab, senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute, cautions in a new issue brief, Iran’s Long Game in Bahrain, that analysts should not overstate the strength of Iran’s influence among the Bahraini opposition. However, he warns that Iran’s destabilizing activities in Bahrain are increasing, even as its current role in Bahrain is not very extensive. Iran is becoming more meddlesome in Bahraini politics by co-opting narratives of frustrated political reformers while simultaneously supporting aggressive militant elements with weapons and training via the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Saab concludes that Bahrain must leave as little room for Iran to operate as possible, coupled with a policy of meaningful, inclusive political reform, in order to keep Tehran’s influence at bay.

 
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One of the most fundamental challenges created by climate change is managing the developing global water crisis. Whether it is controlling floodwaters and rising sea levels, or maintaining potable water access during a drought, governments and individuals worldwide are forced to find new ways to mitigate the impact of this crisis.

 

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Geographic proximity and shared religion, specifically Shia Islam, give Iran deep influence in Iraq, as shown in a new Atlantic Council issue brief entitled  “Iran in Iraq,” by American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Kenneth M. Pollack. Despite advantages in geography and demography, Pollack argues that Iranian influence in Iraq is not insurmountable. The United States should therefore seek to implement policies that strengthen Iraq's government and unify its people in order to keep Iran at bay. 

 
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The great Asian paradox is that a region steadily becoming more economically integrated is filled with distrust, competing nationalisms, and territorial disputes in the security realm. This is epitomized by Northeast Asia and the North Pacific: the region features the world’s three largest economies; three of the largest militaries; three of the five declared nuclear weapons states, and one de facto nuclear state. It is the locus of the greatest near-term threat to regional stability and order—the North Korea nuclear problem—and it is also increasingly the nexus of the global economy. Each North Korean missile launch and nuclear test highlights the risks of a very dangerous nuclear flashpoint.

 

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No one can know the future. China and Russia—who are currently challenging, albeit in different ways, the Western liberal order—face difficulties at home and could become inward-focused and disengaged. Nonetheless, almost thirty years after the end of the Cold War, geopolitics looks like it is poised for another turn of the wheel that may not be as favorable to Western interests.

 

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Ambassador John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, writes in a new issue brief entitled "Partners or Competitors? The Future of the Iran-Russia Power Tandem in the Middle East" that Russia and Iran are currently drawn into partnership over common regional interests and anti-American policies and sentiments despite centuries of historical rivalry. While their strategic partnership might not survive long-term shifts in either country’s politics, it remains inimical to US interests in the short-term.

 
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Due to proximity and historical ties, no other country is as well placed as Iran to play a dominant role in Afghan society, as Middle East Institute senior fellow Alex Vatanka shows in his new paper, "Iran's Bottom Line in Afghanistan."

 

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This new issue brief argues that the United States should craft a realistic Turkey policy, given the current state of tensions over regional policy and the entrenchment of authoritarianism and illiberalism in Turkey. The piece contends that the trajectory of the relationship between the United States and Turkey suggests a need for the United States to focus on "transactionalism," wherein the majority of bilateral talks are simply aimed at managing a troubled but important relationship, rather than waiting for tensions over US actions in Syria to subside.

 

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