Reports

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In their new paper, entitled US Strategy Options for Iran’s Regional Challenge, Kenneth M. Pollack, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Bilal Y. Saab, senior fellow and director for defense and security at the Middle East Institute, present five alternative strategies that the United States could pursue to limit Iran’s destabilizing activities. After weighing the pros and cons of each option, they conclude that the most effective US course of action would be Pushback—an approach that would seek to measurably weaken Iran’s regional influence and eliminate its meddling in key states by bolstering US partners under pressure from Iran.

 
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In the midst of NAFTA renegotiations, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are discussing changes that could impact millions of jobs, investments, and North America’s stance in the global stage. As negotiators work at breakneck speed, new Atlantic Council findings show what the United States would lose if NAFTA were not in place.What if NAFTA Ended? The Imperative of a Successful Renegotiations,launched by the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, quantifies the gains and the wide-ranging implications of successful renegotiations.

 

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The balance in Eurasia is shifting. China’s President Xi Jinping has ambitious visions for Asia, while the rest of the world reshuffles to find its place in the rapidly changing global order. Each nation guesses at the United States’ new role in the world, while China broadcasts its own role across the globe, ready to challenge those who stand in opposition to its vision. China’s impact is global: reaching from the perils of the Korean peninsula; stretching across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and influencing regimes along the way. During this historic moment, the importance of Asia to US interests grows all the greater.

 

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Emerging artificial intelligence (AI) tools will provide propagandists radically enhanced capabilities to manipulate human minds. Human cognition is a complex system, and AI tools are very good at decoding complex systems. Interactions on social media, browsing the Internet, and even grocery shopping provide thousands of data points from which technologists can build psychological profiles on nearly every citizen. When provided rich databases of information about us, machines will know our personalities, wants, needs, annoyances, and fears better than we know them ourselves. Over the next few years, MADCOMs—the integration of AI systems into machine-driven communications tools for use in computational propaganda—will gain enhanced ability to influence people, tailoring persuasive, distracting, or intimidating messaging toward individuals based on their unique personalities and backgrounds, a form of highly personalized propaganda.

 

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In The Euro’s Difficult Future – Competitiveness Imbalances and the Eurozone’s North-South Divide author Luigi Bonatti, a professor of economics at the University of Trento in Italy, stresses that the existing North-South competitiveness divide creates growing tensions between member countries and fuels hostility towards European Union institutions. The paper illustrates why this competitiveness divide is structural, cannot be tackled by macroeconomic policies, and could threaten the euro’s survival.

 

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Revolution Unveiled: A Closer Look at Iran’s Presence and Influence in the Middle East, by Phillip Smyth, Tim Michetti, and Owen Daniels, pieces together snapshots of Iran’s influence in the region using photographic analysis, geolocation, social media monitoring, and other methods. Through four case studies, this report systematically examines new or lesser-known methods Iran employs to project its influence beyond its borders. By using proxy Shia groups, ideology, arms provision, and transnational networks, Tehran destabilizes and strikes at regional adversaries to achieve its strategic and policy objectives.

 
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Although often overshadowed by significantly larger energy systems in India and China, Indonesia is assuming an increasingly important role in international energy markets and global efforts to address climate change. In Transforming the Power Sector in Developing Countries: Indonesia’s Diversification Challenge,” Global Energy Center nonresident Senior Fellow Dr. Robert F. Ichord, Jr. identifies the challenges Indonesia faces in the energy sector and provides recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders on strategic priorities. As Ichord points out, Indonesia is a critical country for international power sector transformation—the question is how to meet Indonesia’s growing electricity needs in a clean, efficient, and affordable manner. 

 

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The Atlantic Council's State Department Reform Report—written by a group of ten foreign policy experts—explores the critical subject areas of structure and process, personnel, budget, congressional relations, and USAID. The report serves as a foundation for reform efforts that will lead to the empowerment of the State Department at a time when a rapidly evolving global environment consistently poses new challenges and threats. The department's role is indeed unique and vital in the US national security apparatus; diplomacy based in continued and robust support for US interests and values is critical to favorable long-term outcomes, including a more secure and stable global environment.

 
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The US Congress enacted the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA) to ensure that the American people were aware when foreign governments funded media sources; at the time, their concerns focused on the Nazi regime in Germany. Today, this issue has resurfaced with concerns about the Russian propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today). RT broadcasts are reliably consistent with official statements of the Russian government, which is unsurprising, as it is 99 percent funded by the Kremlin. In Agent of Influence, author Elena Postnikova not only argues that RT should register with FARA but makes a legal case for it while laying out recommendations for policy makers. At a minimum, RT’s activities warrant a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Strong evidence supports the conclusion that Russia’s RT is owned, controlled, and financed by the Russian state. RT advances Russia’s interests abroad and uses communication channels to influence US domestic and foreign policy. RT has not presented evidence to support that it is a bona fide media organization, which would be excluded from registration. If RT fails to respond to a DOJ inquiry or to present ample evidence that it should be exempt, an enforcement action should follow.

 
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Despite Sudan’s checkered diplomatic history with the United States, the Trump administration has an opportunity to recalibrate what could be a constructive relationship in a critical part of the world. In determining what a successful US-Sudanese relationship could look like, the administration has an opportunity to both serve US interests in Sudan and beyond and encourage peace and security for Sudan’s citizens.

 

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