Borzou Daragahi

  • A Photo Op in Najaf Reveals an Iran That Could Be

    As far as photographs go, it’s a rather inartful moment. Three aging men dressed in dark clothes sit in a spartan room with small glasses of heavily-brewed tea and a tissue box resting before them, as they engage in conversation.  

    But to Iranians and Iran-watchers the March 13 meeting marked a historical moment. The image of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani seated with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif graced the front pages of almost every Iranian newspaper the next day.

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  • Expert Analysis on Jared Kushner’s Trip to the Middle East

    Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the US President Donald Trump, is on his way to six countries in the Gulf states to discuss and present part of his long awaited Israel-Palestine peace process plan in private meetings with foreign diplomats. He is expected to visit Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey over the next few days. While the plan is still held tightly secret, experts are speculating on the selection of countries Kushner is to visit and what that implies for the plan. Below are Atlantic Council’s Middle East experts analysis on the implications of this visit and what it means for the later unveiling in April this year.

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  • Concerning Iran, the United States Should Go Back to 'Speaking Softly and Carrying a Big Stick'

    Top officials of the administration of Donald J. Trump love to talk tough on Iran. Last year Trump warned in an all-capitals tweet that Iran “would suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” if it threatened the US.  

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  • Pompeo: The United States is a ‘Force for Good’ in the Middle East

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.

    “Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo, adding that the United States “will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

    Describing the United States as a “force for good,” the secretary said: “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian


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  • After Iraq, Iran Chemical Weapons Allegation Met With Skepticism

    If there were any doubts that the United States under President Donald Trump was trying to pick a fight with Iran over anythingthat Washington had no real agenda with its belligerent anti-Iran rhetoric and moves other than just flicking mud at the country and its rulers in hopes that something would stickthey were dispelled on November 22.

    That’s when Kenneth Ward, the US envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), used his slot during the group’s annual meeting to accuse Iran of violating international treaty obligations by maintaining a toxic arms program.

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  • Beware of Following Another Chalabi Figure Into an Iranian Quagmire

    A tale from more than a decade ago serves as a warning for both the US and Iran in the wake of the devastating September 22 terror attack on a military parade that killed at least twenty-five people in the provincial capital of Ahvaz.

    It was around 2006 when reports started emerging of a man in his mid-fifties began making the rounds at embassies in Kuwait. He had quite a story. He was going around telling diplomats that he was a descendant of Sheikh Khazal Khan, who had led a failed 1922 Arab uprising against the rule of Iran over Khuzestan, a province in the country’s neglected but oil-rich southwest. He sought to enlist support for his own separatist group, which he promised would help fight the clerical regime in Iran at a time when the administration of George W. Bush was ramping up pressure on Tehran.

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  • Iranian Attacks in Iraq Are More About Messaging Than Reality

    US and Iranian officials traded accusations earlier this month over an attack on Iran’s consulate in the southern city of Basra, followed by mortar or rocket attacks that appeared to target US missions in the capital, Baghdad.

    Tehran blames Washington for being behind the trashing of its consulate. The allegation was simply untrue. The protesters that did it were possibly loyal to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr—whose bloc recently won the majority of seats in parliament—and is no ally of America by any stretch of the imagination. More likely the young men were angry over persistent unemployment, power cuts, and lack of services, and were probably behind the sacking—a means of venting against Iran because it is perceived as dominating the political class. 

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  • Badr Brigade: Among Most Consequential Outcomes of the Iran-Iraq War

    The burly, graying men in the mismatched camouflage arrived in the late winter of 2003, setting up camp within the green hilly folds of northern Iraq. They were members of the Badr Brigade, a Shia fighting force that had been sheltering in exile inside Iran during the reign of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. They told visitors that they were Iraqi patriots returning to their country to help take on Saddam at the invitation of the Iraqi Kurds.

    But the stickers on the Badr militamen’s outdated equipment immediately gave their origins away: “Property of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the major branch of the Iranian armed forces. Their history as a veritable Iraqi unit of the IRGC during the war between the two countries was known to all Iraqis.

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  • Yemen’s Never-Ending War

    The assault by the United Arab Emirates’ forces and their local allies in a Saudi-led coalition on the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah that began last week and remains underway rightly raised concerns once again about the potential humanitarian consequences of Yemen’s ongoing war. Hudaydah is one of the impoverished country’s most important ports, the channel through which most international aid and imports reach Yemeni families in dire need of food, medicine, and fuel. But the discussion surrounding humanitarian aid in the Yemen war has become badly entangled in geopolitics, and it has become difficult to separate posturing on the part of the belligerent parties and wishful thinking on the part of international powers from the actual needs on the ground.

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