Middle East Security Initiative

  • UK’s Hezbollah Ban May Signal Tougher Stance on Iran

    Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah once dubbed dividing his group into distinct political and military wings an “English innovation.” Yet, last week, the United Kingdom decided to end this mainstay of British policy. Shortly after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a total ban on Hezbollah, Parliament amended the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 to proscribe the group “in its entirety.” London’s acknowledgment of Hezbollah’s unity aligns British law and policy with the United States. In doing so, the UK is signaling a partial departure from Europe’s approach to the group’s patron, Iran, but more importantly, a third way between American confrontation and European conciliation.

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  • Trump’s Iran Policy: Much Ado About Nothing

    The Trump administration’s policy of containing and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran may appear to be going well to causal observers of Iranian affairs, and there is some evidence to support such a view.

    The United States has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that solely addressed the regime’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons but failed to address its menacing actions towards neighboring countries, continued support of international terrorism, and ongoing efforts to develop ballistic missile technology. The JCPOA also completely failed to address the horrible human rights situation inside Iran itself.

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  • Poland Summit Strives for Stability in the Middle East

    The Trump administration accurately identified the Iranian threat and has, on some significant issues, acted accordingly—including the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the application of increasingly tough sanctions on Iran, as well as organizing the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw on February 13-14. A reported seventy-nine states will participate in the conference, including the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Jordan, as well as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Iran was not invited to the conference. 

    The Poland summit officially centers around three major issues: The challenge of missiles, terror funding, and cyber threats. The common denominator of all three categories is the Iranian threat, which is for all intents and purposes at the center of the conference—though the Trump administration has...

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  • As Iranian Youth Evolve, So Do Their Means of Communicating

    When I moved to Tehran twenty years ago, I wore a black manteau that stretched to my ankles and a headscarf pulled down to my forehead. By the time I graduated high school in 2005, my highlighted fuchsia hair stuck out like tentacles from a white shawl, and a matching manteau barely covered my rear.

    Such social changes, as minor as some might seem, were and continue to be a barometer of change in Iran.

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  • Glimmer of Hope in Iran for Long-Persecuted Baha’is?

    The Iranian constitution after the 1979 revolution provides limited freedoms for religious minorities, and it does not recognize the Baha’i community, with more than 300,000 members in the country. Instead, for four decades, the Islamic Republic has routinely harassed, prosecuted, and imprisoned Baha’is solely for practicing their faith. Among other things, the government severely restricts Baha’is right to education, including prohibiting Baha’i students from registering at universities and expelling them if their identities are discovered.

    Yet several recent court decisions across the country, that have ended in the acquittal of Baha’is on vaguely defined national security charges, have led some to wonder if this blatant discriminatory behavior might finally be easing up.

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  • Israel and Iran Exchange Blows in Syria: A View From Israel

    The January 20 Israeli attack on an Iranian weapons shipment delivery near the Damascus airport in Syria led to a quick and exceptional succession of events that could have easily brought both sides to the brink of war. 

    Iran reacted with a missile launch at the Golan Heights. Israel then responded with an attack on Iranian military targets in the Damascus vicinity. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson’s official statements and briefings that were given to journalists appeared to present a detailed picture of what had occurred on the northern front. However, in spite of the abundance of material published and the unusual openness on the part of Israel, there still remains information gaps and a number of unanswered questions. These require additional examination and interpretation. First and foremost, there is the need to...

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  • Iranian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Is a Plea for Basic Rights

    This week, two well-known political prisoners in Tehran’s Evin prison went on a three-day hunger strike to protest their inability to get urgent medical treatment. 

    Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights defender serving a ten-year sentence for her peaceful activism, suffers from a serious neurological disease that causes muscular paralysis. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian dual national serving a five-year prison term on vague national security charges in connection with her past work at the BBC Media Action. She urgently needs an examination for “lumps in her breast” and neurological care for her recurring neck pain and numbness in her arms and legs. 

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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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  • Mattis Heads for the Exit

    Defense secretary to leave Trump administration at the end of February

    The differences between Donald J. Trump and Jim Mattis were on display in their statements on December 20. While Trump wrote in a tweet that his defense secretary was “retiring” at the end of February; Mattis made clear he was resigning over policy differences with the president.

    Mattis submitted his resignation after a failed attempt to convince Trump to keep US troops in Syria, The New York Times reported.

    “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” ...
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  • Here’s How Protests and Strikes Are Leading Change in Iran

    What do farmers in Esfahan, unemployed youth in Rafsanjan, teachers and students in Hamadan, and fraud victims in Kerman all have in common? On the face of it, not much other than being Iranian. But there is another commonality: They all staged protests on the same day, December 12.  

    Reporting on Iran tends to focus on the country’s nuclear program or squabbling of its leaders, while the diverse array of protests that regularly erupt across the country go underreported. 

    In the last twelve months, hardly a single day has passed without protests about the government, corruption, and the dwindling state of the economy. US-reimposed sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard and the economic policies of President Hassan Rouhani have done little to take care of the poor— though this is no surprise since his government is dominated by ministers who support policies...

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