Middle East Security Initiative

  • 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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  • Thanks to US Sanctions, Iranians Are Turning to Bitcoin Mining

    Ali Hosseini is a 26-year-old with a normal nine-to-five job in Tehran. He has a bachelor’s degree in information technology and mostly works in social media and public relations. Two months ago, he bought a Bitcoin mining device with his cousin and has been mining since.

    Hosseini had no prior knowledge of blockchains and distributed ledger technologies prior to purchasing the device. Hosseini had only heard in passing about cryptocurrencies five years ago, but forgot all about them until last year when they became all the rage globally.

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  • Q&A: Nader Uskowi on the IRGC’s ‘Temperature Rising’

    Nonresident senior fellow Nader Uskowi talks about his new book, Temperature Rising: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Wars in the Middle East. Uskowi discusses with IranSource the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) inside Iran and the Middle East, what the West is getting wrong about the elite force, and the challenges the IRGC is facing today.


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  • Iran’s Ballistic Missile Inventory

    The Trump administration had major qualms with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) prompting the US withdrawal in May. These included the sunset provisions, which provide expiration dates for certain restrictions, and its narrow targeting of Iran’s nuclear program without addressing the continued enhancement of its ballistic missile arsenal, which enables the regime’s “malign activity” in the region.

    Iran has in fact made advancements in the precision and strategic military value of its ballistic missile arsenal, expanding upon its use as a deterrent to include more advanced offensive capabilities that threaten foreign military infrastructure.

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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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  • How Rouhani Can Use the Industry Sector to Help Iran’s Economy

    With four new ministers in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet to help salvage the Iranian economy, it’s too soon to see the genuine impact just yet. But what is evident is that the new economic measures, if any, should focus on improving the ease of doing business in the wake of reimposed US sanctions.

    Having that been said, the industry sector appears to bear the highest potential for raising economic output compared to other sectors following a downward trajectory.

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  • United States Sanctions Seventeen Saudi Officials Over Khashoggi Murder

    The US Treasury Department on November 15 slapped sanctions on seventeen Saudi officials in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

    The sanctioned Saudis include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trusted adviser, Saud al-Qahtani; senior aide Maher Mutreb; and Saudi counsel general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Ootaibi.

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