Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security

  • Supreme Leader Shuffles Friday Prayer Leaders in Iran

    On March 13, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed a young cleric, Habibollah ShabanI Mowathaqi, as the Friday Prayer leader of Hamadan, west-central Iran. Mowathaqi, 41, replaces prominent Ayatollah Ghiyath al-Din Taha Muhammadi, who is 73. 

    The change was the latest in a series that started about two years ago. The most important so far has been the appointment of Muhammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari as the Friday imam of Tehran in December 2018. Haj Ali Akbari had been chosen as the chief of the “Imams of Friday Prayer Policy Council” a year earlier. The organization is an umbrella body that manages Friday prayers in Iran and nominates prayer leaders to the Supreme Leader, who makes the appointments. Under the auspices of this body,...

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  • The Unsaid Threat to Iran During Netanyahu’s Navy Cadet Speech

    The Israeli elections are well underway and the Iranian issue is taking a central part in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral campaign. Putting Iran on the agenda helps the prime minister maintain a never-ending security tension. Thus, the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has become a regular feature in Netanyahu’s speeches against his political rivals.  

    Moreover, Netanyahu’s role as defense minister also promotes his security agenda while he makes regular appearances at military bases as part of his electoral campaign. Netanyahu’s March 6 speech at the graduation ceremony of the Haifa naval cadets, contrary to what Hebrew language press reported, was not without controversy.

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  • Iran Should Reach Out to Labor Leaders, Not Prosecute Them

    There’s not much good news to share in Iran as Nowruz, the Iranian new year, approaches. The economic situation that played a role in nationwide protests during December 2017 and January 2018 is still difficult as millions of Iranians struggle to live a decent life. Inflation and perceptions of widespread corruption further fuel popular frustration, prompting dozens of labor groups—including truck drivers, steel workers, and teachers—to lead protests againstthe Iranian government’s economic policies over the past year.

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  • 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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  • Former NATO Ambassador Urges Congress to Protect the Alliance

    “NATO is both indispensable and in crisis,” Douglas Lute, a former US ambassador to NATO and Atlantic Council board director, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 13. He described the nearly seventy-year-old alliance as “a cornerstone” of US foreign policy “that we all too often take for granted.” He argued that lawmakers should do more to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to its allies and to enact legislation requiring congressional approval before any alteration or withdrawal of the Untied States from the Alliance.

    “The United States Congress can play a role to reassure allies and check and balance the president,” Lute said.

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  • Twenty Years Later, NATO Allies Remain Strong Members of the Family

    When the foreign ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary finally signed documents completing their nations’ accession to NATO it marked the beginning of a new era for the transatlantic alliance. Twenty years ago, the ceremony held in Independence, Missouri—the hometown of US President Harry S. Truman, who oversaw the creation of NATO—marked the first time former-Communist adversaries had joined the alliance of democracies.

    Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, was a junior desk officer at the US Department of State when then US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright travelled to Missouri to finalize the new enlargement. “For me, less than a year on the job, I was on a professional high,” Wilson recalled. “After watching Washington for years exude ambivalence about whether to welcome more allies into NATO, the compelling case presented by these nations’ extraordinary spokespeople won the day. The determination of Czechs, Hungarians,


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  • Manning quoted in Voice of America on North Korea's economic development goals

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  • Ebrahim Raisi: Iran’s New Chief Justice and Possible Supreme Leader in Waiting

    Iran’s 1989 amended constitution states that “in order to fulfill the responsibilities of the judiciary power in all the matters concerning judiciary, administrative...
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  • Manning in Global Times: All frontline states needed to resolve NK issue

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  • 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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