South Asia Center

  • Repeal of Article 370: Implications for India, Pakistan, and the United States

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    The already turbulent bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan is deteriorating rapidly in response to India’s decision to revoke the special status of the Kashmir region. A presidential order issued by India on August 5 abolished Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, and was shortly followed by the passage of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Bill by the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament). Indian military troops quickly moved into the region, cellular networks were restricted, and high level government officials were placed under house

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  • Why an Iran-Backed Paramilitary Group Has Rebuilt a Shrine in a Ruined Iraqi City

    In the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar, a large sign outside the Sayyida Zaynab shrine boasts of how an Iran-backed paramilitary group returned it from the rubble. 

    “With God’s blessing: the engineering and construction personnel from Brigade 40—the Imam Ali Brigades—have undertaken the reconstruction of Sayyida Zaynab the Younger’s shrine in Nineweh Governorate, Sinjar district, after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the enemies of religion and doctrine, destroyed it” reads the green sign, emblazoned with the brigade’s logo.

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  • Is Iran’s President Getting Ready to Step Down?

    Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has seen his domestic political stature fall as the 2015 nuclear deal becomes increasingly dysfunctional.

    According to the latest official reports, overall prices have increased by 48 percent compared to this time a year ago and food items have become 72 percent more expensive. A recently announced ...

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  • ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaign Is Bolstering Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

    The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and full re-imposition of sanctions against Iran have fueled the nationalist and anti-imperialist ideology that has become central to the mission of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). 

    At least since fraud-marred 2009 presidential election protests in Iran, the IRGC has been aware that religious ideology can no longer rally nation-wide support among young Iranians. An IRGC captain and media producer admitted: “The youngest generation in our country doesn’t understand our religious language anymore.” The Revolutionary Guards responded by focusing its propaganda efforts on nationalism, as socio-cultural anthropologist Narges Bajoghli has ...

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  • Iran’s Nationality Law Bill Highlights Challenges for Legislative Reform

    A long-awaited bill that would allow the children of Iranian women married to foreign spouses to obtain citizenship for the first time hangs in the balance. Iran’s elected executive and legislative branches have advanced this bill, which would change the lives of thousands of Iranians. But its potential protections have been eroded by appointed bodies, revealing the increasingly steep path for reforms via legislative action in Iran. 

    Iran’s Civil Code provides that children and spouses of Iranian men are granted nationality automatically, but Iranian women married to a foreign spouse cannot pass their nationality to their husband and children.

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  • Why Germany Resoundingly Rejected Joining a US-Led Mission Against Iran

    On July 31, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced Germany’s refusal to join a US-led military mission to safeguard the international shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian aggression and criticized what he called America’s “maximum tension”approach.

    US-Iran tensions have been rising since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and especially since it imposed a complete embargo on the export of Iranian oil a year later. In July, President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory strike on Iranian soil after a spate of Iranian acts, including the shoot-down of a $130 million US...

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  • Blood Money Decision Advances Women’s Rights in Iran

    In early June, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld a law deciding that blood money—compensation paid to relatives for the death or injury of a family member—would be equal between men and women and no longer would a woman’s compensation be worth half of a man's. According to this law, a fund for physical damages will make up the difference in all incidents, not just those involving car accidents. 

    The law was structured so as not to contradict Sharia law, which is the basis of the distinction between men and women, but it does effectively circumvent Sharia.Under Sharia law,a woman’s dieh or blood money is declared to be half of that of a man’s. Mandating the fund to provide the other half is a positive step toward equality for women’s rights in Iran and ending discrimination based on gender. 

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  • Sanctioning Iran’s Top Diplomat Increases Chance for US-Iran War

    Running out of targets for sanctions, the Trump administration has now put Iran’s chief diplomat on its list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.

    The stated reason for this is that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was educated in the US and spent much of his life representing Iran at the United Nations, is too good at his job.

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  • Is E-commerce the Deal Breaker for India-US Trade Talks?

    Presenting her maiden budget on July 5 India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman signaled her ambition to transform India into a $5 trillion economy by 2025. No doubt India has the potential to achieve this goal but succeeding requires recognizing and addressing the challenges it faces.

    Unexpectedly, a primary obstacle to India’s ambitions is the United States itself, as evidenced by the stalled and frustrating trade talks between Delhi and Washington. Disagreements about data privacy, e-commerce, the medical device price cap, dairy, and now foreign direct investment (FDI) into the insurance sector are all contributing to the on-going trade impasse and growing tensions. Going by the US administration’s recent public statements, there is little reason to be optimistic for progress, and more reason to believe that harder times lie ahead for the bilateral trade relationship.


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  • The IRGC Should Be Held Accountable for Rights Abuses

    Up until recently, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was an organization relatively unknown to the American public. However, with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran threatening to boil over into actual military confrontation, and the IRGC’s announcements of downing an American drone and seizing oil tankers, the increasing references to this group in the mainstream news and on social media may soon make it a household name. 

    But what is the IRGC? While currently there is an intense focus on the Guards’ military actions on behalf of Iranian state interests in the Persian Gulf and its extraterritorial reach in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, the IRGC is an entity that goes far beyond a...

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