South Asia Center

  • No One Wins a War in the Gulf, but Iran Would Be the Biggest Loser

    Despite repeated assertions by regime officials in Tehran and key members of the Trump administration regarding a mutual desire to avoid war, tensions in the region continue to rise.

    With each side seemingly determined to push the other up to, but not beyond poorly defined red lines, an increasingly volatile situation is developing. Given the poor state of diplomatic relations between the US and Iran and an inability of the two nations to communicate at the military to military level beyond the most basic tactical contacts, the opportunity for even a minor miscalculation to develop into a much more serious strategic incident remains disturbingly high.

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  • Iranian Society Shaken by Former Mayor’s Murder of His Wife

    In Iran, as in other societies, citizens wish to see those in high political office as exemplars of positive values and ideals such as virtue, decency and morality. 

    If an official of the Islamic Republic is caught in a scandal, he or she is likely to be removed or forced to resign. Still, Iranians have become used to financial corruption. But the case of former Tehran mayor and education minister Mohammad Ali Najafi—who has confessed to shooting to death his second wife—has profoundly shocked the nation, touched off a debate about polygamy and domestic violence and become enmeshed in Iran’s bitter factional politics.

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  • A Decade After Iran’s Green Movement, Some Lessons

    To those on the ground, the vote result was obviously rigged. The margin of victory by incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was grossly out of line with previous and subsequent Iranian election results with high turnouts. The vote-counting process was completely opaque.

    A system for verifying the vote and to prevent cheating on June 12, 2009, developed by lead opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s campaign, was sabotaged by the unexpected shutting down of the text-messaging system throughout the country.

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  • Japan’s Historic Opportunity to Play Peacemaker Between the US and Iran

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will finally make a trip to Iran on June 12. Since becoming prime minister at the end of 2012, every time Abe attempted to visit Tehran, the idea was eventually withdrawn mainly due to US disapproval, according to rumors. 

    However, Prime Minister Abe has met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seven times already, not only in New York on the sideline of the UN General Assembly every year since 2013, but also at the sixtieth annual Asia-Africa Conference in Indonesia during 2015. The Tehran visit will be the eighth meeting between Abe and Rouhani. It will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since 1978. (However, it will be Abe’s second visit to Iran since he accompanied his father, then...

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  • A Non-Subversion Pact for the Persian Gulf?

    A major complaint of those who rejected the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is that it did nothing to curb Iran’s regional interventions and actually may have spurred them. 

    Iran, these opponents argue, remains a theologically driven hegemon out to subvert Arab states and turn them into states too weak to threaten Tehran. Thus they reject recent proposals by Iran for a “non-aggression pact” as unrealistic and propagandistic. 

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  • INSTEX: More About Politics Than Economics?

    Ever since the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, the European Union (EU) has emphasized its sovereignty regarding both commercial and political relations with Iran, insisting that it could continue trade under the framework of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite that, trade has cratered and a mechanism—the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX)—expressly created to keep up commercial ties has not yet been implemented.

    When INSTEX was announced on January 31, Per Fischer, the former head of financial institutions at Commerzbank, was appointed as its president. The INSTEX supervisory board includes Simon McDonald, the UK Permanent...

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  • How Bank Fees Can Help the Iranian Economy

    Since the 1979 revolution, Iran’s banking system and the government-dependent central bank have not undergone any major reforms. 

    Working in tandem with parliament, the administration of President Hassan Rouhani aims to finally instill much-needed reforms in the ailing Iranian banking system. 

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  • Three Decades After Khomeini’s Death, His Clan Rules From the Sidelines

    “Your smile smells of someone who stays, so stay! Make me a poet again, make me fall in endless love.” These cheesy lines are from a Persian language Instagram post on May 25 by Fatemeh Daneshpajooh dedicated to the 21st birthday of her husband, Ahmad. 

    They could be any ordinary couple, but the husband’s last name gives it away. Ahmad Khomeini is a great-grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. 

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  • US Sanctions Are Causing Medicine Shortages, According to Iranians

    The re-imposition of US sanctions since President Donald Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 has had a devastating effect on the Iranian economy and has especially impacted the lives of those who struggle to provide medicine for themselves and their families. 

    Medicine is supposed to be exempt from the sanctions. Yet Europeans companies and banks have refused to participate in financial transactions involving pharmaceuticals out of fear of US secondary sanctions.

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  • How US Sanctions Hinder Iranians’ Access to Medicine

    The United States has over the past four decades imposed a wide range of economic sanctions to punish Iran for a number of undesired policies. While Trump administration officials continue to insist that food and medicine are exempt from US sanctions, and that sanctions do not hurt the Iranian people, evidence suggests that unilateral sanctions are collectively punishing the Iranian population by denying them adequate and reliable access to medicine. 

    The US has nominally exempted humanitarian goods from its economic sanctions. However, limitations on trade, the unwillingness of financial institutions to process transactions related to Iran, as well as the Iranian government’s misguided policies, have resulted in staggering prices and shortages of medicine. Compounded together, these issues...

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