South Asia Center

  • Iran Seeks Economic Benefits From Syria

    When US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last May, his main argument to justify the move was that the agreement had been one-sided, providing Iran with large amounts of money to finance its “destabilizing policies” throughout the Middle East. 

    This argument has become one of the main rationales behind Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran. By re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran, the Trump administration aims to push the Islamic Republic to decrease its regional activities by severely cutting its financial resources, especially oil revenues. 

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  • Another Sports-Mad Iranian American Reviews Jason Rezaian’s Memoir

    The World Cup was over, Germany winning its first world title since 1990. Looking for something else to occupy my attention, this sports-obsessed Iranian American spotted an article in The Washington Post by Jason Rezaian about baseball in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    As a child of an Iranian immigrant growing up in rural Kentucky, American sports were a rite of passage. Even though soccer would eventually become my passion, I quickly fell in love with America’s triumvirate of sporting traditions: baseball, basketball and football.

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  • Gloomy Observations From Iran

    One of the criticisms of Iran analysts usually thrown around on social media is that they haven’t lived in the country, visited it for a long time or speak the language.

    While not as well-known as some analysts, this author speaks the language, lived in Iran for twenty-eight years until two years ago and recently visited the country for forty days—fortunately without any problems entering or leaving. The purpose of this piece is to share what I saw and heard, with one disclaimer: these are my personal observations and when I refer to “Iranians,” I mean the people I talked and interacted with, not the entire 80 million population.

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  • The Warsaw Summit: Not So ‘Anti-Iranian’ but Still a Success

    It is too early to assess the long-term consequences of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. But for Poland and several other actors, the meeting can already been seen as a success.

    Poland, after hosting a NATO summit in 2016 and a UN Climate conference in 2018, has once again shown that it is able to organize large international events.

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  • The Warsaw Summit and Effective Multilateralism

    The Trump administration has sought to break out of its international isolation on Iran by pressuring nations to go to Warsaw for a summit on peace and security in the Middle East. But the administration has failed to craft an effective multilateral approach towards Iran based on common concerns and a realistic understanding of what is achievable.

    Despite White House backtracking from an initial expressed aim to focus on Iran, US officials and regional leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the occasion to unleash rhetorical barbs against Iran—which was not invited. 

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  • How Iran Has Changed in Forty Years and What the Future Portends

    Iran forty years after its Islamic revolution is facing a grave economic crisis and growing popular discontent. It continues to commit acts that deepen its isolation even as it benefits from the mistakes of its adversaries. US sanctions are more punishing than anticipated but will probably not cause Iran to alter policies of greatest concern to Washington, such as regional interventions and ballistic missile development, and are instead strengthening hardline elements as Iran approaches a key political transition. Meanwhile, society has already undergone a cultural counter-revolution that aging ayatollahs cannot reverse.

    These were among the insights gleaned from a day-long conference at the Atlantic Council on February 12. Organized in conjunction with the Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, it brought together veteran scholars and up and coming experts...

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  • Moral Courage Needed for US to Engage Iran

    In his January 10 speech in Cairo, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described America as a “force for good in the Middle East.”

    “We need to acknowledge that truth, because if we don't, we make bad choices [that will] have consequences for nations, for millions of people,” he said. “In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times—and our partners—demanded it.”

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  • How Iran Has Changed in Forty Years and What the Future Portends

    Iran forty years after its Islamic revolution is facing a grave economic crisis and growing popular discontent. It continues to commit acts that deepen its isolation even as it benefits from the mistakes of its adversaries. US sanctions are more punishing than anticipated but will probably not cause Iran to alter policies of greatest concern to Washington, such as regional interventions and ballistic missile development, and are instead strengthening hardline elements as Iran approaches a key political transition. Meanwhile, society has already undergone a cultural counter-revolution that aging ayatollahs cannot reverse.

    These were among the insights gleaned from a day-long conference at the Atlantic Council on February 12. Organized in conjunction with the Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, it brought together veteran scholars and up and coming experts...

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  • Iran’s Revolution, 40 Years On: Israel’s Reverse Periphery Doctrine

    Iranian-Israeli hostility is actually quite odd. Tehran is well over a thousand miles from Jerusalem. The two countries do not border each other. They have no major bilateral claims toward one another. Whereas large Arab neighbors of Iran, like Iraq or Saudi Arabia, might be considered its natural competitors, Israel cannot. Even fans of the “ancient hatreds” school of Middle East conflict would come up short.

    What historical memory there is of Persian-Judaic interactions is largely positive in Jewish eyes: Streets in Israel are named for Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to Judea from their Babilonian exile in 538 BCE. Conversely, Judea never rose to compete with Persia for regional prominence, as did Greek or later Arab forces.

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  • The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Policy at Forty

    Forty years have passed since disparate groups of revolutionaries—many of them united only in their opposition to the Imperial State of Iran’s alignment with the United States—toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. 

    Since then, hundreds of American scholars and practitioners have attempted to understand the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy and how to best respond to the challenges it poses. Some have long advocated for engaging the Iranian regime, while others have pushed for a tougher stance against it. US President Donald Trump has argued that a maximum pressure campaign would force the mullahs to negotiate and strike a deal on the entirety of their foreign policy, including their missile and nuclear programs and interventions in a number of theaters throughout the Middle East and South Asia. But the Islamic Republic isn’t likely to change the course of its foreign policy.

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