South Asia Center

  • Atlantic Council South Asia Center Ten Year Anniversary Reception

    On Wednesday, January 9th, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center hosted a reception commemorating the Ten-Year anniversary of the Center. The occasion was marked by a ceremony honoring Shuja Nawaz, founding director of the South Asia Center and current Distinguished Fellow. 

    Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director of the South Asia Center, began the ceremony with welcoming remarks. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council, then offered his comments commemorating the tenth anniversary of the center and honoring Mr. Nawaz. The pair presented Mr. Nawaz with a token of appreciation for his substantial contributions to the South Asia Center as both a former director and current Distinguished Fellow.  

    The ceremony closed with a brief address by Shuja Nawaz, who expressed his continued optimism in the future of South Asia. As Mr. Nawaz reflected on the work of the South Asia Center, he

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  • Reforming US' High-Skilled Guestworker Program

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    The H-1B visa program is one of more than twenty US guest worker programs, but it has arguably been in the spotlight more than any other. While the H1-B was originally intended to attract foreign workers to satisfy unmet demand for skilled labor, the current system undercuts opportunities for US workers and enables the exploitation of H-1B workers, many of whom who are underpaid, vulnerable to abuse, and frequently placed in poor working conditions. Adopting safeguards to ensure H-1B workers are provided fair working conditions and given greater employment rights would...

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  • How the Exiled Iranian Opposition May Actually Be Helping the Iranian Regime

    The Islamic Republic of Iran has no shortage of opposition groups, many with adherents in the large Iranian diaspora. From the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to secular republicans to ethnic separatist organizations, they are all bent on overthrowing the Iranian regime and replacing it with what they claim will be a more inclusive system.

    Despite this common aim, the opposition is notoriously fragmented, with anti-regime groups often fighting among themselves rather than unifying against the regime. This bitter fragmentation partly explains the failure, after four decades of violent and non-violent struggle, to topple the Islamic Republic or even move it in a new direction.

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  • Japan Strives to Keep Importing Iranian Oil Despite US Sanctions

    Japan’s energy policy towards Iran has been an area of struggle for independence from the United States for four decades.

    Even when Japan tried to pursue its own energy policy towards Iran, the US has generally had the final say. From Japan’s point of view, however, the US stance towards Japan-Iran energy relations has toughened gradually since the 1979 revolution. 

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  • Iran’s Reform Camp Is in Crisis

    The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, can hardly be billed as a reformist. For that reason, he maintained his position as Iran’s Supreme Leader’s confidante while acting as his representative in the Iranian Supreme National Security Council for twenty-three years, from its inception until his first term election as president in 2013.

    Rouhani also escaped unscathed from the 2009 controversy-marred re-election of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While that election and the mass protests that followed produced numerous political casualties in the reform camp, Rouhani not only emerged intact but was in a good position to run as a consensus reformist-pragmatist candidate down the road.

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  • Iran Protest Movement Births a New Group, Iran Revival

    Iran has faced widespread demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience for more than one year. Even members of the elite, including the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and daughter of Hashemi Rafsanjani, have said that the collapse of the regime is an increasing possibility. The regime’s vulnerability has not only motivated existing opposition groups, but has sparked the creation of new organizations led by younger Iranians.

    One such group is Iran Revival, or farashgard. (In Zoroastrianism, Iran’s ancient pre-Islamic religion, farashgard is the period of the world’s rebirth after the defeat of Ahriman, the God of Darkness.) A loosely organized network of political activists spread across the US, Canada, Europe and Iran, the group,which describes itself as a “political action network,” seeks...

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  • A Right-Wing Loyalist, Sadeq Larijani, Gains More Power in Iran

    Following the death of Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi after a long illness, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has chosen the current head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to another powerful post: chairman of a council tasked with resolving disputes among government branches and potentially playing a role in selecting Khamenei’s successor.

    Shahroudi, who replaced the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Expediency Council in August 2017 after Rafsanjani’s death, was considered a relative moderate within Iran’s political spectrum despite a decade heading the judiciary from 1999 to 2009 and a record of repressing dissidents.

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  • What the Departure of James Mattis Could Mean for Trump’s Iran Policy

    The speeded up departure of Defense Secretary James Mattis did not come as a surprise after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria—and Mattis’ stinging letter of resignation. The Syria announcement was the final blow to a relationship that had become strained over issues ranging from the importance of alliances to the politically motivated deployment of US troops at the border with Mexico.

    The retired Marine general had policy differences with the president about Iran as well. While a supporter of containment, Mattis advocated remaining within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His departure tilts the balance in Trump’s national security team in favor of more hawkish individuals who have openly...

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  • US Troop Drawdown from Afghanistan Needs to be Done Responsibly

    US President Donald J. Trump’s demand that the Pentagon plan for the withdrawal of 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan should not be viewed in isolation as it coincides with his decision to disengage from Syria, which, in turn, seems to have triggered the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis—viewed by many as a seasoned strategist and supporter of a nuanced approached to the US missions in Syria and Afghanistan.

    Trump’s Afghan withdrawal coincides with an ongoing effort, kicked off with the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the US special representative in September, to end the seventeen-year-old war in Afghanistan. If not coordinated, the withdrawal of US troops could hinder Khalilzad’s efforts and bolster the Taliban’s negotiating position. This, in turn, could weaken the positions of the US and Afghan governments, including political elites in Afghanistan, domestically as well as at the regional

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  • Despite US Pressure and Decreased Popularity Among Iraqis, Iran Is Staying in Iraq

    The new round of US sanctions against Iran has put neighboring Iraq in a tough position. 

    Baghdad heavily relies on Iranian electricity and natural gas imports to meet its energy needs. A forty-five-day sanctions waiver granted to Iraq by the Trump administration in early November is set to expire this week.

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