Middle East

  • What’s Behind the Middle East Summit in Poland?

    The US announcement that an international summit on the security and stability of the Middle East will be held February 13 and 14 in Warsaw was as shocking as it was unexpected, not only for Iranians but also for Poles.

    Poland is an important political and military ally of the United States and Polish energy companies have decided to withdraw from Iran after President Donald Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-imposed sanctions. But having a multinational summit about the Middle East in Poland? It is even rumored that Warsaw was taken by surprise when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that such an event would be organized in the Polish capital next month. 

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  • The Influence of Domestic Politics on Foreign Policy in Syria

    On January 13, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuannounced that Israeli forces attacked Iranian weapons warehouses in Damascus the day prior, confirming similar reports by Syrian state media. What is unusual about Netanyahu’s statement is not the content—indeed, Israeli officials previouslyacknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes onthousands of Iranian targets in Syria—but the context. The announcement broke with a “policy of ambiguity” under which Israel refuses to claim responsibility immediately after a specific attack; the rationale being to safeguard against potential retaliation. 


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  • Expert Analysis on US Soldiers Killed in Manbij

    This morning reports of four Americanskilled in Manbij, Syria surfaced with the Islamic State (ISIS) claiming theattack which came in the form of a suicide explosive vest next to a US patrol. The attack killed two US soldiers, a civilian from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a US contractor. Several civilians were also caught in the attack withestimates of thirteen to sixteen casualties in addition to the deaths of two local security officers. The attack occurred in the main market near a girls’ school and restaurant as US troops met up with the local Manbij Military Council (MMC). Comments and analysis from our experts are below.


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  • Can Anything Be Salvaged?

    President Trump’s impulsive “out of Syria” tweet of December 19, 2018 may have sacrificed high value, low cost American leverage in eastern Syria for precisely nothing.  Russian, Iranian, and Assad regime alarm that the West would work with local Syrians in areas liberated from ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) to create the long-awaited governance alternative to Bashar al-Assad, family, and friends have all-but-evaporated.  It was that possibility – the presentation to all Syrians of a good government, civilized alternative to mass murder, state terror, war crimes, bottomless corruption, and subservience to Iran – that was the essence of Western leverage: not the physical presence of 2,000 uniformed Americans.  But those soldiers and marines were a tripwire and a symbol of American determination to seal the victory over ISIS by paving the way for political transition in all of Syria.  The president may have given it away.  For nothing. 


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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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  • Saudi Minister Says Oil Market Volatility 'Unjustified'

    Khalid Al-Falih says he’s convinced ‘the oil market will quickly return to balance’

    On January 13, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih sought to assuage market concerns about potential oil demand as producers try to reverse massive dips in price at the end of 2018.

    “Market sentiment today is being shaped by undue concerns about demand, underestimation of the impact of agreed supply cuts, and a misreading of the supply-demand trends which causes counterfactual actions by financial players,” Al-Falih said. “In other words, if we look beyond the noise of weekly data and vibrations in the market, and the speculators’ herd-like behavior, I remain convinced that we are on the right track and that the oil market will quickly return to balance.”


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  • ADNOC Announces New Oil and Gas Exploration Licenses at Atlantic Council’s 2019 Global Energy Forum

    Two offshore blocks ‘represent the beginning of a new wave of exploration,’ says Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan Al Jaber

    The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has awarded two new offshore blocs to Italian energy company Eni and Thailand’s Public Exploration and Production Company (PTTEP), ADNOC’s Chief Executive Officer and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Minister of State Sultan Al Jaber announced at the Atlantic Council’s 2019 Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on January 12.


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  • Winter Storm in Arsal, Lebanon Devastates Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Communities

    Up one of the steep hillsides that line Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Soheir al-Kanoun hasn’t left the house in days.

    A Palestinian refugee originally from Syria’s Yarmouk camp, who now lives in a hillside town overlooking the valley below, al-Kanoun’s family have been living off bread and tahini since Storm Norma began—groceries bought hastily last week in preparation for rain, wind and snow.

    And while the elevation has protected al-Kanoun and her elderly mother from flooding, hillside snow and ice has hemmed them inside since the weekend.  

    “I can’t go out in this weather,” she said. “We live up in the hills. People rarely go outside.”


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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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