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INSIGHT: A Year of Too-great Expectations for Iran

If all goes according to plan, sometime during 2014 Iran will sign a comprehensive final agreement to end a nuclear crisis that, over the course of a decade, has threatened to escalate into a war in the Middle East. But in light of the unresolved issues that must be addressed, it would be unwise More »

INSIGHT: Dealing Away the Middle East?

In the abstract and in isolation, a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal is a welcome development. While it does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, it does complicate any future Iranian efforts to develop a robust nuclear military capability. It also shows that the United States and Iran, two sworn enemies, are capable of rationally pursuing their More »

INSIGHT: Nuclear Deal a Win-Win for US, Iran – Even Israel

The ink was not dry on the historic Geneva nuclear accord with Iran before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as a “historic mistake”  that would allow Iran to cheat and get closer to nuclear weapons. Netanyahu may have been doing Iran a favor. By criticizing the deal so harshly, he will make it More »

INSIGHT: Yemen – Another Battlefield in Saudi-Iran Proxy War

In addition to Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria, Yemen represents yet another chessboard in the tactical maneuvers between Tehran and Riyadh in the Arab world. The current tide of the sectarian militancy between Shi’ite rebels and Sunni Salafi fighters, which began sweeping the northern provinces of Yemen on October 30, has once again put the More »

QUICKTAKE: Saudi ‘Hidden Hand’ Steering Iran Nuclear Talks?

The first round of Iran nuclear talks in Geneva broke down earlier this month after the P5+1 failed to reach consensus on a short-term deal that would have eased up sanctions and allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium at reduced levels.  Talks apparently ended over France’s demand that Iran stop construction on a heavy More »

INSIGHT: US, Iran Find Nuclear Breakthrough Hard to Achieve

In the lead-up to last week’s negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, all signs seemed to herald the possibility of a historic breakthrough. Officials in both Washington and Tehran were careful to try to suppress irrational exuberance, but in private briefings and official media statements, they could not help but convey an air of More »

INSIGHT: Iran Nuclear Talks in Geneva Get Down to Details

From the European venue to the power point presentation in English, this week’s nuclear negotiations with Iran showed a new seriousness that bodes well for a future agreement, even if it does not guarantee one. Iranian officials, from U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on down, spoke in English, dispensing with time-consuming translations, and outlined More »

QUICKTAKE: Can Israel Block a Deal With Iran?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to reassure the Israeli people that his positions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not changed. He told an audience at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University that the international community should tighten rather than relax economic sanctions against Iran until Tehran completely ends its suspected nuclear weapons program. Israel sees More »

QUICKTAKE: Distrust Iran But Verify Its Intent

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed cautious hope about engaging with Iran over its nuclear program, but says the country must take concrete steps to prove its sincerity. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is continuing a “vast and feverish” effort to acquire nuclear arms and that his country is ready to More »

INSIGHT: Breakthrough Possible in Iran Nuclear Stalemate?

The moment of truth is coming. All the optics from Tehran – even from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – indicate that Iran is gearing up for a new attempt at a nuclear deal. If a deal can’t be made in the next few months, it’s hard to see another opportunity when the chances would More »

INSIGHT: Could US, Iran Agree on Syria Without Assad?

More than two years after President Barack Obama said it was time for Syria’s president to go, Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus. But new evidence from the United Nations pointing to his regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons makes it more plausible that Assad could leave office as part of an More »

INSIGHT: Iran’s Rouhani – Starting Off With a Familiar Strategy

In his first few days in office, Iran’s new president is setting a determined course for an ambitious target – the middle ground. With his inaugural address, initial cabinet picks, and his first presidential press conference held last week, Hassan Rouhani has signaled that he intends to make good on his campaign pledges to More »

INSIGHT: Islam Is Not the Solution to What Ails the Middle East

During the decades when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was a barely tolerated opposition party, it campaigned against the reigning secular autocrats under the banner “Islam is the solution.” With the military’s removal on July 3 of the Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, the region’s oldest exemplar of political Islam has lost its best and perhaps only chance More »

INSIGHT: Rowhani Win Could Bring Dividends in Syria

Since the surprise election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s next president, most expert commentary has focused on the potential to improve U.S.-Iran relations and resolve the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. However, the replacement of the abrasive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a veteran negotiator nicknamed the ‘diplomat sheikh’ could also provide an opportunity to More »

INSIGHT: Is There Cause for Hope After Iran’s Presidential Election?

As recently as two weeks before Iran’s June 14 presidential election, it seemed as if the issue of human rights was being swept neatly under the carpet. But then, surprisingly, the issue bubbled up; Hassan Rowhani, the man who ultimately won the election, made a number of promises relating to human rights, to address More »

INSIGHT: US Credibility on Iran at Stake in Syria

American officials like to say that Iran’s defiance of international demands that it limit its nuclear activities, its support for terrorism, and the like have led to Tehran’s growing isolation. Iranian regime officials see things differently. The Iranian regime has a strategy in the Middle East and believes it is succeeding. Nowhere in the Middle More »

INSIGHT: Iran Presidential Debate Falls Short on Substance

A televised debate this week between candidates for Iran’s presidential election to be held on June 14 seems to have failed to inspire much voter confidence that this year’s poll would offer any solutions to the country’s economic woes or international isolation. Iran’s leadership is trying to influence the outcome of the poll by curtailing debate More »

INSIGHT: Why Iran’s Presidential Election Matters

In conversations with policymakers, journalists and analysts about the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, one question looms: does it even matter? Iran is, after all, an Islamic theocracy, a state in which the supreme leader is the ultimate decision-maker and elections are heavily stage-managed from start to finish. The president’s powers are explicitly limited, and More »

INSIGHT: The Day After a Strike on Iran

All eyes are on what it will take to prevent Iran from getting its hands on a nuclear weapon. If sanctions and diplomacy prove incapable of containing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions – and soon – a military strike to destroy or at the very least delay its program is seen as the least bad option More »

INSIGHT: Iran Presidential Race Heats Up

The race to replace Iran’s deeply polarizing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, officially opened last week with the registration of prospective candidates, and already the campaign promises an utterly fascinating ride through the unpredictable politics of the Islamic Republic. The shock and awe surrounding the last-minute decision by Iran’s iconic former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, More »