The long-awaited release from detention in Iran of two UK-Iranian dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, signals, on the face of it, a constructive turn in UK-Iranian relations. It was brought about by the tireless behind-the-scenes work of advocates and officials , from progress in the Vienna nuclear talks to support from the Omani government and an international public pressure campaign.
Yet, despite this step forward, more challenging issues between Tehran and Whitehall are looming. Not least is the fear that by paying its 40-year-old £400m debt to Iran, the British government risks vindicating Iran’s use of hostage-taking. It is for this reason that since Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention, the British government has been rightfully reluctant to link the prospect of her release to the debt.… Seguir leyendo »
Tackling entrenched corruption will be a key focus of the political discourse in the Middle East and North Africa in 2022. International policymakers will look to anti-corruption as a framework that can be used to help stabilize conflict countries, support economic reform, or to pressure adversarial regimes. Pressure to deal with corruption also stems from popular anger in countries that suffer from poor governance as corruption can have very serious – even fatal – consequences, as the deadly hospital fires Iraq suffered last year illustrate.
Across the region, anti-corruption processes are meant to signal accountability. However, they can also be weaponized by elites to consolidate power and target opponents, particularly in countries where the political system itself is built on politically sanctioned corruption.… Seguir leyendo »
The Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna, aimed at resurrecting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal, have entered their eighth round. After a number of delays and disagreements, the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China (known as the P5+1) and Iran, led by the new Raisi administration, finally appear to be making progress at the technical level. This is partly due to Russia and China helping to steer Iran back to what had already been agreed and partly because the so-called Plan B scenarios remain so unappealing to all parties.
The JCPOA is a hugely complex, 154-page technical agreement.… Seguir leyendo »
Creating better global governance is possible
Dr Anne-Marie Slaughter
The Biden administration’s foreign policy achievements can be divided into great power achievements and global achievements. In the great power category, the administration has shored up the military balance of power against China by strengthening the Quad – Japan, India, Australia, and the US – and creating a new military configuration of the US, the UK, and Australia, even as it created a serious rift with France. The Biden team is also pushing back hard against Russia, certainly in the cybersphere, and has reopened negotiations to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.… Seguir leyendo »
15 September 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the agreements that normalized ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. At the time, the accords were portrayed as a barter ending Israeli annexation of the West Bank in exchange for normalization of ties with the UAE.
The Trump administration viewed them as a model for outsourcing regional security that would allow the US to prioritize its interests beyond the Middle East, a tectonic regional shift brokered by the United States. However, only Morocco and Sudan have so far followed suit and signed normalization agreements with Israel.… Seguir leyendo »
Less than a decade ago, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s newly elected president, was unknown to most Iranians. His story is one of a stalwart cleric and bureaucrat who has gradually risen through the ranks of Iran’s unelected institutions, all the while building important relationships with the clerical establishment, the security and intelligence apparatus, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and, most importantly, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Following an intense period of US sanctions, international pressure and confrontation, this election brings to power a Khamenei loyalist alongside a conservative consolidation of elected and unelected branches of government that together will enable the political establishment to prioritize domestic stability, economic development, and the looming issue of who will succeed Khamenei.… Seguir leyendo »
The departure of the Trump administration will be felt across the GCC as the incoming Biden administration is expected to change US policy on Iran, renew conflict management efforts in Yemen and prioritize human rights concerns. President Trump, whose first foreign trip in office was to Riyadh, was well received in the Gulf for his maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, support for Saudi Arabia’s position in the Yemen war and defence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Trump administration’s role in facilitating the normalization of ties between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel will also be warmly remembered by Gulf states.… Seguir leyendo »
Democracy Must Work at Home First
Dr Leslie Vinjamuri
US democracy has been vividly on display and scrutinized by the world for the entirety of Trump’s presidency. In the years ahead, the global balance of democratic and authoritarian values will be shaped not only by US leadership abroad but especially by the ability of the Biden administration to fix America’s democracy.
Today, the US is wracked by internal division and the distribution of economic opportunities and benefits across society is radically unequal. Confidence in the leadership, the electoral system, and the capacity of the state to deliver has taken a serious hit.… Seguir leyendo »
5 January 2021 marked the formal beginning of the end of the three-and-a-half-year Qatar crisis. GCC leaders, including the Qatari Emir Tamim and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, gathered for the 41st GCC Summit in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia where they signed the ‘security and stability’ agreement.
They publicly acknowledged it was time to ‘fold the page of the past’ officially moving beyond the acrimony and tensions that had pervaded GCC politics since 2017. As part of the agreement, the Quartet states that led the blockade (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain) agreed to open air, land and sea routes to Qatar.… Seguir leyendo »
1. Resistance to Biden is likely
The result of the election made it clear America has not rejected ‘Trumpism’ and remains deeply polarized. Donald Trump remains an important figure within the Republican Party, and perhaps even its leader.
Some senior figures in the party support his efforts to convey the impression the election was ‘stolen’ from them, and analysts such as Max Boot and Timothy Snyder are even comparing this to the Dolchstosslegende (myth of a stab in the back) in Germany after World War I.
Assuming Joe Biden does take over as president on 20 January, the question is what form any ‘resistance’ to his administration takes.… Seguir leyendo »
The authors of this collection consider the most pressing foreign policy challenges for the next US president, and examine how the outcome of the 2020 election will affect these.
The president will determine how the US’s diplomatic, economic and military resources are invested, and what value the administration will attach to existing alliances and multilateral institutions.
Whoever sits in the White House will shape the trajectory of the US–China relationship and the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as international cooperation on climate action, international trade and technology policy, and health.
- The last four years have confirmed that the choices the US makes are highly consequential for international politics.
… Seguir leyendo »
Experts across Chatham House shared their views on Trump and Biden’s performance and their key takeaways from the last debate. More than 47 million Americans have already cast their vote and few voters are undecided, but the debates still provide a good lens into these two very different candidates.
Throughout the presidential race, there have been concerns regarding foreign interference in the election. How did candidates respond to this threat?
Leslie Vinjamuri: The candidates deflected the question, but it could not have been more timely. Only two days ago, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, announced that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data and used this to send threatening emails to voters.… Seguir leyendo »
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many global leaders have invoked war analogies – from the Pearl Harbor attack to the collective spirit on display during the Second World War – to highlight past lessons learned or rally their populations.
For Iran’s leadership, more recent war analogies hold resonance and help explain the ideological and political conundrum limiting an effective COVID-19 response. While the Islamic Republic has weathered a multitude of challenges, COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on Iran’s already fragile, heavily-sanctioned economy and further exposing domestic political fissures amid ongoing international tensions.
Iran has been identified as the regional epicentre of the pandemic with a steadily rising number of deaths, including several of the country’s political and military elite.… Seguir leyendo »
An unexpected bounty for Iran
The assassination of Qassem Soleimani has been an unexpected bounty for the Islamic Republic at a time when Iran was balancing multiple economic, domestic and regional pressures stemming from the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.
Coming on the heels of anti-Iranian demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon, and following Iran’s own November 2019 protests that resulted in a brutal government crackdown against its own people, the Soleimani killing has helped the Iranian government shift the narrative away from its perceived regional and domestic weaknesses to one of strength.
The massive funeral scenes in multiple Iranian cities displaying unending waves of mourners chanting against the United States has provided the Islamic Republic with a unique opportunity to showcase its mobilizing potential.… Seguir leyendo »
For four decades, the rule of Iran’s Islamic Republic has rested on the pillars of redistributive social justice, foreign policy independence, Islam and a managed form of electoral legitimacy. These pillars, each of equal importance, have served as guiding principles bolstering Iran’s domestic and foreign policy decisions. Amid the latest round of protests to have gripped Iran, it is clear that these pillars are fracturing.
On 15 November at midnight, the Iranian government, in a move supported by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani and Head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi, announced a 200 per cent increase in fuel prices – a redistributive measure designed to provide cash transfers to the population.… Seguir leyendo »
It was like something out of a movie. To shouts of 'Allahu Akbar!', masked soldiers drop down ropes from a military helicopter on to a British oil tanker while Iranian navy speedboats surround the vessel. By radio, a voice warns the ship’s captain in English: 'If you obey you will be safe'.
There is no doubt that the Friday seizure by Iranian Revolutionary Guards of a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, was in part a piece of theatre intended to appease domestic clamour for Tehran to assert itself.
It came in response to the UK military’s 4 July detention of an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, in Gibraltar, allegedly for shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.… Seguir leyendo »
A shared agenda: strengthening democracy at home
As Britain is set to leave the EU, many have argued that the US–UK relationship is bound to suffer a lasting setback, since a UK outside the EU cannot possibly be as important or helpful to the United States as one that is in.
To make matters worse, Trump’s policies on Iran, trade and climate are making it hard for the UK to align with its American ally. And Trump’s popularity among the UK electorate is reported to be as low as 21%, so the UK’s candidates for prime minister are likely to be cautious when considering how to engage this American president.… Seguir leyendo »
Bahrain’s lower house and municipal council elections on 24 November have been heralded a success by the ruling Al Khalifa family and the government, who had hoped to use a successful election outcome to erase the public and international memory of Bahraini instability after the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
This narrative, however, provides a one-sided account of the election that seeks to paper over a boycott from banned opposition parties Al Wefaq and Al Waad and a long-standing government-led crackdown on popular dissent.
The Arab Spring: a turning point
During the over 200-year rule of the Al Khalifa family, Bahrain has had a unique and vibrant scene of domestic politics and protest, at least as compared to the rest of the Arab Gulf states.… Seguir leyendo »
The fallout from Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance is the latest political misstep from Saudi Arabia that will geopolitically benefit Iran. In the face of forthcoming US oil sanctions and coordinated pressure from the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel strategy– and as the EU attempts to preserve the nuclear accord after Washington’s withdrawal – the opportunity could not come at a better time for Tehran.
Iran has repeatedly seized on Saudi miscalculations to gain leverage and protect itself from regional isolation.
In Yemen, since 2015, Tehran has built a robust relationship with the Houthis opposing the Saudi coalition, providing more training and equipment than was expected at the outset of the war.… Seguir leyendo »
For Iranians, Donald Trump’s announcement that he is withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the deal, is deeply disappointing.
This is a manufactured crisis, and in making it, Washington and its allies in Tel Aviv and Riyadh have set their sights on a zero sum option of containing and even forcing political change in the Islamic Republic.
This naive thinking reflects Washington’s limited understanding of Iran and its internal politics as well as the deep regional divide between Iran and its Arab neighbours. So rather than address the principal challenge of Iran’s regional meddling and the wider tensions in the Middle East in an initiative separate from the already functioning nuclear deal, Trump has unleashed a genie that will not so easily go back in its bottle.… Seguir leyendo »