Since the 7 October attacks on Israel, Iran’s support for Hamas and its broader regional goals – most importantly, its long-standing hostility towards Israel – have come into sharp focus.
Questions over Tehran’s direct role in the attacks were quickly quashed by US and Israeli officials as well as Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
These denials are a stark reminder that Iran’s regional strategy and broader objectives are a key destabilizing force that requires a coordinated regional and international response.
Iran-backed groups across the Middle East – what Tehran calls the ‘axis of resistance’ – have threatened and attacked Israel, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and groups in Syria and Iraq, signalling their intent to join a transnational fight and raising the stakes of Israel’s war.… Seguir leyendo »
The tremors from Hamas’ attack on Israel and Israel’s military response are being felt far beyond their borders, where the fighting is currently concentrated.
There are clear fears across the Middle East that the region will become mired in a broader war that could draw in Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan, Egypt (which shares a border with Gaza), Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and their patron Iran. Gulf Arab countries also fear their domestic security will be affected by cascading violence.
But the war has erupted following a prolonged period of regional-led de-escalation and reconciliation efforts. Since 2019 countries including Israel have been increasingly willing to find pragmatic, workable compromises based on shared interests – a phenomenon sometimes referred to as building a ‘new Middle East’.… Seguir leyendo »
On 10 March 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced their intention to restore diplomatic relations over a two-month period, in a deal brokered by China. Riyadh’s reconciliation with Bashar al-Assad in Syria is also underway, and its behind-the-scenes engagement with Israel has increased.
This rapprochement with Iran and other regional efforts matter because they shed light on a significant region-wide trend of de-escalation that has been underway since the resumption of high-level UAE–Iran relations in 2019. In the wake of geopolitical tensions and distraction, it also marks a shift towards direct Middle East regional conflict management which – should it last – is a first for countries in the region.… Seguir leyendo »
Trade and economics are key areas to watch
Daniel W. Drezner
Russia’s absence from the Munich Security Conference will allow US and European policymakers to brag about their flourishing partnership. The past year has seen repeated predictions of a fracturing transatlantic relationship – only to see repeated agreement on how to sanction Russia and which arms to ship to Ukraine.
Putin invaded because he thought the West was divided. Events have proven him wrong. When one takes a step back, however, and examines the Biden administration’s embrace of geoeconomics, Putin’s assumption becomes easier to comprehend.
The strongest throughline between the Trump and Biden administrations has been their shared mindset on weaponized interdependence.… Seguir leyendo »
Current protests present the Iranian regime with a far more immediate crisis than the selection of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s eventual successor. But the opaque succession process – and the underlying questions over its legitimacy and lack of accountability – will haunt Iran’s political system long after the unrest has been quelled.
Having succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, Khamenei is now the longest-ruling leader of a Middle Eastern state, and his death will herald a significant transition for both Iran and the wider region.
Competition to succeed him will be intense, and whatever the outcome, the way the transition unfolds will have far-reaching consequences for Iran’s relationship with its Arab neighbours and Western adversaries.… Seguir leyendo »
Early this month, the Iranian rumor mill cranked into overdrive amid reports that Iran’s 83-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who survived prostate cancer surgery in 2014, was again gravely ill. On September 16, the New York Times reported that emergency bowel surgery had left Khamenei bedridden and too frail to sit upright, citing four anonymous sources said to be “familiar with his health situation”. In the wilder corners of Persian-language social media, claims that Khamenei was on his deathbed gave way to speculation that he had already died. As has happened for more than a decade, such rumors quickly morphed into feverish conjecture about how Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body of 88 Islamic jurists who choose the supreme leader, would select Khamenei’s successor and lively debate over the relative merits of the clerics jockeying for the role.… Seguir leyendo »
Under pressure at home for high energy prices and his willingness to sacrifice principles for national interests, President Joe Biden’s Middle East trip – with visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia which included participation in a meeting with nine Arab leaders in Riyadh – came at a critical time for the region.
This attempt by the US president at a reset of relations frames his efforts to manage tensions with Iran, support greater regional security cooperation, and manage geopolitical competition in the Middle East – all of which also benefit America’s British and European partners.
Regional concerns have long been mounting over Washington’s strategy to revive the Iran nuclear agreement – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and over the distraction of American domestic politics and US geopolitical repositioning.… Seguir leyendo »
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 »