Recent History Supports Iran Agreement

By Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, Syracuse University

The evidence favoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in July 2015, is before our eyes. It was negotiated between the Iranian government and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China and one other: Germany (P5+1). For much of the time prior to the negotiated interim agreement, the US pursued a highly bellicose policy toward Iran and Iran speeded its development of a nuclear program that could be preparatory to having nuclear weapons capability. That history also makes evident why the rejection of the signed Iran agreement is likely to have extremely grave consequences for the US.

The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Iran was helpful in several ways, including overthrowing the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, helping establish the government in Kabul headed by Karzai, and denying sanctuary to escaping Al Qaeda members. Nevertheless, in President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union address, in January 2002, he called Iran, together with Iraq and North Korea, an “Axis of Evil.” The Iranian government could reasonably believe that it was threatened by the US. It energetically sped the advancement of nuclear programs that could enhance the development of nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy. The Bush administration chastised the Iranian government and imposed some economic sanctions. These actions certainly did not slow Iran’s nuclear development program.

President Barack Obama’s administration undertook a different strategy. It recognized Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, engaged with Iranian officials with civility and respect, and explored possible arrangements that might preclude Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Obama Administration was able to expand UN Security Council sanctions on Iran for failing to cooperate on earlier resolutions and its continued uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. As in most successful negotiations, a blend of carrots and sticks proved effective.

In August 2013, Hassan Rouhani became president of Iran, following the bombastic and extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Serious conversations now began and in November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action was a pact signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries. It provided for a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran. This was implemented and it ultimately led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it. That was done. The JCPOA is a well-crafted, narrow agreement that does not foreclose further actions relating to Iran about many contentious issues and even possible cooperative matters, for example those regarding ISIS. It also enables the US, in solidarity with other signers of the agreement, to negotiate various extensions of the JCPOA, as they expire and when Iran is much further from having nuclear weapons grade uranium than it presently has.

If Congress rejects the signed agreement, US leadership and credibility in the world will be badly damaged. No “re-negotiation” is really feasible. Hardliners in Iran can claim vindication that the US cannot be trusted, and there would be no incentive for Iran to renew negotiations for harsher terms. Nor is it likely that all the other signers of the agreement would renew negotiations after such a development in the US. Iran would naturally resume its nuclear development program. The likely further consequences would be awful to contemplate. I urge readers to encourage members of Congress to approve the agreement and not to return to policies that have so drastically failed in the recent past.


INSCT Faculty Discuss Security, Law, & Geopolitics

Several INSCT faculty members have recently been asked to comment in the media on national security, international law, and geopolitical topics …

College of Law Professor Nathan Sales spoke with news outlets about the national security implications of the alleged use by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of a private server to send and store emails containing classified information:

Maxwell School Professor Miriam Elman co-authored an editorial about the Iran nuclear deal:

College of Law Professor Tara Helfman commented on Somali pirates and the Law of the Sea:

Why Did the Taliban Go to Tehran?

Taliban_FightersBy Farhad Peikar

(Re-published from The Guardian, May 22, 2015) Reports of an official Taliban delegation’s clandestine visit to Iran this week raised eyebrows in both Kabul and Tehran: why would Iran, a Shia powerhouse involved in proxy wars with several Sunni states and sectarian groups in the Middle East, host a radical Sunni militant group on its soil?

The two erstwhile foes once came to the brink of a full-blown war against each other. However, when it comes to regional politicking the two have found much in common, including their fear of the spread of the Islamic State influence in the region.

In 1998, Tehran deployed more than 70,000 forces along the Afghan border in a clear show of military might and threatened to invade Afghanistan and avenge the deaths of at least eight Iranian diplomats at the hands of Taliban in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif that year. Iranian generals predicted they would topple the Taliban regime within 24 hours, but the situation was defused when the United Nations interfered.

Then, when the US-led coalition forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of attacks on 11 September 2001, Iran tacitly supported the operation.

However, more than a decade later, the two archrivals seem to be willing to coexist in the face of the growing threat posed by Isis. This dovetails with another shared goal: pushing the United States and its western allies out of Afghanistan.

While Tehran may not wish to see a return of a Taliban government on its eastern border, Iranian officials would not have a problem seeing the Taliban becoming part of the current western-backed Kabul administration through a much-awaited reconciliation …

To read the full article, click here

Farhad Peikar (MPA/MAIR ’13)—a graduate of INSCT’s CAS in Security Studies program—is a former Afghanistan bureau chief for Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA).

Afghanistan Tries to Strike Balance in Escalating Iran-Saudi Rivalry

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (right) during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on 19 April 2015. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (right) during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran on 19 April 2015. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

By Farhad Peikar

By supporting Saudi Arabia’s operation against the Houthi, a Yemeni Shiite rebel group backed by Iran, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani risks dragging his troubled country into a Sunni-Shiite proxy war. If Afghanistan fails to strike a balance between its relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, it runs the risk of polarizing its people and getting caught in the crosshairs of a regional power struggle. But if Kabul plays its cards right, Afghanistan’s historically ambivalent role in opposing spheres of influence could also be used to maintain balance of power in the region.

While Afghanistan’s relations with the Saudis have been better than ever under Ghani’s leadership, the Afghan leader’s 19-20 April trip to Tehran indicated that Kabul is also seeking to balance its relations with its western neighbour. During this week’s trip, Ghani and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, announced increased cooperation in trade, technology and culture. The two leaders also agreed to share intelligence on terrorism and drug trafficking.

[pullquoteright]As a former chessboard in the 19th-century “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires, the struggle to strike a balance between rival powers is not new for Afghanistan.”[/pullquoteright]As a former chessboard in the 19th-century “Great Game” between the British and Russian empires, the struggle to strike a balance between rival powers is not new for Afghanistan. The country was also caught between the United States and Russia during the Cold War, and more recently between Pakistan and India. To an extent, it has also borne the effects of Iran-US rivalry.

But as it struggles to emerge from its own decades of war, the Riyadh-Tehran matchup could prove devastating for Afghanistan. Even if the current proxy war in Yemen remains within that country’s borders, the same sectarian tensions could erupt in Afghanistan, where both Saudi Arabia and Iran wield significant influence over opposing groups of tribal and religious leaders.

Kabul-Riyadh Ties

Saudi Arabia has a positive image in the minds of many Afghans, who see the country as the holy land that houses the two major Muslim sacred sites in Mecca and Medina. The Saudis also helped Afghan mujahideen in the fight against Soviet troops. Saudi Arabia was also one of the three nations to formally recognize the Taliban regime before it was toppled in 2001.

The influence that Riyadh wields over active anti-government groups including the Taliban, Hezbi Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network – as well as other former mujahideen factions that are now part of the Kabul government – makes the kingdom instrumental to any peace deal that could be struck with insurgent groups.

President Ghani has placed a great deal of hope in his administration’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Ghani has travelled to the Muslim holy land twice since becoming president last September and publicly asked the Saudi monarch to use his influence with Pakistan to kick-start peace talks between Kabul, Islamabad and the insurgent groups.

Kabul’s tacit approval of Operation Decisive Storm on 1 April, which came less than a week after warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies began striking against the Houthis in Yemen, should not come as a surprise. In return for backing Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen, Ghani hopes to see reciprocal support by the kingdom in ongoing peace efforts with the Taliban …

To read the entire blog, click here.

Farhad Peikar (MPA/MAIR ’13)—a graduate of INSCT’s CAS in Security Studies program—is a former Afghanistan bureau chief for Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA). This article was written in collaboration with



Ten Recommendations for Obama’s CVE Summit

Syria_and_Iraq_2014_mapBy Corri Zoli & Emily Schneider

(Re-published from Foreign Policy, Feb. 18, 2015) In light of recent attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris — and now Copenhagen  — President Obama announced a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) that begins on February 18 to discuss U.S. and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and would-be supporters from “radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups to commit acts of violence.” The White House has said the summit will build on current White House strategy. However, the White House would be wise to keep in mind these ten recommendations derived from the field of international security studies:

Convene international religious scholars at the Grand Mufti level to issue public statements that specifically identify what counts as Islamist extremism, how their own respective traditions and norms are different, and what we should do about rising extremism in our communities.

[pullquoteright]Too much of the public discussion on extremism, terrorism, and nonstate political violence is unsubstantiated—based on little or limited data.”[/pullquoteright]It’s time to move beyond the “Islam/not-Islam” dichotomy when it comes to extremist violence and realize that one key, authoritative counter-narrative against Islamist forms of extremism must come from religious authorities. As we have learned in our own recent visit to the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh at the invitation of Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, for our preparatory workshop, The Role of Shari’a and Islamic Laws of War in Contemporary Conflict, religious authorities in most Muslim-majority states are critical of any form of Islamic extremism, including groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Muslim societies are on the frontline of these acts of violence, and local communities are the victims.

Relatedly, religious authorities must make clear the distinction between religious conservatism, which is pronounced throughout many Arab and Muslim communities including in the West, and extremist precepts, practices, and organizations. Right now, Muslim religious authorities, even highly conservative ones, are rightfully concerned as they know (better than most) that their own publics are vulnerable to these ideologies and their destructive dynamics. Likewise, as recent Pew “Global Attitudes” surveys indicate, Muslim publics are increasingly concerned about extremism and their supporters.

Get your facts straight.

Too much of the public discussion on extremism, terrorism, and nonstate political violence is unsubstantiated — based on little or limited data. The limits of good data in academic terrorism studies is the subject of a recent debate in the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence and Marc Sageman’s “The Stagnation in Terrorism Research.”  Despite hefty government R&D funding, a deluge of academic newcomers, and no shortage of scholarly books and articles, we are no closer to building rigorous datasets to help answer basic questions, like: “What makes a person turn to political violence?” Or  “When and why is terrorist violence used as a preferred political tactic?” Although, some studies have tried to answer these questions, they are now outdated and the uptick in foreign fighters joining conflicts like those in Iraq and Syria deserves fresh attention.

Without an evidentiary baseline, false assumptions and notions take precedence, such as the idea that poverty causes terrorism — it doesn’t.  Given such concerns and building on the University of Maryland’s START data, and spin off data projects from the quantitative armed conflict literature, the U.S. government should fund more data scholarship, support more robust academic partnerships, and release more data for empirical study …

To read the complete article, click here

Corri Zoli is INSCT’s Director of Research/Research Assistant Professor. Emily Schneider (LAW ’13) is a Research Associate at New America and a 2013 INSCT graduate.

“I Am Nisman”

Alberto_NismanBy Tara Helfman

(Re-published from Commentary, Jan. 20, 2015) On Sunday night [Jan. 18, 2015], Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor charged with investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, was found dead in his apartment. A gun was found by his side. The initial report of the Ministry of Security suggests that it was a suicide but Argentines are not buying it. Thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, Córdoba, and Santa Fe yesterday, bearing signs that read “Yo soy Nisman”—“I am Nisman.”

[pullquoteright]Nisman had been building the case against Iran and Hezbollah for their involvement in the AMIA bombing since 2005.”[/pullquoteright]“Basta de mentiras,” some of the protestors demanded, “Enough with the lies.”

Nisman’s death came only hours before he was scheduled to testify before a commission of the Argentine Congress on an alleged secret agreement between Iran and the Kirchner administration trading impunity for oil. Nisman was prepared to testify that the deal, struck between the two governments in 2013, centered on the July 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). The attack killed 85 and injured 300 more. It was the most lethal incident in a month of attacks that included the still-unsolved downing of a Panamanian plane carrying 12 Jews among others, the bombing of the Israeli embassy in London, and the bombing of the London offices of the United Jewish Israel Appeal.

Nisman had been building the case against Iran and Hezbollah for their involvement in the AMIA bombing since 2005. In May 2013, he issued a lengthy indictment charging one Lebanese Hezbollah operative and seven Iranians, including former President Akbar Rafsanjani, with involvement in the attack. One of the Iranians indicted, Mohsen Rezaei, is currently a high official in the Iranian government, while others have served it in diplomatic and military capacities. The indictment came only months after the Kirchner government entered a controversial agreement with the Iranian government agreeing to establish a “Truth Commission” to examine the AMIA bombing.

At the time, President Cristina Kirchner hailed the agreement as a historic one that “guarantees the right to due process of law, a fundamental principle of international criminal law.” It would have allowed five judges (none Argentine or Iranian) to question those allegedly involved in the bombing, offering effective immunity for the perpetrators. Last year, an Argentine federal court barred the implementation of the agreement and ordered the courts to reinstate all extradition orders against the suspects in the bombing.

This is why Argentines are taking to the streets demanding, “Enough with the lies” …

To read the full post, click here

INSCT Faculty Member Tara Helfman is an Associate Professor in the Syracuse University College of Law, where she is an expert in constitutional law, international law, and the Law of the Sea.

Iran: Are the Sanctions Working?

Iran_nuclear_illustrationBy Isaac Kfir

In 2006, the United Nations Security Council adopted six resolutions, four of which included targeted sanctions against Iran. The aim was to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program. In the face of Iranian obduracy, the European Union and the United States in January 2012 imposed additional sanctions focusing on Iran’s oil industry. By cutting off Iran’s ability to export oil and to attract investment, the sanctions further crippled the Iranian economy so that by the time Hassan Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, was elected president in June 2013, stagnation had set in (in April 2013, the International Monetary Fund forecasted that Iran’s GDP would decline by 1.3% (in 2012 it declined by 1.9%)).[1] On Nov. 24, 2013, less than a year after the additional sanctions were imposed, the P5+1 (UN Security Council Permanent Members plus Germany) reached an agreement with the newly installed Rouhani government to curb the uranium program (that is, cease enrichment of uranium above 5% purity at the Natanz and Fordo facilities; dilute Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%; and offer greater access to IAEA inspectors).

The UN and the EU/US sanctions froze the assets of Iran’s Central Bank in the EU nations and, more importantly, banned the importation of Iranian oil into the EU, which also meant that European companies could not export petrochemical equipment and technology to Iran, an area that is in dire need of investment.[2] Iran has faced US unilateral sanctions since 1979, which have been crippling.[3] An integral aspect of Iran’s economic reform program is attracting foreign investment, as Iran recognizes its over-reliance on six giant oil fields that are facing high depletion rates of approximately 8% to 13%, compounded by a low recovery rate of 20% to 30%.[4]

Consequently, because of the new sanctions, Iran has seen a drastic decline in oil production and export, from more than 3 million barrels per day to less than 1 million in 2013,[5] which explains the rumors that the government is running out of money.[6] Lack of money supply is a huge issue for Iran where government subsidies are integral to its existence. The austerity budget of March 2014 was 9% lower in real terms from the previous year’s budget.[7] The government is determined to wean Iranians off government subsidies, mainly because Iran can no longer afford to keep giving them. Thus, successive Iranian governments have been moving toward direct cash handouts of $18 to Iran’s poor.[8] Masoud Nili, an economic adviser to President Rouhani underlined the commitment of the government to address five key structural issues: welfare reforms (reduce subsidies and cash grants); privatization of the economy (including challenging the ultra-governmental companies[9]); currency exchange reform (grant the central bank more autonomy); bank sector reform (deleverage); and fiscal discipline (pay off state debts).[10] However, without the removal of the sanctions, these goals are unattainable.

As significant as the potential economic reforms are, what has been more interesting is how the loss of revenue and the concerns of widespread demonstrations akin to those that took place in 2009 and 2010 have impacted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and even the Supreme Leader. Both actors have shown greater tolerance toward Rouhani’s attempts to curtail the power and influence of the IRGC. This tolerance does not mean that they have accepted the program. The IRGC emphasizes the need for resistance economy,[11] with its focus on self-sufficiency and self-sacrifice, infusing the call with jingoistic hyperbole as a way to disguise the weak state of the economy and to sustain the IRGC’s role in it. Mohammad Ali Ja’fari, the commander of the IRGC, recently said, “[u]nfortunately, the government has not welcomed the Basij’s and the IRGC’s deeds and capabilities as well as proposals made in relation with the resistance economy. We hope that the government will use [the IRGC’s] capabilities.”[12]

Furthermore, the IRGC seems to pin some hope in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call for the regeneration of Iranian cultural education as a way to advance its agenda as “defender of the revolution” at a time when there is increased anger at the corps, whose members have been accused of corruption and malfeasance.[13] Ja’fari has declared that “we [the IRGC] must make appropriate plans and must expand what was done in the past because activities in the area of culture will not bring forth result in the short-term owing to its extensiveness—we need more time.”[14] Such statements suggest that the IRGC is likely to resist Rouhani’s economic reforms, especially when one sees the conservative-dominated parliament issuing 7,549 official warnings to the Rouhani Administration in the past six months.[15] On Feb. 19, 2014, two days after Parliament adopted Rouhani’s first budget,[16] Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, reiterated the call for a “resistance economy”[17] as a way to attain self-sufficiency and counter the sanctions.[18] Nevertheless, the IRGC also is a pragmatic force; it seems to recognize that the P5+1 is serious about the sanctions and that Iran cannot grow and develop—and with it the revolution—if the country is crippled economically and socially fragmented, which in turn would undermine the IRGC’s advantaged position in Iranian society.

President Rouhani has shown a willingness to engage in reform, particularly vis-à-vis the IRGC. It began with a call on the corps to meddle less in politics, which included, on March 1, 2014, Rouhani telling the IRGC not to undertake provocative military exercises, despite a declaration by Jafari, that “[o]ur forefathers primed us for the final epic battle.”[19] Second, it appears that, at least for the moment, Khamenei is supporting Rouhani’s call for widespread systematic reform, which is vital if Iran is to become more open to negotiation and economic reform. On Sept. 17, 2013, for example, Khamenei declared that the IRGC need not guard the political sphere.[20] Ultimately, though, the IRGC seems willing to accept the Rouhani reform program, which has meant losing key governmental ministries to Rouhani appointees, most visibly with Mahmoud Vaezi, the new minister for information and telecommunication, replacing Mohammad Hassan Nami, a former IRGC commander.

Clearly, the next challenge for Iranian government is to persuade the P5+1 to end the sanctions regime, which will necessitate a major shift in Iran’s commitment to its uranium program. Rouhani and many ordinary Iranians recognize that after 12 years of debilitating sanctions, things must change. Iran cannot remain a pariah because that position undermines all elements of the state, from the economic to the political to the social.[21] One suspects that the decision to appoint Hamid Aboutalebi as Iran’s designated ambassador to the UN and the threat of an Iranian naval exercise in the Atlantic are all attempts by Iran to test the resolve of the international community—this is, after all, a country that has been portrayed for more than two decades in very negative light, that has experienced deleterious sanctions, and that has had to contend with competing internal actors, each with their own agendas and interests.

[1] “Q&A: Iran Sanctions,” BBC News Online, Jan. 14, 2014,

[2] James Kanter and Thomas Erdbrink, ‘With new sanctions, European Union tightens screws on Iran over nuclear work’, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2012.

[3] The US. unilateral sanctions have severely affected Iran’s aviation sector. Reportedly, the country needs around 400 new planes. Paul Taylor, “Rouhani to woo business in Davos but Iran hurdles abound,” Reuters, Jan. 17, 2014.

[4] “Iran: Oil Production Faces Along Decline,” OxResearch Daily Brief, Feb. 25, 2013.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Iran’s cash reserves are being depleted, declining from $106 billion in 2011 to around $50 billion in 2012. Pamela Ann Smith, “Iran Plans ‘Economy of Resistance’,” Middle East, Oct. 2012, pp. 38-41.

[7] In 2010, one reason for the Green Movement was the reduction in government subsidies.

[8] Fatih Karimov, “Iran’s first vice president calls on people to withdraw from receiving cash subsidies,” McClatchy, Mar. 30, 2014.

[9] It seems that Iran wants to see a return of seven energy companies – Shell (RDSa.L), Total (TOTF.PA), ENI (ENI.MI), OMV (OMVV.VI) and Statoil (STL.OL) from Europe, and also American firms: Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N). Paul Taylor, “Rouhani to woo business in Davos but Iran hurdles abound,” Reuters, Jan. 17, 2014.

[10] Fatih Karimov, “Advisor to Iranian president: Iran needs major economic reforms,” McClatchy, Oct. 2, 2014.

[11] The key objectives are: maximizing the country’s natural resources; promotion of a knowledge-based economy; increased efficiency in economic activity and competition; medicine and food security; reform of the financial system; greater regional economic collaboration; enhanced transparency in financial matters; increased oil and gas strategic reserves and production; and, increased oil and gas exports. “Decoding Iran’s ‘resistance economy’,” Iran Daily, Feb 24, 2014.

[12] “Iran commander wants Guards Corps’ involvement in economic issues,” BBC Monitoring Central Asia, Apr. 14, 2014.

[13] Ali Ansari, “Moral crisis threatens Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Guardian, Jun. 11, 2010.

[14] “Iran commander tells paper guards “prepared” to help with economy of resistance,” BBC Monitoring Central Asia, Mar. 30, 2014.

[15] “Iran: Nuclear Deal could facilitate reformist comeback,” OxResearch Brief Service, April 8, 2014.

[16] The public budget stands between US$75 to US$88 billion dollars, depending on the rate of exchange. The budget for state-owned companies was US$190 to US$221 billion. The projected revenues from oil and gas exports was US$51 billion, including US$13 billion in condensate exports. “Iran: New budget lays ground for economic reform,” OxResearch Brief Service, Feb. 24, 2014.

[17] “Iran leader presents 24-point ‘resistance economy’ – official website”, BBC Monitoring Middle East, March 5, 2014.

[18] Bijan Khajehpour, “Decoding Iran’s “resistance economy”,” Iran Daily, Feb. 25, 2014.

[19] “Rouhani tells Iran generals to cut hostile rhetoric,” Reuters, Mar. 1, 2014. ttp://

[20] Kourosh Avaei, “Will Iran’s Revolutionary Guard reduce economic role?” al-Monitor, Sept. 19, 2013.

[21] Iran for example is contending with a major drug epidemic. For each 1% increase in unemployment, the detected drug in each 100,000 persons rises by 0.44 kg, which means that in a country with 70 million people, this amounts to a 308kg annual drug increase. Conversely, for each 1,000 Toman increase in monthly income of families, the decrease in drugs detected is 0.64 kg per 100,000 persons. Maysam Musai and Mohsen Mehrara, “The Relationship between Drug Smuggling and Unemployment (Case Study: Iran),” International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2014), pp. 135-136.

Iran-Pakistan Border a Major Concern in Bilateral Relationship

pakistan_iranWorld Politics Review interview with Isaac Kfir, Visiting Professor of Law and International Relations, Syracuse University

This month, four Iranian border guards were freed two months after being kidnapped and allegedly taken into Pakistan by an Iran-based Sunni militant group. In an email interview, Isaac Kfir, a senior researcher at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and a visiting assistant professor of law and international relations, explained the state of Iran-Pakistan relations.

WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of the Iran-Pakistan security relationship, particularly regarding their shared border?

Isaac Kfir: Iran and Pakistan work together on some issues and compete on others. The two countries have good cooperation on drug interdiction, as both seek to stem drug smuggling and consumption, which have a disastrous impact on both of them. Iran alone has 2 million heroin addicts, the highest in the world. Pakistan has become a key transit country for drugs; between 1996 and 2011, Pakistani authorities seized an average of 7,200 kilograms of opium per year, making Pakistan one of the top countries for drug interception in the world, along with Iran.

Tension in the bilateral relationship, on the other hand, comes from the inability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to reverse the sectarian violence in Pakistan, which affects Shiites disproportionatey, causing many to leave. Another issue complicating Iran-Pakistan relations is Afghanistan, where both countries compete for influence, with the Iranians financially supporting the Karzai government while the Pakistanis are seen—particularly by the Americans—as key actors in addressing the Taliban threat, a movement they helped create …

To read the full interview, click here.

Seizing the Opportunity with Iran

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani speaks with the media during a news conference in TehranBy Mehrzad Boroujerdi & Louis Kriesberg

At the very time remarkable progress is being made in negotiations with Iran to prevent the emergence of a new nuclear-armed nation in the most militarized and dangerous region in the world, many members of the US Senate are supporting legislation that would irresponsibly undermine this progress. The authors of S. 1881, seemingly without any recognition of the implications of this move, propose new unilateral demands, buttressed by enhanced sanctions and threats toward Iran.

While the Iranian and the US governments have had legitimate, historical grounds for mutual mistrust and grievances since 1979, it would be imprudent for policy makers not also to acknowledge the growing shared interests and concerns of both parties.

It is a fact that the US and Iran have a common enemy—al Qaeda—and the two states also have shared concerns about escalating and spreading disorder in the Middle East. A successful completion of negotiations would avert an Iran armed with nuclear weapons and would open the possibility of normalized relations with a country that is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined in population and landmass. A sustained nuclear deal could also lead to cooperation on other extremely important matters in the region, starting with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Five months into his term, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has proven himself to be a leader who both has the aspiration and the aptitude to engineer a better relationship with Western powers. In 2003, Iran first signed the additional IAEA protocol while Rouhani served as its chief nuclear negotiator. Anyone who doubts his willingness to compromise on Iran’s nuclear program should read his 1,000-page Persian-language book National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy, published just a year before he was elected president.

Within, he provides a remarkably detailed insider account of Iranian nuclear strategy, along with a frank discussion of the strategic and tactical thinking and policy disagreements among Iranian political elites. Rouhani, who served for 24 years as secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, laments problematic features of Iranian foreign policy such as its insecurity complex, infinite sloganeering, inability to distinguish tactics from strategy, and the belief that admitting to a mistake is tantamount to acknowledging defeat. His corrective vision outlines an approach that American leaders are more likely to understand and be able to engage. Rouhani may be a cleric, but his formidable policy experience and legal education have taught him that foreign policy is distinct from theology and course correction and flexibility are essential.

President Barack Obama, unlike some senators, appreciates the nuances of dealing with Iran and understands the gravity—and promise—of the current situation. After three decades of enmity, we are finally witnessing some synchronicity between the leaderships in Washington and Tehran. Yet, the US president is being challenged by vested political interests bent on a malicious campaign to torpedo the agreement that the P5+1 grouping of countries put together in Geneva, Switzerland.

Iran and the US have had movements toward better relations at times in the past, short-lived to a significant degree due to US actions and inactions. Significant progress was made during President Bill Clinton’s second term, especially after the August 1997 Iranian presidential election when the reformist Islamic cleric Sayyid Mohammad Khatami was elected. Iran ended support for Hezbollah terror attacks against the US and helped the US overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, allowing passage of humanitarian aid and supporting the creation of the interim Hamid Karzai government.

Alas, President George W. Bush dismissed Iranian cooperation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and counterproductively called the nation part of an “Axis of Evil,” equating Iran with Iraq and North Korea. This may have seemed bold rhetoric at the time, but it made no strategic sense and destroyed the chances of improving Iranian conduct, especially at a moment when developments in Iraq and elsewhere were making Iran more inclined to work cooperatively with the US. With Iran now a crucial player in the Syria conflict, pointlessly sabotaging relations at this moment of compromise would replay the harmful effects of the “Axis of Evil” declaration.

We must remember that Iran has its own internal politics, and putting excessive demands on a proud nation could backfire. This is a crucial moment; everyone should think hard about the consequences of rash action.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi is Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and Director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program.

Louis Kriesberg is Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies.


Video: US Policy in a Changing Middle East, with Tamara Cofman Wittes

Tamara Cofman Wittes is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Wittes served as US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating UDS policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East for the State Department. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as US Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East transitions. She was central to organizing the US government’s response to the Arab awakening.

Part of the Carol Becker Middle East Security Speaker Series.