Iran’s Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, took part in an oral history project intended for internal use by the clerical dictatorship in February and on 25 April the audio was leaked—so goes the story. There is every reason to think this is a controlled leak, which is to say an information operation or a piece of strategic messaging—more pejoratively, propaganda or disinformation: choose the terminology as you will—intended to assist the Iranian theocracy as it works through its negotiations on the nuclear file with the new American administration of President Joe Biden. Still, there are some insights from this episode, as with an interview Zarif gave—focused on Afghanistan—in December. Continue reading
The 159th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) newsletter, released on 6 December 2018, had a very interesting story on pages nine and ten about three “repentant officers” (dubat al-tayib) from Egypt who joined IS in the Sinai. The two trendlines this story highlighted were: (1) the movement of trained military cadres from the Arab states into IS’s security apparatus, as has been seen with the elements of Saddam Husayn’s fallen regime; and (2) the radicalisation of those Islamists previously prepared to work through the democratic process by the 2013 putsch in Egypt, and the violent crackdown afterwards, which shut down all peaceful paths to change. Al-Qaeda has made this point a staple of its propaganda for some time. Continue reading
Protests broke out against the Iranian government on 27 December, and have achieved a wider geographic spread in the country than even the massive uprising of June 2009, reaching into religiously conservative, working-class towns and districts traditionally regarded as pro-regime. It is likely these demonstrations will be suppressed, but that does not obviate the need for Western policy. To the contrary, the protests exposed several flawed assumptions in recent policy-making, and a course correction is urgently necessary. Continue reading
Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported on the “free fall” of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. While the President had “inherited a messy situation in the region with the war in Iraq … by the time he took office, [President George W.] Bush’s troop surge and Gen. David H. Petraeus’s strategy change had helped turn the war around”. This relative stability has given way:
Today there is no single overarching issue but multiple ones. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. Turkey and Jordan are inundated by refugees. Russia has reasserted itself as a major player in the region. Libya is searching for stability after the fall of its longtime dictator. The Kurds are on the march. Egypt is fighting off a terrorist threat at home. And Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a profound struggle for the future of the region.
Many of America’s allies disagreed with Bush’s focus on Iraq, considering Iran to be the larger threat, but if they had considered Bush too assertive, they find Obama too timorous, stepping back as the situation spins out of control. Continue reading
The key thing to understand about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord announced on April 2 between the P5+1 and Iran, is that it does not exist. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said at one point, “We envisage being able to deliver a narrative,” adding that this might not be written and—these being forgiving times—Iran’s narrative need not match the West’s. In other words, nothing was signed or agreed to. This is the reason for the wild discrepancies between the American and Iranian JCPOA “factsheets”: both are drawing from a rolling text that is ostensibly to lead to a “final” or “comprehensive” deal and spinning it to their own respective advantage. The administration has as much as said so with its mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
The purpose of the announcement of the JCPOA therefore was, charitably, to “build political momentum toward a final agreement“. Less charitably it was intended to “demonstrate progress in order to fend off congressional action,” as Obama’s former nuclear adviser Gary Samore put it. In that at least it was successful. Continue reading
Argentina’s government yesterday announced it was dissolving the Secretariat of Intelligence (S.I.), an intelligence agency tainted by the “Dirty War” regimes (1974-83), and more recent abuses as President Cristina Kirchner has taken Argentina back toward autocracy, and replacing it with a Federal agency. Just two days before, charges of corruption were levelled against Antonio Stiusso, S.I.’s director until Kirchner fired him in December. At the beginning of this month, Stiusso went missing. It now seems Stiusso has taken shelter in a neighbouring State.
These events are the latest twist in an extraordinary saga that has followed the discovery of the body of Alberto Nisman on Jan. 18 in his apartment in Buenos Aires, shot in the head in an apparent suicide. Nisman was a prosecutor investigating the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Argentina’s capital. All the evidence that Nisman had gathered pointed to Iran as the perpetrator. Few believe Nisman committed suicide, and—the history of Argentines being “suicided” considered—most fingers are pointing at Iran. Continue reading