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AssessmentsJan 24, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses parliament in the capital of Tehran on Sept. 3, 2019.
U.S. Pressure Tilts the Political Balance Toward Iran's Hard-liners
As the first parliamentary contest since the United States began ramping up its pressure campaign, Iran's Feb. 21 election will provide a key glimpse into Iranians' mixed feelings about the recent uptick in tensions between Washington and Tehran. On one hand, many Iranians criticize hard-line elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for incidents like the Jan. 8 strike on a Ukrainian passenger jet, which risked further alienating Iran from its allies and, in turn, the global economy. But by highlighting just how hostile U.S.-Iran relations have gotten, the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has also made it clear that President Hassan Rouhani's more moderate approach to Washington's provocations isn't working either. Against the backdrop of renewed U.S. threats, conservative candidates' promises of revenge will likely win out against reformists candidates' promises of negotiation. But even if next month's election results in a more decisively hard-line parliament, Tehran's leaders will still have to reckon with an increasingly
AssessmentsDec 30, 2019 | 21:44 GMT
Protesters waving the Iraqi flag alongside one of an armed network march in Basra to denounce U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens of Iraqi militia members.
The Iranian-U.S. Confrontation in Iraq Grows Hotter
The U.S. military response against an Iraqi paramilitary group closely affiliated with Iran has further increased the risk that an escalatory pattern of violence between Iran (and its proxies) and the United States will develop. Three U.S. airstrikes on Dec. 29 targeted positions in Iraq where the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah has a presence; concurrent airstrikes hit two of the militia's positions in Syria near Qaim, an Iraqi border city. The airstrikes came in retaliation for a Dec. 27 rocket attack against the K-1 base near Kirkuk that killed a U.S. civilian contractor.
On SecurityDec 17, 2019 | 08:00 GMT
A man wearing a gas mask runs from a clash with police in Santiago, Chile, during a protest on Dec. 10, 2019.
Threat Lens 2020 Annual Forecast: An Excerpt
From disruptive protests in Hong Kong and across Latin America to Russia and China's increasingly sophisticated espionage tactics, Western companies and individuals will face a number of threats in 2020. Take a look at an excerpt of our Threat Lens Annual Forecast to learn about everything on our security radar for the year to come. A full version of the threats we expect in 2020 is available to Threat Lens subscribers.
On GeopoliticsJun 22, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
U.S. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 reelection campaign with a rally in Orlando, Florida, on June 18, 2019.
U.S. Adversaries and Allies Start the Countdown to 2020
There are less than 17 months to go until the 2020 U.S. presidential election. For U.S. President Donald Trump and his reelection prospects, that means expectations are rising for him to deliver results on the past two-and-a-half years of hardball tactics against U.S. adversaries and allies in pursuit of an artful -- and evidently still elusive -- deal. For every country that has something massive to gain or (more likely) to lose from the Trump presidency, this is the time to make some big decisions on what to do with that window. That is if it even is a "window." For the more prudent strategic planners who are wary of polling and cognizant of just how potent political polarization in the United States has grown, this is also the time to prepare contingencies for a scenario in which the Trump era extends by another four years.
GraphicsJun 18, 2019 | 09:30 GMT
A picture taken during a guided tour with the Saudi military on June 13, 2019 shows the control tower of Abha airport in the popular mountain resort of the same name in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, one day after a Yemeni rebel missile attack on the civil airport wounded 26 civilians.
Marking Key Military Positions in a Potential U.S.-Iran Conflict
Tehran can hardly be expected to be cavalier about a potential military conflict with Washington, especially given the disproportionate advantage of the United States and the devastation that such a conflict could inflict on Iran's economy, its populace and, potentially, its government. But caution aside, a broader conflict is not beyond the realm of possibility. A Stratfor map shows the distribution and positions of major Iranian and U.S. military bases in the region.
AssessmentsJun 12, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
An armed Iranian speedboat in the Strait of Hormuz on April 30, 2019.
The Factors That Could Push the U.S. and Iran to War
The United States is sending additional forces to the Persian Gulf as Iran prepares and mobilizes its army; together, the countries' actions are significantly increasing the possibility of war. Compounding the risk is a faction within the White House, epitomized by hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, that is more eager than others in the administration to start a conflict with Iran. Bolton, naturally, has ideological counterparts in Iran, especially in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are also spoiling for a fight. But as leaders in Washington and Tehran have emphasized, the two countries remain wary of a costly war against each other. But caution aside, a broader conflict is not beyond the realm of possibility, what with the countries' mutual hostility and mistrust, lack of communication channels to quickly resolve a conflict, as well as the setup of Iran's forces -- which have a major incentive to strike
On SecuritySep 4, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
A tourist is a little too obvious as he walks away from Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut.
The Benefits of Traveling 'Gray'
Before I took a recent vacation trip to Beirut, a friend asked whether I was concerned about being targeted by jihadists or Hezbollah during my trip to the "pearl of the Middle East." I had done my due diligence research, so I wasn't worried. Besides, I explained, I was going to "be very gray" during the trip. I first became aware of this concept, which involves travelers blending in with the local environment, during my work at the U.S. State Department. Other travelers should consider it when visiting potentially hostile regions.
AssessmentsJul 9, 2018 | 12:00 GMT
Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika is seen heading to vote at a polling station in Algiers on November 23, 2017.
Shaking Up Algeria's Government, One Small Reform at a Time
Algeria's political system has remained tightly controlled by its ruling parties for almost two decades, but major economic challenges have prompted those in power to listen to the opposition more seriously than ever before. Opposition parties have found the space to effectively channel real economic grievances, and they are helping nudge economic reform forward. In order to appease the growing opposition, the government will be motivated to enact minor economic reforms to keep the tide of domestic unrest at bay. And even these small changes signal a very new way of moving forward for the restrictive Algerian government.
AssessmentsMar 23, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
A cutout without a face stands in Karim Khan Castle in Shiraz, Iran.
There's a Newfound Respect for the Public in Iranian Politics
Iran's leaders successfully weathered the hurricane, but the storm clouds seem to be perpetually gathering on the horizon. Citizens poured onto the streets around the country at the beginning of 2018 to protest a variety of issues, especially their economic lot, but also political and social problems. And while the surge of demonstrations has since ended, demands for reforms continue to nag leaders in Tehran. This public pressure, which has affected Iran's unelected and elected institutions alike, has become pronounced enough that President Hassan Rouhani alluded last month to the possibility of a popular referendum to “heal” Iran's internal crisis. The referendum call highlighted the government's awareness of the importance of heeding the demands of citizens. Amid the various economic issues, which run the gamut from high unemployment and underemployment to economic uncertainty, inflation and poor infrastructure, Rouhani has shown signs of opening up on two particular galvanizing issues – women's
ReflectionsFeb 16, 2017 | 03:08 GMT
In Its Search for Security, Israel Keeps the Door Open to its Neighbors
In Its Search for Security, Israel Keeps the Door Open to Its Neighbors
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is paying a visit to Washington looking for clarification. Despite his long association with Donald Trump, and the overtures that Trump’s election campaign made toward Israel, Netanyahu remains uncertain about many aspects of the new U.S. administration's policies toward the Middle East. The premier, who arrived today to a warm welcome from an Israel-friendly White House, knows that despite the most generous of guarantees by Washington, the security of his nation depends as much on its pragmatic relationships with other Middle Eastern states as on the weight of support from its longtime ally. It was Netanyahu’s own reference to those relationships that prompts the more intriguing questions about the era to come in a shifting Middle East.
Contributor PerspectivesFeb 4, 2017 | 14:12 GMT
A map of Syrian refugee flows hangs at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 18. Throughout history, collective blame and punishment have forced people to flee their homes en masse in search of freedom and safety.
Striking a Balance Between Security and Freedom
Collective guilt is all too common throughout history, regardless of whether punishment is meted out because of political, economic or religious differences. The Jews, cruelly oppressed by Pharaoh. The Christians, persecuted by Nero. The consequences of collective blame and punishment -- people leaving their homes en masse in search of freedom and safety -- are also familiar. We see them today as people flee Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and as refugees flood into Europe or knock at America's door. Can looking back inform our present and mitigate the problems ahead?
Annual ForecastsDec 27, 2016 | 13:44 GMT
The main theme of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's campaign was retrenchment, the idea that the United States will pull back from overseas obligations, get others to carry more of the weight of their own defense, and let the United States focus on boosting economic competitiveness.
2017 Annual Forecast
Long-arching trends tend to quietly build over decades and then noisily surface as the politics catch up. The longer economic pain persists, the stronger the political response. That loud banging at the door is the force of nationalism greeting the world's powers, particularly Europe and the United States, still the only superpower.
AssessmentsSep 14, 2016 | 09:15 GMT
The GCC: Finding Safety in Numbers
The Gulf Cooperation Council: Finding Safety in Numbers
One of the primary purposes of the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was to promote cooperation among the energy-reliant economies lining the Persian Gulf. In reality, however, its members' shared security interests are what binds them together. Regional instability and the need for protection from their Shiite neighbors, rather than oil and natural gas, will continue to unite the Gulf states in the coming years. The bloc's path will not be easy, though. Issues of succession, competing diversification strategies and differing foreign policy visions will fuel the rivalry that divides the GCC's members. Even so, the Gulf states recognize that they are stronger -- and safer -- together than they are apart, an awareness that will ensure that the organization forges steadily ahead in spite of the dissension from within.
AssessmentsSep 11, 2016 | 13:15 GMT
Lessons From Old Case Files
Learning From the Other Twin Towers Attack
On Feb. 26, 1993, a massive explosion rocked the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others. Terrified schoolchildren were trapped in smoke-filled elevators for hours before rescuers could finally reach them. Following the bombing, law enforcement officials gathered evidence that led to the indictments and arrests of several suspected terrorists, including the plot's mastermind, Abdul Basit, better known by his alias, Ramzi Yousef. He was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and our office at the State Department offered a $2 million reward for his capture.
AssessmentsApr 8, 2016 | 09:30 GMT
China Moves to Expand Its Nuclear Capabilities
Since conducting its first successful nuclear test in 1964, China has maintained one of the least belligerent nuclear policies in the world. But certain changes in technology over the past two decades have forced Beijing to re-evaluate its approach. In the coming years, China will look to revamp its nuclear force to keep its deterrent credible against the increasingly lethal arsenals of the United States and Russia.
ReflectionsNov 5, 2015 | 23:39 GMT
Two Chinese Presidents Meet in Shangri-La
On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a 20-minute meeting with his counterpart from across the Taiwan Strait, President Ma Ying-jeou, followed by dinner in Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel. Both the Communist-ruled People's Republic of China and Taiwan (officially known as the Republic of China) claim to be the sole rightful government of all of China. This state of affairs precluded all government-to-government contact between China and Taiwan until 2013, when the minister of China's Taiwan Affairs Office met with the minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council in a hotel lobby on the sidelines of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. This modest start to low-key official contacts laid the groundwork for Saturday's meeting -- the first between the heads of state on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
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