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SnapshotsJul 14, 2020 | 14:21 GMT
A Call for Unity May Protect Iran's President From Impeachment, but Not His Officials
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's appeal to parliament against efforts to impeach President Hassan Rouhani will slow, but not stop, legislators' action against Rouhani's administration in its final year. In a July 12 address to parliament, Khamenei urged unity among Iran's leaders and voiced his support for Rouhani carrying out the remainder of his second term, which ends in 2021. The movement to impeach Rouhani and officials in his administration, which has been building since Iran's new parliament took office in late May, has accelerated over the last week. Khamenei's intervention won't halt dissatisfaction with Rouhani's performance, but it will make his impeachment less likely. Other prominent figures in his administration, however, will still be at risk of being prematurely ousted from office.
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On GeopoliticsJun 11, 2020 | 17:44 GMT
A 3D rendering of eastern China and the island of Taiwan lit by city lights from space.
China's Evolving Taiwan Policy: Disrupt, Isolate and Constrain
For China's leadership, the unification of Taiwan is more than a symbol of the final success of the Chinese Communist Party or an emotional appeal to some historic image of a greater China. It is a strategic imperative driven both by Taiwan's strategic location, and by the rising antagonism between the United States and China. Taiwan is the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” off the Chinese coastline, splitting China's near seas, and bridging the arc of islands stretching southwest from Japan with those from the Philippines south through Indonesia. Taiwan is crucial for both any foreign containment strategy, and for China's confidence and security in the East and South China seas -- areas critical to China's national defense, food security and international trade. 
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AssessmentsApr 27, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An Iranian warship takes part in celebrations for “National Persian Gulf Day” in the Strait of Hormuz on April 30, 2019.
Trump Ups the Ante With Iran in the Persian Gulf
Iran and the United States may be heading toward another round of confrontation, even as both countries deal with significant COVID-19 outbreaks at home. Following a recent incident where 11 Iranian ships harassed U.S. vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted April 22 that he had "instructed" the U.S. Navy to destroy any Iranian vessels harassing U.S. ships. It remains unclear the extent to which, if at all, the United States will adjust its rules of engagement in response to Iran's latest maritime provocations. But the exchange highlights how Washington and Tehran’s current hawkish streak and inclination toward public threats could lead to another round of miscalculation and/or escalation between the two rivals. 
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SnapshotsApr 16, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
A Naval Incident Brings Iran-U.S. Tensions Back to the Fore
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, Iran’s recent acts of aggression in the Persian Gulf have brought the persistent threat of U.S.-Iran tensions back to the forefront. For Tehran, such provocations help remind the United States that it will not cave to U.S. pressure to change its behavior, and can also spark distractions that end up being politically useful at home.
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AssessmentsMar 5, 2020 | 18:06 GMT
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran on Feb. 23, 2020.
What Conservative Control of Iran's Parliament Foretells
Iran's parliamentary elections on Feb. 21 produced a conservative parliament that will support more hard-line policies against the United States. The new parliament will clash with the more moderate administration of President Hassan Rouhani over how tactically to manage the country's economy through the next and final year of Rouhani's term. But on a strategic level, regardless of the election results, Iran's government across the political spectrum is still aligned on the need to implement austere economic policies to help weather sanctions and to continue an aggressive foreign policy against the United States. The sanctions-burdened economy is negatively affecting the lives of Iranians; how it fares over the next year will determine the kind of conservative candidate -- pragmatist, traditional, hard-line or populist -- likely to win Iran's 2021 presidential election.
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AssessmentsFeb 20, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
This photo shows workers at Dongfeng Motor's joint venture with Honda in Wuhan, China.
China's Virus Outbreak Has Dented Its Automakers' Bottom Lines
China’s deadly coronavirus outbreak has left few of its economic sectors unscathed, but the effects of shutdowns on its auto manufacturing operations have been -- and will continue to remain -- especially acute. Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, has asked companies not to restart shuttered operations until at least Feb. 21. Production for a number of auto companies outside of Hubei had already been delayed past the Lunar New Year holiday until Feb. 10, and in some cases, production still remains offline. Nevertheless, even once the outbreak subsides, Chinese consumer demand for automobiles will take a substantial hit this year, with estimates showing that demand could fall by at least 5 percent because of the economic slowdown associated with the coronavirus outbreak.
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GuidanceFeb 19, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presents the budget for the fiscal year that starts in late March 2020 on Dec. 8, 2019. Rouhani described it as a "budget of resistance" against crippling U.S. sanctions.
What Iran's Next Vote Means for Policy and the Presidency
On Feb. 21, Iran will hold the first round of parliamentary elections that could usher in the return of a more conservative legislature. With moderates and reformists taking a back seat, such an outcome would nudge Tehran toward more hard-line and hawkish foreign policies, leaving less room for negotiation with the West amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. Regardless of its next ideological make-up, however, Iran's incoming parliament will struggle more than ever to answer the economic and social demands of an increasingly desperate and cash-strapped electorate -- a reality that could have dire consequences for Tehran's political stability ahead of the country's crucial 2021 presidential election.
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AssessmentsFeb 18, 2020 | 20:15 GMT
This photo shows Iran's successful test launch of its Qiam-1 ballistic missile
What’s Driving Iran to Build a Better Missile
Greater attention will be given to Iran's missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs from now on. The September drone attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the January missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that left 109 U.S. military members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries highlighted Iran's increased willingness to use its missile and UAV arsenal for tactical and strategic objectives.
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AssessmentsFeb 11, 2020 | 10:30 GMT
Employees of PetroChina Southwest Oil & Gasfield Co., a CNPC subsidiary, work at a natural gas purification plant in Suining in southwest China's Sichuan province on Jan. 15, 2020.
In Response to Coronavirus, Russia Will Back Only Modest Action by OPEC+
It is now clear that the impact of the new coronavirus on the world oil market will be substantial, but much uncertainty remains about the total impact on demand in 2020. The most probable scenario is a "sharp but short" hit to demand, but a wider spread could deepen and lengthen the impact. OPEC and other producers will attempt to at least partially mitigate the impact on oil prices, but Russia will likely insist on a cautious approach that does not last long.
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AssessmentsFeb 7, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An employee sits in the showroom of an Apple store in Beijing after it closed for the day on Feb. 1, 2020.
The Coronavirus Spreads Fears of a Shutdown in China's Tech Sector
Without question, the new coronavirus has taken a toll on China and many other places in the world, infecting at least 30,600 people and killing 633 as of Feb. 7. But only now, as the Lunar New Year holiday draws to a close, is Beijing preparing to assess just how much economic damage the coronavirus outbreak has wrought, especially as China is central to the global electronics and information technology sector. Ultimately, the breadth of the impact depends on how far the virus spreads beyond its current location. Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, are not critical nodes for the vast majority of China's electronics sector. But neighboring provinces, including Shaanxi, Henan and Jiangxi, are home to cities that are prominent in the global technology sector, while the provinces with the second and third most confirmed cases so far, Zhejiang and Guangdong, are arguably China's two most critical areas for tech.
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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
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AssessmentsJan 21, 2020 | 09:30 GMT
Aircraft prepare to take off from Turkey's Incirlik Air Base, home of Turkey's 10th Tanker Base Command, on Oct. 17, 2019.
In Turkey, the Road to Proliferation Goes Through a Military Base
The United States has troops scattered at bases throughout the Middle East, but few are as significant today as its facilities in Turkey -- at least in terms of their political significance, if not their military function. Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to retaliate against any U.S. sanctions by, among other measures, expelling the United States from Incirlik Air Base and closing down the Kurecik radar base. From an American military standpoint, losing Incirlik and Kurecik wouldn't be the end of the world, as Washington could easily find alternative locations elsewhere in the Middle East. The country's potential expulsion, however, could have far-reaching consequences, potentially even precipitating a Turkish nuclear arms program -- which could touch off a race for atomic weapons around the region.
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Contributor PerspectivesJan 20, 2020 | 09:45 GMT
A picture taken on Jan. 11, 2020, shows portraits of Iraq's slain Popular Mobilization Unit deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the late founder of Kataib Hezbollah, on the southern exit of the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Reflections on the Life and Death of an Iraqi Militant
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis fought Saddam Hussein, engineered attacks on Western embassies and took on the Islamic State. His death in the same strike that killed Iran's Qassem Soleimani increased local hostility to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
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AssessmentsJan 17, 2020 | 09:30 GMT
OPEC's logo is seen at the organization's headquarters on Sept. 26, 2019.
It Will Take More Than the Soleimani Crisis to Cause Lasting Oil Price Spikes
The recent flare-up in the Middle East between the United States and Iran highlights a structural shift in how the oil market reacts to political risks. The market has shifted to a baseline with a modestly bearish outlook and a reluctance to price in risk in the manner it previously has. But even so, the potential exists for a massive price move in the less probable (but still very plausible) event of a major and lasting disruption.
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AssessmentsJan 8, 2020 | 20:54 GMT
Mourners in Tehran carry a banner featuring Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the military leader's funeral procession on Jan. 6.
Iran Is Still Playing the Long Game
If the Islamic Republic of Iran has had one consistent goal since 1979, it's been survival; since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has essentially existed in crisis management mode, whether it's been fighting Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War or weathering the latest U.S. sanctions. Today, there are two interlinked issues that Iran views as essential to its long-term survival: Its economic health and its regional strategy in Iraq and the Levant. Protecting both of these priorities has put Tehran in a bind, however: Iran could ameliorate its dire economic situation by caving in to U.S. demands and disengaging from the wider Middle East. But this would entail reducing support for its regional proxies and Bashar al Assad's government in Syria, thereby crippling Iran's strategy to project power across the region -- the very thing that so irked U.S. President Donald Trump in the first place. Still, bind or not, Iran's limited
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