Trump, Who Accused Spies of Fabricating Evidence, Pressures Spies to Fabricate Evidence

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

The same Donald Trump who accused America’s spies of fabricating evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) now expects America’s spies to fabricate evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear program.

The Guardian reports that the president has put pressure on intelligence analysts to give him an excuse to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump is legally required to certify to Congress every three months that Iran is meeting its obligations under the multilateral agreement. The next time will be in October.

If he declares Iran noncompliant, lawmakers would have sixty days to restore sanctions. Read more “Trump, Who Accused Spies of Fabricating Evidence, Pressures Spies to Fabricate Evidence”

Worry More About Iran Than North Korea

An Iranian woman walks by a mural of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former American embassy in Tehran, June 27, 2006
An Iranian woman walks by a mural of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former American embassy in Tehran, June 27, 2006 (Pooyan Tabatabaei)

North Korea’s nuclear program is more advanced than Iran’s yet it is not the one that should keep Americans up at night, argues Adam Garfinkle, a foreign-policy expert.

President Donald Trump has threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continues to provoke the United States.

Garfinkle doesn’t share his sense of alarm. Read more “Worry More About Iran Than North Korea”

Donald Trump Wants Conflict with Iran

American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

By all accounts, Iran is complying with the 2015 multilateral agreement that curtailed its nuclear program. The country is giving full access to inspectors, who have found no violations.

The only person upset by this is Donald Trump.

The New York Times revealed earlier this month that the American president had only reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Now the same newspaper reports that he has instructed his team to find a way to declare Iran noncompliant — whether it is or not.

Congress requires the president to certify every three months that Iran is meeting its obligations under the agreement. If Trump doesn’t, then lawmakers have sixty days to restore sanctions that were rescinded in 2015. Read more “Donald Trump Wants Conflict with Iran”

The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015
Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders is shown a map of Turkey in Ankara, January 6, 2015 (BZ/Aad Meijer)

It may not seem it, what with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers lashing out, Israeli soldiers shooting wounded Palestinians and the war in Yemen grinding on, but the Middle East’s broad new outlines are starting to show.

They appear in front of the Turkish tanks on their way to Raqqa; in the brightly-lit press conferences of the White House; in the ballot printing factories of Tehran and in the banks of Dubai.

They are both a return to history and step further into it. Nation states founded on the borders of great empires are reasserting themselves and the assault on neoliberal economics will give way to Islamist socialism. Read more “The Future of the Middle East is Turkey, Iran and Islamic Socialism”

After Mosul Falls, What Then?

There are some 100,000 troops involved in the conquest (or reconquest, depending on your perspective) of Mosul. On the surface, the battle is meant to restore the Iraqi government to its full writ; a Baghdad-united Shia and Sunni realm, a nation state on the way to functionality. In other words, a normal country.

Ah, dreams.

Careful observation reveals a more wretched future. The Islamic State may be doomed, but that hardly means peace for Iraq. There are too many who want a piece of this particular pie.

Many players there are. Let’s start with the greatest of powers, who define the broadest outlines of geopolitics in the Middle East. Read more “After Mosul Falls, What Then?”

Russian Strikes from Iran Point to Burgeoning Anti-Western Pact

Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Vladimir Putin of Russia speak on the sidelines of a summit in Astrakhan, September 29, 2014
Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Vladimir Putin of Russia speak on the sidelines of a summit in Astrakhan, September 29, 2014 (Presidency of Iran)

For the first time in an almost year-long bombing campaign, Russian aircraft have used facilities in Iran to conduct strikes against in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib.

Iranian-Russian military cooperation is not unprecedented. The two took part in joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea last year and Russia launched a salvo of missiles across Iranian territory into Syria. However, this latest news underlines the budding relationship between the two.

I have previously written that the close proximity of Russian air forces and Iranian ground forces in Syria raises questions about the two powers’ relationship. Fighting wars together — even those as convoluted as Syria’s — is something allies tend to do. This particular cooperation has been controversial, though, with many commentators suggesting that the Iranian-Russian alliance in Syria is one of convenience. Read more “Russian Strikes from Iran Point to Burgeoning Anti-Western Pact”

Don’t Take Iran Becoming a Better Place for Granted

View of Tehran, Iran from the Milad Tower at night
View of Tehran, Iran from the Milad Tower at night (Shutterstock)

While America’s upcoming election fills many with worry, the Islamic Republic of Iran had a quiet yet meaningful election all of its own. The results shoved aside the hardliners who have for so long dominated Iran’s many branches of the Islamic republic, stuffing the all-important Assembly of Experts with relatively moderate forces poised to elect a supreme leader with the potential to turn Iran into a force for stability.

But no geopolitical road runs straight forever. There are many forces that might upset this applecart. Here now is the tale of Iran’s revolution, evolution and potential path forward. Read more “Don’t Take Iran Becoming a Better Place for Granted”

Iran’s Elections Unlikely to Matter Much

Elections in Iran on Friday are unlikely to have a big impact on how the Islamic country is governed.

Iranians are choosing both a new parliament and members for the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that appoints the supreme leader.

But hundreds of reformist candidates have been barred from running, ensuring that conservative lawmakers will keep their majority, while the assembly is really toothless.

Indeed, neither of the two institutions has much power, argues the Council on Foreign Relations’ Ray Takeyh.

Parliament is unlikely to act with much decisiveness, he writes, while the Assembly of Experts will probably not choose the next leader but rather rubber stamp a selection made by others. Read more “Iran’s Elections Unlikely to Matter Much”

What Oil Prices Mean for Geopolitics

2003 was a different era. The United States waged a war of choice in Iraq; Vladimir Putin’s Russia was seen as a paper tiger; China’s economic boom roared but didn’t threaten; Dubai was unknown; and the United States seemed like it would forever be an oil importer.

Much has changed. But today, the price of oil dropped to $27 a barrel, last seen in the heady days of the first W. Bush Administration.

There’s a lot going on here. Let’s get super. Read more “What Oil Prices Mean for Geopolitics”

West Lifts Sanctions as Iran Complies with Nuclear Deal

The flag of Iran
The flag of Iran (Blondinrikard Fröberg)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is abiding by the terms of a nuclear agreement it signed with world powers last year, clearing the way for the removal of sanctions that have pushed its economy into recession.

The lifting of the embargo, which will allow Iran to sell oil again and reconnect its banks with the world financial system, is a triumph for President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013 on a promise to end Iran’s isolation and revitalize its economy.

It is also a victory for Rouhani’s American counterpart, Barack Obama, who has staked his legacy on a deal that is meant to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Read more “West Lifts Sanctions as Iran Complies with Nuclear Deal”