Aaron Arnold provides a crucial update on the status of the economic sanctions placed on Iran. He argues that in the short term, a lack of sanctions relief will continue to damage the Iranian economy and undercut efforts by the Rouhani Administration to revitalize growth. However, he points out that new developments in the global economy, such as the creation of an alternative to the SWIFT financial messaging system pushed by Russia and China, will possibly degrade the effectiveness of sanctions in the long run. Read more about Current State of Global Sanctions Against Iran
Ephraim Kam assess Iran's growing regional influence thanks to the success of proxy forces such as Shiite militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. He argues that even with a nuclear agreement, Iran has strengthened its influence in the Arab world thanks to the lack of a strong Arab balancing force, and that this increased power makes Iranian behavior a continued strategic concern, with or without a nuclear accord.
US officials sought to downplay concerns that the White House would use a UN Security Council Resolution to tie Congressional hands, Iran-controlled Shia militias retook much of Tikrit from ISIL, and more in this week’s Belfer Iran Brief, covering March 11-16, 2015.
Shai Feldman, Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University and Member of the Board of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interestthat a careful assessment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last week reveals that he made several concessions and avoided making unreasonable demands regarding Iran’s nuclear program. However, Feldman writes, “by insisting on delivering the speech at this unfortunate time, Netanyahu invited a debate focusing on his conduct rather than on the ascribed pitfalls of the deal with Iran.” Read more about Bibi's Speech: A More Sober Assessment
James Sebenius, the Gordon Donaldson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, writes in The National Interest that the U.S. should offer a stronger batch of carrots and sticks when negotiating with Tehran. These carrots and sticks would come in the form of legislation pre-negotiated between Congress and the White House that would, on the one hand, offer phased, permanent sanctions relief if Iran complies with agreement, or, on the other hand, trigger swift implementation of harsh sanctions if no agreement is reached. “On balance,” Sebenius writes, “this approach offers the prospect of a president with every incentive to hang tough with Iran as well as the ability to offer inducements to that country in return for a more satisfactory nuclear deal.” Read more about The Right Way to Squeeze Iran
Alexei Arbatov assess the potential developments in Russian, Iranian, and American relations should the nuclear negotiations break down. He argues that further Russian cooperation on coercing Iran is not likely when Russia and the West remain locked in a standoff over Ukraine, and suggests that Russia and Iran may move to build closer relations in the future. Read more about Imagining Russia, Iran, and the United States if the Nuclear Talks Fail
Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in Foreign Policy that the dichotomy between a "good deal" and a "bad deal" as presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an inaccurate way to assess the Iranian nuclear negotiations. He argues that Iran has both been able to drastically shrink the "break out" time it will take to develop enough uranium for a nuclear weapon, and that Iran has been able to develop the knowledge and industrial base that give it an indestructible capacity to produce a nuclear weapon if it makes the decision to do so. The only option at this point, in his assessment, is for the United States and its allies to convince the Iranian leadership that they will not be able to gain an exercisable nuclear weapons option. If the Prime Minister wants to persuade Americans that even if the Obama Administration succeeds in extracting from Tehran a deal that meets the West’s essential objectives, Congress should reject that as a “bad deal,” he must propose a specific, feasible alternative, Allison argues. Read more about On Iran: Reject Bibi's False Dichotomy
Roy Mottahadeh, Gurney Professor of Islamic History at Harvard University, highlights a previously little understood dynamic: the importance of Shia religious leaders in influencing the religious, political, and social views of their followers. In The Quandaries of Emulation, Professor Roy Mottahedeh traces the development of Shia religious leaders, specifically marja al-taqlids, or "sources of emulation," and the bases of their influence within the Shia community. Read more about Quandaries of Emulation
Henry Rome shows how the Iranian press marked the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran, as the country begins ten days of celebration leading up to the formal anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
President Hassan Rouhani accused hardliners of trying to “sabotage” the national interest, “as if they are cheering on the rival team,” leader of Friday prayers in Tehran said Iranians should be able to endure eating one meal per day in the name of a “resistance economy,” and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief, covering January 24 to February 2, 2015. Read more about Belfer Iran Brief — Rouhani accuses hardliners of “sabotage” and other news
On Tuesday, January 27th, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Banking held hearings on the prospects for the continued negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and efficacy of additional sanctions, respectively. Read more about Congressional Commentary and Testimony