To Save Syria, Work with Russia and Iran

by Aslı Bâli , Aziz Rana | published August 15, 2012

As the violence intensifies in Syria, external powers, including the United States, are embracing increasingly belligerent positions. Indeed, in recent days the United States and Turkey have announced plans to study a no-fly zone after calls by many American commentators for a more direct military role.

Although there is no doubt the government of President Bashar al-Asad carries the overwhelming responsibility for the unfolding tragedy in Syria, the attempt to militarily defeat the regime is the wrong strategy if the goals are reducing violence and protecting innocent civilians.

"Iran Will Require Assurances"

An Interview with Hossein Mousavian

by Aslı Bâli | published May 16, 2012

Hossein Mousavian has served as visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security from 2009 to the present. Prior to this position, he held numerous positions in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including director-general of its West Europe department and ambassador to Germany from 1990 to 1997. Ambassador Mousavian was also head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran during both terms of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency (1997-2005). In this capacity, he served as spokesman of the Iranian nuclear negotiations team from 2003 to 2005.

Iranian Cyber-Struggles

by Narges Bajoghli | published May 3, 2012

From the Green Movement in Iran in 2009 through the Arab revolts that began in 2011, social media have held center stage in coverage of popular protest in the Middle East. Though the first flush of overwrought enthusiasm is long past, there is consensus that Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 applications, particularly on handheld devices, have been an effective organizing tool against the slower-moving security apparatuses of authoritarian states. The new technology has also helped social movements to tell their story to the outside world, unhindered by official news blackouts, unbothered by state censors and unfiltered by the traditional Western media.

Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution

by Mostafa Vaziri
published in MER169

Misagh Parsa, Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (Rutgers, 1989).

Misagh Parsa’s work successfully lays out the essential factors behind the Iranian revolution and the subsequent triumph of the clergy in establishing a consolidated Islamic state. His text provides a sharp analysis of the social factors involved and does an outstanding job of integrating primary sources and scholarship.

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Narrowing the Options on the Table

by Farideh Farhi | published December 8, 2011

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister and former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is not usually a sarcastic man. But he became one in early November following several days of leaks about the negative content of a pending IAEA report on Iran. “Marg yek bar, shivan yek bar,” he said, using an age-old Persian expression. Literally, the phrase means “You die once, you are mourned once,” but here it might be translated, “Get it over with.”

Debunking the Iran "Terror Plot"

by Gareth Porter | published November 3, 2011

At a press conference on October 11, the Obama administration unveiled a spectacular charge against the government of Iran: The Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, right in Washington, DC, in a place where large numbers of innocent bystanders could have been killed. High-level officials of the Qods Force were said to be involved, the only question being how far up in the Iranian government the complicity went.

Continuity and Change in Soviet Policy

The Gulf Crisis and the Islamic Dimension

by Alain Gresh
published in MER167

The day after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State James Baker announced what they termed “an unusual step.” They issued a communique “jointly urging the international community to join them and suspend all supplies of arms to Iraq on an international scale.” The Gulf crisis, the first major post-Cold War international crisis, provides a concrete measure of changing Soviet strategy in the Third World. While Soviet policy can be explained in large part by a desire to maintain good relations with the United States, one cannot disregard, in the short or the long run, the weight of Moscow’s relations with the Middle East and how they affect its strategy and tactics in the region.

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Iranian Populism and Political Change in the Gulf

by Eric Hooglund
published in MER174

From the political perspective, the main consequence of the Persian Gulf War has been the restoration of the status quo ante. In Iraq and Kuwait, dissidents who had expected the military defeat of Saddam Hussein to usher in a new era of freedom and democracy have been sorely disillusioned. In the sheikhdoms of the Arabian Peninsula, hereditary rulers had feared the US military intervention might bring pressures for political reform, and citizens had hoped Washington might support at least modest democratization efforts. Both now realize that the West is interested in containing, not promoting, political change.

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Amirahmadi, Revolution and Economic Transition

by Misagh Parsa
published in MER176

Hooshang Amirahmadi, Revolution and Economic Transition: The Iranian Experience (SUNY, 1990).

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Fischer and Abedi, Debating Muslims

by Vinay Lal
published in MER177

Michael M.J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition (Wisconsin, 1990).

In the older literature on the Middle East and the Muslim world, Islam almost invariably appeared as a religion of fanaticism: austere in its outlook, menacing in its proselytizing tendencies, intellectually impoverished, antagonistic toward reason and monolithic in its structure. Above all it was described as essentially different from Western rationalism, capitalism and democracy.

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