On the Beach

The Rapid Deployment Force and the Nuclear Arms Race

by Christopher Paine
published in MER111

There are two kinds of beaches in US defense planning. The first is the shoreline that US Marines typically storm in a real or rehearsed military intervention. The second belongs to the domain of the nuclear strategists. When their “limited” nuclear war games go astray, simulating escalation into all-out thermonuclear war, the strategists privately label this outcome a “beach,” after the title of Nevil Shute’s popular novel of nuclear apocalypse, On the Beach. In this era, when two military superpowers envelope the globe with the reach of their nuclear weapons, the question inevitably arises: Is it possible for the Rapid Deployment Force to storm the beaches of the Persian Gulf without leaving all of us on the beach of nuclear annihilation?

An Extraordinary Feat of Diplomacy

by Chris Toensing | published August 5, 2015

The nuclear agreement with Iran is an extraordinary feat of diplomacy.

First and foremost, non-proliferation experts agree that the deal blocks all of the routes to making an atomic bomb. There are provisions for rigorous inspections—so if Iran cheats, the world will know.

Second, it isn’t just Washington to whom the Iranians are accountable. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany too, signed alongside the United States. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will monitor Iranian activities on the great powers’ behalf.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER119

On Sunday night, November 20, we paused along with millions of others in the US to watch ABC’s television drama of nuclear devastation. “The Day After” abstracted its fictional crisis from current headlines by having its US-Soviet confrontation occur over Berlin rather than Lebanon or Nicaragua. On the other hand, it faithfully portrayed ordinary people’s frustrating and fruitless dependence on television itself to understand and know what was supposedly happening to trigger such a deadly duel. In its own way the day before was as harrowing as the day after.

Some Good News from the Middle East

by Chris Toensing | published February 25, 2015

There’s not much good news coming out of the Middle East these days.

But one reason to take heart is the progress of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West. Even as new conflicts sprout up elsewhere, a three-decade standoff between Tehran and Washington could be heading for a breakthrough.

The talks have gone more slowly than many supporters had hoped, with negotiators twice having to extend their deadlines. But that should come as no surprise.

After all, there’s over 35 years of mutual antipathy to overcome, and the technical details are tricky. Plus, Iran’s domestic politics -- like our own -- are complicated, with hardliners always accusing the pragmatic president of going soft.

Burying the Hatchet with Iran

by Chris Toensing | published November 5, 2014

Don’t tell anyone, but the United States and Iran are getting closer -- perhaps closer than ever -- to letting go of 35 years of enmity.

No, Washington and Tehran aren’t going to be BFFs or anything.

But they do share a common interest in rolling back the so-called Islamic State, whose well-armed militants have declared an extremist Sunni caliphate stretching across Syria and Iraq.

The United States is anxious to restore the Iraqi government’s authority in oil-rich Iraq, while Iran is eager to defeat a murderously anti-Shiite militia on its western flank.

MER 271: Fuel and Water: The Coming Crises

by The Editors | published July 18, 2014 - 2:28pm

For immediate release July 18, 2014                           Middle East Report 271   Summer 2014


"The Nuclear Project Is Bound to Fail"

by Jillian Schwedler
published in MER271

Bassel Burgan is a Jordanian businessman and a leader of the movement to stop the Jordanian government’s plans to generate nuclear power. Jillian Schwedler, an editor of this magazine, conducted this interview with Burgan by e-mail on June 24, 2014.


What, in your view, are the important factors motivating the push for nuclear power in Jordan?

The Battle Over Nuclear Jordan

by Nicholas Seeley
published in MER271

Jordan is facing a power crisis. Resource-poor, the small desert kingdom imports 96.6 percent of its energy, according to government statistics, at a cost equivalent to 20 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 and 2012. More than a quarter of that fuel goes to generating electricity. Future demand is expected to grow rapidly, as Jordan is still in the hump of its demographic transition -- in 2012, 37 percent of the population was under the age of 15. Population growth alone will sharpen the hunger for fuel, but so, too, will the need for new industries to provide jobs for the large youth population, and the aspiration to modern, middle-class lifestyles. In addition, Jordan is the constant recipient of refugees from the region’s crisis zones.

Learning from the Past in the Iranian Nuclear Dispute

by Tytti Erästö | published April 16, 2014

The controversy over the Iranian nuclear program is in many ways a product of the US-Iranian conflict. The United States and Iran are in the grip of mutual negative perceptions that, in turn, have been reinforced by the escalatory dynamics of the nuclear dispute. After years of seeming diplomatic deadlock, these dynamics suddenly changed for the better in the autumn of 2013. The positive trends culminated in November, when Iran agreed with the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, the so-called P5+1, on a confidence-building deal known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Given the record of diplomatic non-achievement, the deal is a historic development.

The Diplomatic Dance with Iran

by Chris Toensing | published March 26, 2014

A six-month diplomatic dance with Iran is underway—each step as dainty as a minuet because any misstep is weighted with danger.

The issue is Iran’s nuclear research program and the UN inspections that are taking place as a result. And while each side has its own agenda, they’re suspicious of the other’s motives.