The Caravan

The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Issue 1716

Rolling Back Iran
Introduction
Introduction

Rolling Back Iran

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The matter of the Middle East is now critical to the fate of modern world order. The end of the Cold War, now a quarter-century in the past, increasingly looks like the turning-point from which began a downward spiral toward the global disarray and dangers which swirl through this still-new twenty-first century. For a short time the international relations sector buzzed with the possibility of “A New World Order” which President George H. W. Bush tried to describe without success. 

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

Countering Iran While Retreating

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Time has almost run out for the United States to deny the Islamic Republic hegemony in the northern Middle East. The clerical regime has the high ground and the Americans are, at best, slowing Iranian advances. The approximately two thousand troops Washington has reportedly deployed to Syria, mostly in the north and the southeast, have prevented the Tehran–Moscow–Damascus axis from dominating all of the strategic locations in the country. But if President Trump really did tell Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will cut military aid to the Syrian Kurds, the most reliable of America’s disparate anti-Islamic State “partners on the ground,” and he meant it, it’s a decent guess America’s military presence will diminish.

Featured Analysis

Countering Iran Requires A Political Strategy

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It was not supposed to end this way. As protests erupted across the Arabic-speaking world, Iran seemed to be on the losing side. True, Iran’s leader, Ali Khamenei, had immediately called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia “an Islamic liberation movement” and hailed them as “reverberations of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.” But as the protests spread from capital to capital and reached Damascus, not a few observers were confident that Iran would emerge weaker in the regional power game.

Featured Analysis

Cold War Lessons For Iran Strategy

by Karim Sadjadpourvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Strategy,” wrote Lawrence Freedman in his book of the same name, “suggests an ability to address causes rather than symptoms, to see woods rather than trees.” While Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East is primarily the symptom of an underlying cause—the power vacuums created by the 2003 Iraq War and the 2011 Arab uprisings—there is now a symbiotic relationship between Iranian ambition and Arab disorder. The latter accentuates the former, and the former accentuates the latter. 

Featured Analysis

Repackaging Trump’s Iran Strategy

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Trump administration has articulated a much-needed strategy designed to pressure and contain the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign regional influence, which spreads throughout Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. While reducing Iran’s imprint and leverage throughout the Middle East is indeed imperative for regional stability, the Trump administration’s methods and means will not prove successful because its strategy is zero sum against Tehran and a perpetuation of the traditional American approach to dealing with the Islamic Republic.

Featured Analysis

The Limits Of The Indirect Approach

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In October 2017, the Trump administration rolled out its long-anticipated policy to counter Iranian expansionism in the region. The policy pays significant attention to Hezbollah, Iran’s principal instrument of regional power projection. After eight years of American courtship of Iran, which drastically elevated its regional position, pushing back against Tehran and its proxies was always going to be a formidable challenge.

Featured Analysis

Iran Thrives In The Levant On Weakened States Threatened By Sunni Radicalism

by Fabrice Balanche via The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The announced defeat of the Syrian rebellion and the Islamic State is favoring the extension of Iranian influence in the Levant. The Iranian corridor between Beirut and Tehran via Baghdad and Damascus is now a reality. Territorial continuity was achieved symbolically at the end of May 2017, when Iranian-funded Shia militias joined on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border north of al-Tanf. In Iraq, Iranian allies Syria and Lebanon dominate; people support them out of fear, default, or sympathy. If the West wants to fight against the Islamic Republic's influence in the Levant, it must understand the root causes pushing more and more Lebanese Christians, Iraqi Shiites, and Syrian Sunni Arabs into the Iranian camp.

Featured Analysis

Rolling Back Iran: The Global Context

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A question mark is hanging over American grand strategy. The triumphal optimism that marked the end of the Cold War has given way to profound anxiety about the future of the international order. American supremacy has frayed and ominous challenges have emerged. We have entered difficult times. How did we lose our advantage? Can we reclaim it?

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Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia Is The Middle East’s Biggest Danger

by Toby C. Jonesvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 18, 2016

Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the Middle East’s most assertive power. Stirred to action by the fall of Saddam Hussein, the rise of Iran, and deeply unsettled by the Arab uprisings, the kingdom has taken on an increasingly interventionist role.

Featured Analysis

A Perfect Storm In Saudi Arabia

by Abbas Milanivia The Caravan
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A perfect storm is brewing for Saudi Arabia. Ominous clouds are gathering on the country’s domestic, regional and global horizons. Virtually every once-reliable pillar of the kingdom’s stability is facing daunting challenges.

Featured Analysis

The Reality Of Riyadh

by Simon Hendersonvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia’s strategic vision is, to put it bluntly, whatever is best for the ruling House of Saud.  Discerning that vision, especially at times of strain and possibly change, has always been a challenge, given the opaqueness of the royal family and its public preference for platitudes. 

Featured Analysis

The Saudi Great Game Gone Awry

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Friday, February 12, 2016

Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, the defining religious competition in the Middle East has been between Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shi'ite Islamic Republic.  That clash was not initially sectarian. 

Featured Analysis

Saudi Foreign Policy: A State of Flux

by Jane Kinninmontvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 11, 2016

The accession of King Salman a year ago and the decision to lead a military intervention in Yemen mark a new phase for Saudi foreign policy. That does not mean that there is a new foreign policy doctrine or strategy.

Featured Analysis

The Shift In Saudi Foreign Policy

by David Schenkervia The Caravan
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The tight-lipped family oligarchy in Saudi Arabia headed by a geriatric and purportedly infirm monarch has no penchant for transparency. Despite the opacity, the transition from King Abdullah to King Salman has been accompanied by a perceptible shift in Saudi foreign policy.

Introduction

The Shifting Saudi Strategy

by Hoover Institutionvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

America has been in Arabia for well over six decades, yet the American access to the inner workings of the Saudi world has been limited at best.  There is an opaqueness to the Saudi realm, and that ambivalence has run through its tangled relationship with its American protector.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Strategy And Ours

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Saudi strategy is a response to its single largest challenge, the rise of Iranian power. As Iran gains greater access to resources and international influence, Riyadh fears that Tehran will project its power throughout the region in order to further its anti-Saudi program.

Featured Analysis

Beyond The Oval Office: Filling In The Blanks Of U.S. Strategy Against The Islamic State

by Robert Satloffvia The Caravan
Friday, December 11, 2015

For a no-drama presidency, there was drama wrapped in urgency inside spectacle when President Obama delivered an Oval Office address to the nation – only his third in seven years – to confirm that the San Bernardino mass murders were, in fact, a terrorist act linked, if only by inspiration and allegiance, to the Islamic State.

Featured Analysis

Meeting The ISIS Challenge

by Kori Schakevia The Caravan
Thursday, December 10, 2015

President Obama raises an interesting and important challenge for those of us who believe his approach to the threat of ISIS is misguided: develop a better strategy.  Any successful strategy requires three elements: a defined political end state, a prescribed series of actions to attain the end state, and means commensurate with your aims.  President Obama’s strategy fails all three of those tests. 

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.