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

From The Mahdi To ISIS

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In 1881, an obscure local religious leader in Sudan by the name of Mohamed Ahmed declared himself the long awaited Mahdi (divinely guided one). The claim was ridiculous at best, as established religious leaders were quick to proclaim. The prophecies of the coming of the Mahdi, while open to interpretation, clearly did not point to Mohamed Ahmed.

Featured Analysis

ISIS: Making Autocracy Look Good

by Camille Pecastaingvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The November attacks in Paris claimed by ISIS came from the convergence of two forces. One is Jihadism, a global and multifaceted socio-behavioral phenomenon. The other is ISIS, an organization that operates in the Levant and Mesopotamia. ISIS can occasionally project itself beyond its base by leveraging the Jihadist phenomenon, as it did in Tunisia, Egypt, or now France. But despite the global noise, ISIS should be read in its regional context.

Featured Analysis

"Fighting" The Islamic State

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Monday, December 7, 2015

Can the United States stop the Syrian refugee crisis and destroy the Islamic State without sending tens of thousands of soldiers into Syria and Iraq? Hillary Clinton and the Republican presidential candidates—with the notable exception of Senator Lindsey Graham—have so far studiously avoided describing how their battle plans would seriously differ from Barack Obama's.  

Featured Analysis

How To Prevail: Do What The West Does Best And Turn Asymmetrical Warfare Against Terror International

by Josef Joffevia The Caravan
Friday, December 4, 2015

A word of comfort first: Terror, no matter how spectacular, cannot score strategic victories against the West. “Strategic failure” means ISIS cannot break a nation-state’s will, nor render it defenseless the way Hitler’s armies subjugated France and Poland in a matter of weeks.

Featured Analysis

Notes On Methodology In The Study Of Jihad

by Nibras Kazimivia The Caravan
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Western academic disciplines have risen to the challenge of interpreting the jihadist enemy: political science, military science and history. It would seem natural for political and military scientists to discern form and pattern in the revolutionary movement that is seizing many of the headlines of the 21st century. On the other hand, historians would be ill at ease explaining the significance of current events and discerning trends within them...

Featured Analysis

Dealing With Daesh: Stay The Course

by Daniel Kurtzervia The Caravan
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Daesh or ISIS does not represent an existential threat to any state except Syria and Iraq.  It occupies and controls ungoverned space in the region between Iraq and Syria and in parts of northern Africa; and its self-proclaimed Caliphate has benefited from the seizure of some income producing assets in these areas. 

Featured Analysis

After Paris Is Before Paris: ISIS And Strategy

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The attacks in Paris were hardly necessary to demonstrate the brutality of ISIS. Its threat to regional stability in the Middle East has long been in evidence, and now we know that its terror can reach into Western capitals. But ISIS is hardly the only challenge to American power and the international order.

Introduction

The US And The ISIS Challenge

by Hoover Institutionvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Caravan was conceived as a vehicle for thoughtful and elevated discourse on the Middle East, especially the dangers that Islamism poses to the international order. This time we turn to the terrorist attacks in Paris which demonstrated the capacity of ISIS to cause devastation in Western capitals, even as it remains a formidable force in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Featured Analysis

The Obama Declaration

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

World-historical changes are not conveniently demarcated by the turn of the centuries, but the 21st century looks like the opening of a new “paradigm” that might replace what has been called “The Modern Era” itself.

Featured Analysis

The Middle East After The Iranian Nuclear Accord

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Monday, October 19, 2015

Not long ago the Obama administration tried to explain Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s budgetary priorities.  The White House’s assertion that the Islamic Republic’s future spending would overwhelmingly be used for domestic, non-military needs was a response to the bipartisan fear that the clerical regime might use some of its new, post-sanctions cash—likely between $100 and $150 billion—on its expeditionary efforts in Syria and Iraq...

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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.