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A Plan for Syria

Following a resolution to the Iran nuclear negotiations, the United States must now shift its focus to achieving political stability in war-torn Syria—despite its reluctance.


No Need to Worry about a Nuclear Iran

With the United States and Iran reaching a nuclear deal this month, some have voiced concerns about whether the deal really has the ability to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In The National Interest, TCF's Lauren Sukin and Selim Can Sazak write that even if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, there would be little need to worry:

Even today, Iran is already overstretched in terms of both funding and military resources—it has no incentive to provoke yet another fight. No matter the strategic relevance of its current wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, Iran cannot indefinitely sustain its adventures abroad. And, to put it mildly, none of its current fights will be easy wins to start with. In sum, Iran is simply outgunned, outspent, outflanked, and overstretched. Deal or no deal, nuclear weapons or none, there are only two outcomes: either Iran makes the smart choice, and avoids conflict, or it loses to the Saudis and their American allies.

The full column is available here.

Tags: iran nuclear deal, foreign policy

With Iran Nuclear Deal, Obama Guides U.S. to Middle East Off-Ramp

The recent nuclear deal with Iran is one of Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievements. In World Politics Review, TCF fellow Michael Cohen writes that it is one of many examples of the more hands-off approach the U.S. has taken with the Middle East during Obama's term.

The days of U.S. immersion in the problems of the Middle East have surely reached an end point. As Marc Lynch writes in an upcoming article for Foreign Affairs, “Obama came to office with a conviction that reducing the United States’ massive military and political investment in the Middle East was a vital national security interest in its own right.”

And over the past six years, with plenty of fits and starts and some detours along the way, Obama has by and large successfully executed that strategy. The Iran deal is merely the coup de grace, and it lays the groundwork for a shift to Asia that goes beyond rhetoric.

Cohen's full column is available here.

Tags: middle east policy, iran nuclear deal, foreign policy

Are We Witnessing the Birth of a New Mideast Order?

The recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States marks the end of an era in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In Foreign Affairs, TCF fellow Thanassis Cambanis argues for a shift in the American approach that prioritizes focusing on one Middle Eastern country at a time to a more ad-hoc strategy focusing on specfiic issues:

After years of myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program, the United States will have to take an unsentimental and cleareyed inventory of its dysfunctional allies. It can only expect so much from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey — but with these sorts of friends, it behooves Washington to lower its expectations and take a more transactional approach to enlisting cooperation, whenever possible, on a single issue or subsets of issues. A disappointed Saudi Arabia, for instance, might play ball with the United States on Syria — even as it opposes Washington’s policy in Iraq.

Cambanis's full column is available here.

Tags: middle east policy, iran nuclear deal, foreign policy

Egypt’s Durable Misery

Egypt has recently seen violence and repression that suggests its government may be unstable, but Eric Trager contends in Foreign Affairs that the regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi looks to remain stable for the foreseeable future. He cites this month's TCF issue brief, "Egypt's Next Phase: Sustainable Instability," by senior fellow Michael Hanna: 

Intraregime tensions haven’t entirely dissipated, of course. As Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation noted in a recent report, the leaked phone conversations of top military officials, resurgent media criticism of the Interior Ministry, and the security establishment’s open antipathy toward former air force general and presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik are all signs of elite division. Yet in every instance thus far, the tensions have dissipated quickly, because the regime’s various components are ultimately more unified in their desire to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood than they are divided by anything else.

The full article can be found here.

Tags: foreign policy, egyptian politics, egypt

The Line in the Sand: Is Sykes-Picot Coming Undone?

In the Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, TCF senior fellow Michael Hanna explains the state of fragmentation in Iraq and Syria and argues against the idea that a redrawing of the borders between the two countries is imminent:

The current state of de facto fragmentation in both Iraq and Syria will endure for the foreseeable future, particularly in Syria, which has long since ceased functioning as a unitary state. But the current catastrophe also offers a roadmap for eventual political equilibrium: greater decentralization that does not seek to reconstitute the dysfunctional political order represented by the status quo ante. Creating a sustainable model of governance for both Iraq and Syria will require recognition of both the current reality of sectarian and ethnic polarization and the role of overly-centralized repressive modes of governance in fuelling those conflicts.

For outside parties seeking to formulate coherent policy responses, an assumption of continued fragmentation is a must, while advocating formal partition is a mistake.

The full article is available here.

Tags: syria, iraq, foreign policy


Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy

In the first years of the new century, an assertive foreign policy took a toll on the cultivated role of the U.S. as a responsible global leader. The Century Foundation's work in this area provides perspective on the international difficulties the U.S. is facing today, while providing policy recommendations to promote the nation's security interests. Our research and analysis focuses on effectively responding to challenges in the Middle East and Pakistan, as well as responding to international crime.

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