Category: International Policy

Iran targets an American ally: Azerbaijan

July 17, 2012

News that the Iranian regime wanted to kill America’s ambassador to Azerbaijan in 2011 should not have come as a surprise to members of the U.S. Congress who have followed Tehran’s repeated attempts to undermine one of America’s most reliable allies in the broader Middle East. After spending a week in Baku, the vibrant capital of Azerbaijan, it has become very clear that the Iranian regime wants to overthrow this pro-western former Soviet republic on its northern border.

Tehran misses no opportunity to destabilize Azerbaijan. The pretext the week I visited Baku was that Azerbaijan was hosting Eurovision, the annual “American Idol” contest of Europe. That a Muslim nation would host singers, dancers, and tourists from all across Europe with open arms, irrespective of how they were dressed or their sexual orientation, is anathema to the intolerant mullahs of Iran. Beyond this superficial condemnation, there are more fundamental reasons for Iran to target this reliable American partner. Continue reading “Iran targets an American ally: Azerbaijan” »

American Foreign Policy Must Take Into Account Dueling Irans

July 3, 2012

As the world grapples with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, discussions abound in think tanks and capitals around the world concerning a key question: what makes Iran tick? The real question should be: which Iran?

The Iran of the government of the Islamic Republic, a serial human rights abuser that executes more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, undermines Iran’s enormous economic potential with corruption, mismanagement, and needless diplomatic spats, and sends money and weapons to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Bashar al-Assad’s goons killing the Syrian opposition?

Or the Iran of a young, dynamic populace hungry for democracy, dignity, and jobs, a population that, as Nicholas Kristof has reported recently in the New York Times, harbors little antipathy toward the United States and wants the same freedoms we all want, who are heirs to one of the world’s greatest civilizations that has produced some of the finest thinkers, artists, scientists – and even political leaders — the world has known? Continue reading “American Foreign Policy Must Take Into Account Dueling Irans” »

Obama’s Iran Moment

February 16, 2012


President Obama’s recent executive order freezing the assets of Iran’s clerical regime is another step in the right direction, bringing immediate pressure on Tehran. But a more significant move and quite possibly a game-changer would be an executive order, with close congressional consultation, to commit material and policy support for the aspirations of the Iranian people. According to former intelligence officials, the psychological boost of such an act alone by the president will cause a paradigm shift within the Iranian political world.

The fundamental premise of such an order would be to correct the failure of successive administrations to counter the Iranian regime’s covert and overt policy of low-intensity war with America. Continue reading “Obama’s Iran Moment” »

Obama’s Zimbabwe Moment

October 20, 2011

As the world focuses on events in the Arab world, and as dictators such as Muammar Gaddafi are overthrown, America’s first African-American president has a historic chance to deal with one of Africa’s most vicious despots — Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has imposed economic, financial, social and environmental ruin on his nation, and it is time to call an end to his reign of destruction.

Since his election in 1980, Mugabe, now seventy-nine, has created a virtual “how-to” manual for national destruction. Although many of his methods have been applied elsewhere, taken as a whole his approach is more radical and more comprehensive than that of other despots. In January of 1983 Mugabe, a member of the ethnic Shona majority, ordered his North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to carry out what he called a gukurahundi against the Ndebele people. The Ndebele account for about a fourth of the country’s population, and Mugabe felt that they threatened him because his chief political rival at the time, Joshua Nkomo, was a Ndebele. The Nazis gave us the Final Solution, the Serbs gave us “ethnic cleansing,” and Mugabe has given us “wiping away.” Continue reading “Obama’s Zimbabwe Moment” »

From Baku to Baltimore: An Investment in Education

October 20, 2011

Beyond the first two letters in their names Baltimore and Baku appear to have very little in common. Baku is the capital of energy-rich Azerbaijan, a republic of the former Soviet Union the size of Maryland with a population of eight million. With an oil fund in excess of $32 billion and projected revenues of $200 billion by 2024, Azerbaijan is fast becoming the Kuwait of the former Soviet Union. But it is not oil wealth that distinguishes this secular Muslim country sandwiched between a resurgent Russia and a fundamentalist Iran.

Religious freedom and tolerance is its bedrock. For example, Azerbaijan is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world and in celebration of this fact last year the Chief Rabbi of Israel visited Azerbaijan to inaugurate Baku’s largest synagogue. Even members of the Bahai faith, who are persecuted and tortured in neighboring Iran, are free to practice their religion in Azerbaijan. Not surprisingly, the regime in Iran has tried to undermine Azerbaijan’s secular system on numerous occasions as to decouple Baku from ties with the U.S. and Israel. Continue reading “From Baku to Baltimore: An Investment in Education” »

The Standard-Bearers of King Abdullah

July 24, 2011

The recent appointment of 48-year old Prince Abdulaziz to Deputy Foreign Minister by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is a clear signal to the world that the reformist monarch of the world’s largest oil exporter plans to have his sons continue his legacy once he leaves the scene. Last year King Abdullah appointed his eldest son Prince Miteb to head the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) — one of the main pillars of Saudi Arabia’s institutions. It is indeed in America’s national security interest to work closely with the sons of King Abdullah since they are more likely to continue their father’s reformist agenda. Prince Miteb is a graduate of Sandhurst and Prince Abdulaziz is well versed in the details of U.S.-Saudi relations. Both men will continue to support the institutions their father has put in place to ensure the gradual transition of the Kingdom into a more inclusive and open society. Continue reading “The Standard-Bearers of King Abdullah” »

Qatar Politics: The U.S.’s most important Arab ally?

July 20, 2011














Could this small Gulf state become America’s most important Arab ally?

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION will get no help from most Arab nations in a war against Iraq. The Arab League not only opposes an attack, but last week lauded the Iraqis for opening talks with the United Nations about reviving arms inspections. The Saudis won’t let American warplanes fly sorties against Iraq from the U.S. air base in Saudi Arabia. And Bahrain was pressured by Iran into public opposition to any military action against Iraq. But then there’s Qatar, the small Persian Gulf state of 700,000 people that’s quietly promoting democratic reform and ties to America. Continue reading “Qatar Politics: The U.S.’s most important Arab ally?” »

Iran’s Crisis Amid Plenty

July 17, 2011


In the 2011 Spring issue of Harvard International Review an article I co-wrote with Dr. Fariborz Ghadar makes the case that since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the country’s economic position vis a vis its neighbors has deteriorated. For example, whereas in 1974 Iran’s per capita income was 50% higher than Turkey’s, today Turks enjoy a per capita income double that of Iranians.  Qatar, Iran’s neighbor to the south is today the leading exporter of LNG whereas Iran should have captured the natural gas markets of Europe and Asia since it started the implementation of a global export strategy in 1976. Continue reading “Iran’s Crisis Amid Plenty” »

U.S.-Afghanistan Relations: Withdraw troops, invest in energy

July 15, 2011

In the aftermath of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s murder it is clear that Washington’s $1 trillion plus adventure in Afghanistan has not brought the country any closer to stability. The U.S. must immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan but ensure the stability of this fragile nation by building a trans-Afghan pipeline. This pipeline from Turkmenistan would move south to Afghanistan then enter Pakistan and end in India. Building this $4 billion pipeline carrying natural gas to Pakistan and India would also decouple Turkmenistan from the monopoly of Russia of gas exports from the former Soviet Union.

Israel’s Iran Dilemma

May 23, 2011


When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses members of Congress on Tuesday, he will get a rousing reception and – no doubt – a standing ovation if he suggests a military strike on Iran to destroy that country’s nuclear weapons facilities. Mr. Netanyahu rightly will point out that Iran is the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah and a threat to the Jewish state.

Members of Congress would be well-advised to take stock of the history between Iran and the Jewish state before giving the Israeli prime minister a green light to attack Iran. This 2,500-year-old history suggests that the character of the regime in Tehran has had the most immediate influence on Israeli-Iranian relations: Secularists have welcomed ties to the Jewish state, whereas Islamists have opposed cultivation of closer ties to Israel. Continue reading “Israel’s Iran Dilemma” »