Category: Middle East

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” »

Flashback: Baha’is on Trial

July 9, 2011


Another round of scape -goating of Iran’s Baha’is by the theocratic regime started last week with a show trial of the seven men and women that make up the ad hoc coordinating body of the Iranian Baha’is – the country’s largest religious minority. Charged with stirring up all the unrest sweeping the country today, Iran’s 300,000 Baha’is find themselves in serious jeopardy.

As President Obama tries to tackle the troubling issue of America’s relations with Iran, he should keep the prayer for America that has been officially enshrined in Baha’i prayer books as his moral compass:

Oh, God, let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. Oh, God, this American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy.”

The prayer itself was delivered in Chicago on April 30, 1912, by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u’llah, who was visiting the United States at the behest of the nascent Baha’i community in America. Since then, the Baha’i community has been able to flourish in America because of the protections granted by our Constitution. Continue reading “Flashback: Baha’is on Trial” »

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” »

What the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Are Thinking

April 19, 2011

Dr. Rob Sobhani was interviewed on CNN World’s Global Public Square on the issue “What the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are thinking.” He discussed stability, growth, leadership, and more, with a focus on new opportunities for cooperation and reform:

Amar C. Bakshi: You’ve been in the region and you’ve talked to leaders in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Let’s start with Saudi Arabia. What are the Saudi’s main concerns?

Rob Sobhani: The foreign policy of Saudi Arabia first revolves around stability. Next, they desire economic growth because Saudi Arabia’s population is young.  Third, the Saudis want to ensure that the region doesn’t fall into the grips of a sectarian divide – of Shia versus Sunni. Continue reading “What the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Are Thinking” »

Balancing Stability and Good Governance

March 29, 2011

A well-rounded global energy policy means that a broad spectrum of countries are producing a wide range of oil and gas products. In this way, temporary distribution issues in one country do not slow down the global economic recovery, which is dependent on petroleum products. The key to this equation is Saudi Arabia. As the world’s largest oil exporter oil price stability depends on Saudi Arabia’s policy to keep prices within a band that is fair to both consumers and producers.

While visiting the Persian Gulf earlier this month, I met with a number of officials to discuss how the global economy has been affected by the recent events in the region. Higher oil prices are a net result of political and economic instability while the need for genuine reform is most likely the underlying cause of these events.

One way for the global economy to protect itself from price instability is closer cooperation between oil producing countries and consumers. This cooperation should also include partnerships with countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel and Qatar to develop alternative sources of energy.

Forward-looking countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar are already laying the foundations for the establishment of a green economy.

But until such time as alternative energy takes hold, the United States — and the rest of the world — will have to rely on crude oil imports for economic growth. This means that the U.S. must strike a balance between the stability of countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and our commitment to good governance.