Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

Latest Articles

Terrorism In Russia
Why The Problem Is Set To Worsen

April 6, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

On Monday, the subway system of St. Petersburg, Russia's second city, was the site of a massive bomb blast that killed 14 commuters and wounded more than 50 others. (A second, unexploded device was subsequently found and defused by authorities.) The attack marked the most significant terrorist incident to hit the Russian Federation since December of 2013, when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the main train station of the southern Russian city of Volgograd ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. But it is also much more. Monday's bombing is the latest sign of Russia's worsening terrorism problem, as well as a portent of things to come.

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The JCPOA Helps Iran's Elites And Hurts Rouhani

March 29, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

These are hard times for Hassan Rouhani. With fewer than two months to go until Iran's next national election, currently scheduled to take place on May 19, the long knives are out for the soft-spoken cleric who serves as the country's president.

Recent weeks have seen mounting criticism of Rouhani's stewardship of the Iranian government and the emergence of new challengers seeking to grab the political reins from the Islamic Republic's embattled incumbent. Both trends have also been blessed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is pushing an increasingly populist - and protectionist - political line.


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Dezinformatsiya 2.0
Russia Heats Up Its Infowar With The West

March 3, 2017  •  The Daily Beast

When it comes to Russian propaganda, we haven't seen anything yet. Over the past several months, Americans have become acutely aware of a phenomenon that Europeans were already all too familiar with: the pervasive, corrosive nature of Russian propaganda. Russia's purported attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election remain a major topic of national debate—one that could, even now, lead to fresh Congressional investigations and a political showdown between Capitol Hill and the new White House. Yet the scope of Russia's propaganda machine is still poorly understood by most Americans. Many may by now be familiar with Moscow's highest profile media outlets, like television channel RT (which the Russian government funds to the tune of some $250 million annually) and the flashy Sputnik "news" multimedia website (which is likewise lavishly bankrolled by the Kremlin). But the full range of Russia's information operations are still truly appreciated only by the small cadre of foreign policy and national security professionals who have been forced to grapple with their far-reaching and negative effects.

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Why Russia Won't Help Trump On Iran

February 10, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

By all appearances, the Donald Trump administration is preparing to attempt a historic reconciliation with Russia. In part, the strategy is aimed at driving a wedge into the long-running strategic partnership between Moscow and Tehran. With the proper incentives, the thinking goes, it might be possible to "flip" Russia. "There's daylight between Russia and Iran, for sure," one foreign official familiar with the White House's deliberations explained. "What's unclear is what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would demand in return for weakening the alliance." The new president and his advisers may soon find, however, that precipitating a Russian-Iranian split is an exceedingly tall order. The past decade has provided ample proof that the military, political, and economic bonds that Russia and the Islamic Republic have built over the past quarter-century are remarkably resilient. And today, there is reason to believe that the strategic partnership between the two countries is stronger than ever.

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Trump's Ukraine Dilemma

February 6, 2017  •  U.S. News & World Report

What's behind the renewed fighting in Ukraine? Over the past week, the country's eastern Donbas region – which has been a hotbed of separatist activity since the start of military hostilities between Russia and Ukraine in early 2014 – has been rocked by new, and intense, clashes between the Ukrainian military and Russian-supported rebels. The violence has already ravaged Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town of some 20,000, and left international observers scrambling to re-impose some sort of ceasefire. The situation, in the words of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, is now "an emergency situation verging on a humanitarian disaster." Recriminations for the renewed violence abound. Russian officials have pinned the blame on Ukraine for the current bout of unrest, condemning Kiev's "provocative actions" and suggesting that Poroshenko is using the conflict as a way of recapturing the attention of the West. The Ukrainian government, for its part, has called the spike in hostilities "a clear indication of Russia's continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreements" – the troubled ceasefire accord concluded between Kiev and Moscow back in February 2015. There's ample reason to believe Kiev's version of events, given the extensive, and pervasive, evidence of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine. But perhaps the most compelling argument behind the claim that Russia is driving the current cycle of violence is a simple one: It coincides closely with the unfolding thaw in relations between Washington and Moscow.

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Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

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