Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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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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The Future Of The Global War On Terror

Issue 18, December 2016  •  AFPC Defense Dossier

Since it surged into public awareness in 2014 with its rapid, bloody takeover of parts of Iraq (and subsequently Syria), the terrorist group popularly known as the Islamic State has captivated the global imagination. The group's rapid military advances, coupled with its unbridled brutality, have made it global public enemy number one. As a result, the organization has become the near-singular focus of Western counterterrorism policy. Of late, however, strategic setbacks suffered by the Islamic State in its rump "caliphate" of Iraq and Syria have raised the prospect that America's counterterrorism fight, at least in its current form, might soon be a thing of the past. Yet the Islamic State's decline has also raised a host of new and troubling questions about the future disposition of its franchises, competitors and ideological fellow travelers - answers to which will be essential to the success of U.S. counterterrorism policy in the years ahead.

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Peril In Peru
Islamic Terror Shifts South

January 18, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

It might just be the most important terrorism case you've never heard of. Last fall, prosecutors in the Peruvian capital of Lima launched formal legal proceedings against a 30-year-old alleged Hezbollah operative named Mohammed Hamdar. The trial, now underway, has major regional—indeed, global—implications for the fight against international terrorism. The case dates back to October 2014, when Peruvian police arrested the then-28-year-old Lebanese national in Lima's Surquillo district. When he was apprehended, Hamdar had traces of suspicious chemicals on one of his hands. The same residue was also found in his apartment. He later tested positive for contact with nitroglycerine, a common ingredient in the production of explosives. Additionally, during the course of his subsequent interrogation, he admitted that he was a member of Hezbollah and that the group had asked him to conduct surveillance throughout the country. Peruvian authorities, however, believe that his writ was broader still and that Hamdar was, in fact, casing several soft targets as a prelude to a major terrorist attack—one that may have been timed to coincide with the UN Climate Change Summit, scheduled to take place in Lima later that year. The Hamdar affair is important because it provides proof that Latin American countries are not immune from the threat posed by radical Islamist terrorism. But the case is significant for a broader reason as well. If properly adjudicated, it could supply a powerful precedent that could help spur an expansion of national counterterrorism legislation in Peru and provide a model for other countries in the region in their own dealings with Hezbollah, its chief sponsor Iran, and other radical actors.

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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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