Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Here Comes Saudi Arabia's African Offensive

March 29, 2020  •  The National Interest

Slowly but surely, Riyadh is beginning to look west. After years of comparatively modest engagement with the countries of East Africa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is today putting in motion and ambitious strategy for engagement with the continent. In January, the heads of five East African nations (Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, and Egypt) and three Middle Eastern ones (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan) gathered in the Saudi capital to sign the Red Sea Pact, a new framework for enhanced trade and diplomacy along the Red Sea corridor. The agreement, some three years in the making, lays the groundwork for what Saudi officials hope will become a new cooperative regime for the area.

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Iran's Current Crisis – And Its Next One

March 24, 2020  •  Al-Hurra Digital

The Islamic Republic is profoundly sick – and getting sicker. Since the global outbreak of coronavirus in recent weeks, Iran has emerged as one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. Today, it ranks sixth in the world for the number of reported cases of the disease. Yet there is good reason to believe that the true scope of the country's crisis as yet remains largely unreported.

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Iran's Illness Comes From Asia

March 16, 2020  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Why, exactly, has Iran been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus? While it is far from the epicenter of the outbreak in China's Wuhan province, and even though it lacks the open borders that have aided transmission throughout Europe, Iran has nonetheless emerged as one of the countries most severely impacted by the emerging pandemic. As of March 12th, The Johns Hopkins University – which operates one of the most comprehensive online coronavirus resources publicly available – ranked Iran third in the world in the number of reported coronavirus infections. There are now estimated to be over 10,000 reported cases within the Islamic Republic, but observers – taking into account the prevalence of high-profile cases there and how many senior Iranian leaders have fallen ill – suspect there could actually be many, many more. The causes for the internal spread of the disease are numerous, and include a slow, disorganized governmental response and deep disdain for modern medicine among the country's clerical elites. But one of the most significant causes for the current crisis stems from the regime's choice of strategic allies.

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Will Iran's Regime Survive Coronavirus?

March 12, 2020  •  National Review

Soaring inflation. Deepening domestic discontent. An expanding environmental crisis. Even before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in recent weeks, the Iranian regime was struggling under the weight of domestic problems that increasingly threatened to undermine the integrity of the Islamic Republic. With the advent of COVID-19, however, matters have become much, much worse for the Iranian regime -- so much so that it isn't unreasonable to think that the Iranian regime could buckle under the weight of its own internal contradictions. That's because, for Iran's ayatollahs, coronavirus represents a true "black swan" event. The term, popularized by the scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2008 book of the same name, refers to an improbable occurrence that cannot be reasonably predicted, but which has profound -- and potentially catastrophic -- consequences. This is what COVID-19 is for Iran.

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Saudi Deradicalization Faces The Future

March 11, 2020  •  Center for Global Policy Navigator no. 136

Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a monumental transition. This shift, set in motion by Vision 2030," the signature initiative of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has expanded since the Vision's formal launch in 2016 to touch upon virtually every aspect of life within the Kingdom. It entails dramatic shifts in the national economy as the country reorients away from its traditional dependence on oil revenue. It is also visible at the societal level, with extensive reforms enabling greater economic opportunities for women, a loosening of restrictions on social interactions between the sexes, and a more relaxed attitude toward popular culture. Nowhere, however, is change more pronounced – and more potentially significant – than in the realm of religious affairs.

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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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