Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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How The Kremlin Exploits Counterterrorism

June 20, 2018  •  The National Interest

Just how effective is the Kremlin's counterterrorism strategy? Russia's leaders have long extolled the proactive measures taken by the country's assorted security services to keep its citizens safe from extremist elements, and periodic skirmishes between police and Islamic radicals continue to take place throughout the Federation. But the actual impact of Russia's anti-terror efforts remains largely unverified. That's the conclusion of a recent expose from Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia's last remaining independent newspapers. According to the study, while Russia's numerous and overlapping security agencies "regularly report" on the effectiveness of the measures taken by their departments, "it is not possible to verify all this information for the most part." That is because, "with rare exceptions," the names of those who either attempt or actually commit terrorist acts are withheld from the public. Similarly, "with few exceptions, nothing is known about the trials of the defendants . . . or about the sentences passed." The result is that the true state of Russia's security environment is opaque—and the Kremlin's depiction of it deeply unreliable.

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New Report: Iran's Influence In Syria Far Broader Than Commonly Understood

May 31, 2018  •  Tablet

Just how deep does Iran's influence run in Syria? After a half decade of overt and covert Iranian military assistance to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian regime is widely understood to be playing a key role in the Syrian theater. But, according to a new study from the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, an Istanbul-based think tank focused on the Syrian conflict, this backing is far broader than commonly understood, and encompasses not just military assistance but also an extensive web of economic and political contacts that are designed to give the Iranian regime a lasting presence on the territory of its top regional ally. "Iranian influence in Syria is often reduced to its military support," the study notes. However, "Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its auxiliary institutions not only provided military and financial support to the Syrian regime but have expanded their administrative and economic activities in Syria by infusing their institutions within the Armed Forces, service-delivery ministries, local political and armed bodies, and non-governmental organizations." The results, the Omran Center report outlines, are extensive – and dramatic.

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The Islamic State Attacks Indonesia—And Its 'Middle Way'

May 30, 2018  •  The Weekly Standard

Earlier this month, after experiencing a long hiatus from violent extremism, Indonesia succumbed anew to Islamist terrorism when a family of suicide bombers struck three different churches in the country's second-largest city, Surabaya. The coordinated attacks during Sunday services on May 13 killed at least 12. The following day, another family of extremists attacked Surabaya's police headquarters, wounding 10. The Islamic State immediately claimed responsibility for both attacks. Beyond the horrifying particulars, which involved the use of children as young as eight, the attacks signal a broader intent: ISIS has chosen to declare war on Indonesia's "middle way" of Islamic culture.

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Uzbekistan's President Goes To Washington

May 24, 2018  •  The National Interest

In official Washington, which is routinely awash in foreign dignitaries, it's all too easy to miss the comings and goings of world leaders. But even by the rather selective standards of the Beltway, last week's state visit of Uzbekistan's president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was noteworthy because it provided policymakers with an authoritative glimpse into the momentous changes now taking place in Central Asia. Since taking office in December 2016, following the death of Uzbekistan's founding president, Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev has spearheaded a series of sweeping reforms affecting virtually every aspect of life in the historically autocratic Central Asian state. The effort—codified in February of 2017, when the Uzbek parliament formally adopted Mirziyoyev's National Development Strategy—is ambitious and unexpected. It marks a significant departure from the established political trajectory of Central Asia's most populous state, which U.S. and European officials had long written off as an authoritarian backwater.

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Scrapping Iran Deal Provides A Trump Card With North Korea

May 16, 2018  •  The Hill

Obama White House, Trump's pullout was condemned as ill-advised for a host of reasons, not least because it complicates America's planned negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After all, these critics argue, why would Pyongyang trust a Washington that doesn't honor its international obligations? That argument, however, is flat wrong. In fact, President Trump's decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal actually strengthens his bargaining position vis-à-vis Pyongyang, and it increases the pressure on the North Korean regime to make meaningful concessions regarding its strategic arsenal if the two leaders meet next month in Singapore as planned.

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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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