Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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What Will Joe Biden Do About The Iran-al-Qaida Connection?

January 14, 2021  •  USA Today

When it comes to foreign policy, it's already clear that one of the biggest differences between the outgoing Trump administration and the incoming Biden team will be Iran. In contrast to the current U.S. policy of "maximum pressure" toward the Islamic Republic, President-elect Joe Biden and his advisers have already promised a more conciliatory approach centered around a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.  But what about Iran's role as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism? That's a title the Iranian regime has held since the U.S. government began formally keeping track of terrorist trends since 1984. Nevertheless, American attention to the issue has waxed and waned over the years in tandem with the priorities of successive administrations in Washington. The present White House, though, sees it as a major issue — and, in its final days in office, is working to make sure that the next one does as well.

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How Iran Is Building Leverage Over Biden

January 9, 2021  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Suddenly, Iran's ayatollahs are on the offensive once again.    In recent days, the Islamic Republic has taken clear steps to ramp up its nuclear program, including expanding its enrichment of uranium to 20%, well beyond levels necessary for simple civilian use, and putting the international community on notice of plans to add 1,000 additional centrifuges to its national atomic effort. At the same time, the regime has revived its pattern of naval provocations, with regime forces seizing a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's military is also preparing for massive military exercises designed to show off its growing arsenal of drones and other advanced weaponry. Though different in nature, these steps all reflect a singular strategic objective on the part of the Iranian regime: to build up bargaining power ahead of likely negotiations with the Biden administration. 

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Gauging The Future Of The Not-So Islamic Republic Of Iran

December 31, 2020  •  The Washington Times

How religious is Iran, really? Ever since the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to launch a religious revolution in his home country more than four decades ago, a central tenet of the clerical regime he established — and the source of its power and legitimacy in the Muslim world — has been its role as the mouthpiece for the world's Shi'a. That claim, in turn, is underpinned by the unquestioning affiliation and faith of Iran's own domestic population. This contention, however, appears increasingly flimsy. New data compiled by social science researchers earlier this year suggests that religious identity within the Islamic Republic is far more complex than commonly understood — and of much greater diversity than Iran's theocrats would like the world to believe.

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The Israel-Morocco Deal Is a Triumph for Trump—and Biden, Too

December 21, 2020  •  Newsweek

For all of its import, the December 10 announcement by the Kingdom of Morocco that it was normalizing ties with Israel can hardly be said to have been a surprise. Contacts between the two countries span decades, and Rabat and Jerusalem have long boasted a vibrant (if informal) partnership built around cultural bonds, trade ties and political alignment. A public affirmation of this extant reality wasn't really a matter of if, but of when. Even so, the start of official contacts between the two countries is a major development, and one that strengthens what has emerged as the signal foreign policy achievement of the outgoing Trump administration. Over the past four years, the White House has worked diligently to advance its vision of a more integrated and economically prosperous Middle East. This plan has borne fruit in what has turned out to be its last year in office. Since this summer, the "normalization" wave nurtured by the current Trump administration has yielded no fewer than four separate agreements between Israel and the Islamic world (with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco), as well as other ententes and diplomatic breakthroughs with Serbia, Kosovo and Bhutan. (Additional such arrangements may still be in the offing in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.) As a result, President Trump will leave office next month having done more to advance regional stability and Israeli-Islamic world relations than all of his predecessors combined. But the Israel-Morocco deal should also be seen as a boon for the incoming Biden administration, for at least two reasons.

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Israel Aims To Make Iran's Nuclear Program A Risky Venture

December 1, 2020  •  Newsweek

On Friday, the world woke up to news that Iran's leading nuclear scientist had been killed outside Tehran. Earlier that day, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a high-ranking officer in Iran's feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was assassinated in an ambush in a secluded village east of the Iranian capital. Contrary to much of the media coverage surrounding the incident, Fakhrizadeh was far more than just a preeminent nuclear specialist. He was also the architect of Iran's nuclear weapons program, and a pioneer of the Islamic Republic's effort to clandestinely acquire an offensive-oriented atomic arsenal. And while its policymakers have remained understandably mum on the subject, intelligence officials strongly believe that Israel was behind the killing as part of a new push by Jerusalem to derail Iran's nuclear program.

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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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