Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Beware Iran's Jihadi Legion

August 14, 2017  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Today, the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group has become a top strategic priority of the United States and its allies in the region. In turn, the efforts of Washington and Middle Eastern partners have begun to pay real dividends, with recent months seeing a significant rollback the group's self-declared "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria. But lurking in the background of the current counterterrorism fight is another, and potentially even more significant, long-term threat. Since its rise to prominence in 2014, one of the Islamic State's most striking - and formidable - features has been its ability to inspire and attract disaffected extremists to its cause. Experts estimate that, to date, the group has drawn some 32,000 radicals from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and beyond to its nascent state. Thanks to the influx of these foreign extremists, Syria has steadily transformed into a training ground for today's terrorists and a crucible for a coming wave of extremism. It is, in other words, the new Afghanistan - albeit on a significantly larger scale. The number of foreign fighters in the Islamic State is more than one-and-a-half times the size of the total contingent that joined the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the entire decade between 1979 and 1989. As impressive as it is, however, the size of the Islamic State's jihadi contingent is dwarfed by a second, far less well understood foreign fighter stream: the Shi'ite militias and fighters that have been mobilized over the past two years by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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The Sorry State Of The Ukrainian Navy - And Why It Should Matter To America

August 11, 2017  •  The National Interest

Although it has come at enormous human and financial cost, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has raged in the latter's eastern territories since 2014 has helped spark a fundamental transformation of the Ukrainian military. The country now boasts the second-largest standing army in Europe (behind that of Russia), while a newfound sense of national unity – together with new training and greater readiness – has forged an increasingly capable fighting force. Nevertheless, at least one notable weak spot in Ukraine's current military posture remains. Once the pride of the country's armed forces, the Ukrainian navy has been a principal casualty of the ongoing conflict with Russia.

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Central Asia's Encouraging Development
Why the Region Is Embracing Greater Cooperation and Coordination

August 8, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

Something is stirring across the vast expanse encompassing the Caucasus and Central Asia, an area of nearly 1.6 million square miles and more than 86 million people. Throughout the region, political momentum is gathering for deeper cooperation, engagement, and coordination. This is a decidedly new development. A millennium ago, the broad area that is today known as Central Asia was a global hub for commerce, science, and innovation, before it was gradually eclipsed by the rise of competing empires and intellectual stagnation. More recently, the region's potential has been stifled by decades of Soviet control and by post-Soviet political fragmentation. Over the past quarter century, territorial disputes (like the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh), resource squabbles (such as those surrounding Caspian energy and Central Asian water sharing), and sundry other divisions have dominated regional discourse, shaping how local states have seen one another—and how the outside world has viewed the area as a whole. Now, however, the region is exhibiting new signs of life.

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Still A Bad Deal

July 18, 2017  •  U.S. News & World Report

Last Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the Obama administration's signature foreign policy achievement: the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that agreement was intended as a solution to Iran's persistent nuclear ambitions, and as a vehicle to reboot the Iranian regime's relationship with the world. Two years on, it's clear that the dead has indeed been transformative - for the Iranian regime, at least. For America and its allies, however, it has expanded the gravity of the contemporary threat posed by the Islamic Republic.

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How Russian Rule Has Changed Crimea

July 13, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

Since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the Ukrainian peninsula has become something akin to a "black box," with little verifiable data on conditions available to counterbalance the official Russian narrative that all is well in the Kremlin's newest territorial holding. Now, however, a new study has provided perhaps the most detailed look to date on the true state of political and economic play on the peninsula. Published by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, a new but well-connected think tank based in Kiev, the report—entitled "Crimea: Three Years of Occupation"—draws on data from local sources and the analysis of seasoned specialists to paint a damning picture of the human and economic costs of Russian rule, and to make a compelling case that the Kremlin's Crimean project is a threat to Crimeans themselves, as well as to everyone else.

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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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