Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Iran's Economy Is A House Of Cards

November 18, 2019  •  The Hill

Just how durable is the Iranian economy, really? As the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran marks its one-year anniversary, that's the question many policymakers in Washington are asking. Iranian officials have been eager to supply the answer. According to the country's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, U.S. pressure has foundered in the face of Iran's heroic revolutionary resistance. America, Khamenei recently intoned, was deluded in thinking that it "will bring Iran to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, particularly through economic sanctions." Other top Iranian decisionmakers have said much the same, taking pains to minimize the impact that U.S. pressure has had on the country's economic health. Look a bit closer, however, and it becomes clear that the Islamic Republic is profoundly ailing.

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Iran's Nuclear Brinksmanship Is Bound To Backfire

November 8, 2019  •  Radio Farda

What could Iran's ayatollahs be thinking? On November 5th, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani announced that his government was planning to restart sensitive nuclear work prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). (The regime has since done so, injecting uranium gas into its centrifuges at its nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow.) The step marks the most concrete Iranian move to date to pull out of the JCPOA, which President Trump abandoned last year but which the remaining P5+1 nations (France, Great Britain, Russia, China and Germany) are desperate to see continue. It also reflects an Iranian effort to prompt those countries to put pressure on the United States to roll back its "maximum pressure" campaign against the Iranian regime. But Iran's decision could turn out to be a tremendously costly one for Tehran, for a couple of key reasons.

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ISIS Leader Is Dead, But His Islamic State Terrorist Group Is Alive With Means To Thrive

October 28, 2019  •  USA Today

This weekend's news that Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had killed himself in Syria's Idlib Province while being pursued by U.S. special forces operators is unquestionably a major milestone in the fight against the world's most notorious terrorist group. It also represents an unalloyed political victory for the Trump administration, which has come under fire of late for its decision to draw down the American presence in Syria. Yet, however momentous, Baghdadi's death remains part of a larger struggle. For although ISIS is significantly diminished, it still possesses formidable strategic capabilities and resources that make it an enduring threat to the United States, as well as to America's interests and its regional allies.

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The New Faces Of Iranian Protest

October 27, 2019  •  The National Interest

In the summer of 2009, tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran and other major cities in what became months of sustained demonstrations against the Iranian regime. The catalyst was the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had secured a second presidential term in a vote marred by glaring official fraud. But, over time, the protests became a more fundamental call for wholesale reform of Iran's political system. And, although ultimately unsuccessful, what came to be known as the Green Movement laid bare the simmering discontent of millions of Iranians who were chafing under the thumb of Iran's corrupt, unrepresentative theocracy and the clerics who run it. A decade later, that dissatisfaction runs deeper than ever. For nearly two years now, renewed grassroots protests have taken place throughout Iran. While more modest in size and scope than those that characterized the Green Movement, these demonstrations have proven to be more diverse and more enduring. They involve activists from various social strata within the country and are aimed at everything from Iran's deepening economic malaise to the regime's misplaced foreign policy priorities. Most significantly, they increasingly reflect a fundamental rejection of the Islamic Republic as a whole. This fact was made clear this past June when fourteen prominent Iranian civil society figures (among them professors, filmmakers, and human rights campaigners) marked the tenth anniversary of the Green Movement by issuing a public statement directed at the Iranian regime.

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How Moscow Inherited The Middle East

October 24, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

What a difference four years can make. In the Fall of 2015, Russia's government made the decision to formally launch a military offensive in support of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Back then, the Kremlin's regional position was profoundly weak. After a period of protracted post-Cold War decline, Moscow's Mideast presence had been whittled down to just one permanent military outpost: its naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. And, at the time, even that facility was in danger of being lost if Assad's government ended up falling to rebel forces. Today, by contrast, Russia's regional presence is robust – and getting even stronger. In Syria, Moscow has succeeded in bolstering its naval base at Tartus (where it now has an open-ended long term lease), building at least three additional military facilities in the country, and significantly beefing up its maritime presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Russia has also managed to leverage its involvement in Syria to launch a landmark expansion into the region via stepped-up arms sales, new bases in North Africa, and a more robust presence in regional politics. Over the past several years, this strategy has helped restore Russia to the role of a key power broker in regional affairs. That status was cemented earlier this week, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to hammer out a bilateral agreement over the future of Syria. The new deal, which comes on the heels of Turkey's recent military invasion, includes a number of key provisions that simultaneously help strengthen the Russo-Turkish strategic relationship and secure Moscow's now-dominant regional position.

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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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