Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Testing Trump's Iran Strategy

October 30, 2018  •  The Washington Times

On Nov. 6, Americans will go to the polls in midterm elections that are likely to reshape the complexion of national politics. But even before they do, U.S. foreign policy will face a crucial test of resolve vis-a-vis the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Back in May, President Trump formally announced that the United States was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and that pre-existing sanctions which had been waived by the Obama administration would begin to "snap back" into place against the Islamic Republic. The first step in this direction was the re-imposition on Aug. 7 of restrictions on Iran's ability to buy U.S. currency, its trade in precious metals, and commercial sales of aircraft and auto parts to the Islamic Republic. These steps have already begun to have a marked impact on Iran's economy, prompting a veritable exodus of foreign companies from the Islamic Republic and cratering the value of Iran's national currency, the rial. But the second tranche of sanctions, which is set to be reinstated on Nov. 4, promises to be even more serious. The new measures will include massive restrictions on Iran's global oil trade, as well as a severing of Iran's Central Bank from the global financial system. Taken in isolation, these steps have the power to deal a severe blow to Iran's fragile, energy-dependent economy. Taken together, the impact on Iran's radical regime — which is already said to be on the verge of economic collapse — could be nothing short of catastrophic. If the sanctions are fully implemented, that is.

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Ankara And The Khashoggi Affair

October 19, 2018  •  Al-Hurra Digital

The strange (and almost certainly tragic) case of Jamal Khashoggi – the Saudi civic activist turned American newspaper columnist – continues to profoundly roil U.S.-Saudi relations. The exact details of the incident remain disputed, but at least some facts are known. The 59-year-old Khashoggi disappeared on October 2nd in Istanbul, Turkey after entering the Saudi consulate there to clarify an administrative matter. He never left, and foul play is now strongly suspected. Leaks from Turkish sources have suggested that Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi hit team specifically dispatched for that purpose – and that his killing was tied to his prior criticism of the Saudi government in general, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Sultan in particular. Riyadh, for its part, has strongly denied the allegations, but it has not put forth a credible alternative explanation for Khashoggi's fate. And because it hasn't, tempers have flared in Washington, where top lawmakers (including those from President Trump's own political party) have insisted that the Kingdom needs to face real consequences for what appears to have been a brazen assassination abroad. But what about Turkey? From the start, the outsized role played by the Turkish government in the Khashoggi affair has been curious – and significant. Anonymous Turkish sources have figured prominently in the initial allegations of foul play against Khashoggi, as well as in divulging the gory particulars that have since been picked up by media outlets like the New York Times.

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How The Middle East Can Help China's Muslims

October 9, 2018  •  Al-Hurra Digital

The proof is increasingly irrefutable: China's Uighurs are under assault. For nearly two years, details of an extensive campaign of official repression against the Muslim minority of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have trickled out past the PRC's strict web of official censorship. The stories have detailed pervasive monitoring, curbs on Islamic traditions, and the mass detention of as many as one million citizens in the equivalent of "reeducation" camps. Now, a new investigative report by Estonian news portal Meduza had provided what is perhaps the most extensive – and damning – documentation to date regarding this campaign, and the extent to which the Chinese state is repressing and erasing the Muslim traditions and culture of its westernmost province. These revelations have left observers with two questions: What lies behind China's intensifying Xinjiang campaign? And what can and should be done about it?

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Fear And Loathing In Morocco

September 20, 2018  •  The Washington Times

Why is Nasser Bourita worried? The soft-spoken 49-year-old career diplomat, who serves as the Kingdom of Morocco's minister of foreign affairs, already handles an exceedingly complex international portfolio — one encompassing Islamic radicalism in Libya, the status of the contested Western Sahara region and the potentially dire consequences of secession in neighboring Algeria. Of late, however, Mr. Bourita's attention has been consumed by another, largely unexpected issue: a growing Iranian effort to infiltrate his neighborhood.

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Understanding Putin's Paranoid Style

September 1, 2018  •  The National Interest

Just why is Vladimir Putin so popular? Practically since Russia's president first ascended to power in the last days of 1999, observers have puzzled over his broad base of support and enduring appeal, which has persisted despite needless and costly foreign entanglements and notwithstanding widespread and flagrant corruption in the Kremlin. The answer, one of Russia's leading opinion centers has concluded, has everything to do with a pervasive sense of cultural siege. According to the latest poll released by the Moscow-based Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), the results of which have been detailed in The Moscow Times, a majority of Russians now believe that their country is the target of a vast, organized conspiracy aimed at weakening Russia by subverting its society and culture.

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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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