Category: Sarah Timreck

Egypt as a counter-terrorism partner

At the Tuesday, February 21 event at the Center for American Progress, the assembled panelists discussed the opportunities for re-setting US-Egypt relations under the Trump administration. Discussing the recently released report with findings on how Egyptians feel about the future of their country, Nancy A. Youssef, Senior National Security Correspondent at Buzzfeed, moderated the conversation between Daniel Benaim, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Mokhtar Awad, Research Fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism, and Eric Trager, Esther K. Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Benaim discussed the main takeaways from the report, which engaged a variety of Egyptians in discussing the new moment for US-Egypt relations with Trump and Sisi at their respective helms. Sisi remains preoccupied with security threats and desires a strategic relationship with the United States to better address these issues. Because of his overwhelming concern to maintain stability after 2013, Egypt lacks a long-term plan or sense of direction. Although it will by and large escape the fate of its Arab neighbors and is tired of unrest, Egypt has become brittle from repression and faces major gaps in governance.

Benaim fears that a closer relationship between Trump and Sisi could enable Sisi’s repressive instincts rather than direct attention towards Egypt’s political and economic shortcomings. Trager likewise found contemporary Egyptian politics bleak as Egyptians see no alternative to the Sisi government, which has decreased in popularity due to economic decline and the sense of drift pervasive throughout the country.

However, closer ties between the two countries also present a chance to benefit citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. Benaim said that with deeper cooperation Trump has the opportunity to address human rights and governance inside Egypt and increase transparency within the military and Sisi’s government. Trager was also interested in seeing how Sisi will manage domestic problems in 2017 in preparation for the 2018 elections.

Awad shifted focus to the security landscape within Egypt and the policy implications of the existing threats. Although not as dire as in other Middle East countries, terrorist attacks have been escalating gradually over the last three years. The major threat theaters are the northeastern Sinai, the Nile Valley, and the Western Desert. In Sinai, the Egyptian military has become more successful at prosecuting insurgents, but still lacks a centralized agency that focuses on counterinsurgency strategy, making it difficult to address the consistent attacks in the area. Unrest in Libya impacts the Western Desert demanding increased border security and changes in Egypt’s policy towards its neighbors. In the Nile valley area, violence has escalated and become increasingly sophisticated since 2013, largely stemming from radicalization within prisons and radicalized groups aligned to factions within the Muslim Brotherhood.

While Sisi is good at keeping the Brotherhood is check, it is unclear whether there is a plan to leverage the government’s control over the organization to reach a final settlement with reconcilables within the Brotherhood to abandon violence and repent. Trager added to this discussion by cautioning against navigating the Brotherhood as a singular organization but rather a global movement, some of whose affiliates practice or endorse terrorism.

While the US-Egypt relationship under Trump could position Sisi as an effective counterterrorism partner, both panelists advocated discretion in applying a terrorist designation to the Brotherhood. They focused instead on identifying radical elements of the organization to better combat violence, rather than condemning the Brotherhood overall, which could lead to greater alienation and the inability to reach a final settlement.

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Peace picks February 27 – March 3

  1. Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum: Negotiation Day – Negotiators’ Behavior in the End Game | Monday, February 27 | 9 – 10:30am | SAIS Johns Hopkins | Register Here | No analytical work has ever addressed the subject of How Negotiations End. We know that negotiators act differently in the endgame–when they see the end is in sight, good or bad, and they work to that end. This project addresses that situation, examining way in which the endgame ends positively or negatively, and the way in which typical behavioral patterns are encountered on the way. A path breaking study of a neglected topic. The book is now in press with Cambridge University Press, the latest study of the Process of International Negotiation (PIN) Program at Clingendael, Netherlands.
  2. Potential Negotiations in the Upcoming Year | Monday, February 27 | 11 am – 12:30 pm | SAIS Johns Hopkins | Register Here | We are faced today with an international situation filled with challenges for negotiation. These represent opportunities open for pursuit; others represent situations looking for an opportunity. In this situation, what are the prospects for pursuing and developing negotiations as a means of managing conflict and of furthering US policy goals.Speakers:Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, the Russian Federation, India, Israel, and JordanPrinceton Lyman, former US Ambassador to Nigerial and South Africa

    Galia Golan, Professor at the School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya

    Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS

    I WIlliam Zartman, Jacob Blaustein Professor Emeritus of International Organizations and Conflict Resolution, SAIS – Moderator

    Location Kenney Herter Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW

  3. Crude Strategy: Rethinking the U.S. Military Commitment to Defend Persian Gulf Oil | Monday, February 27 | 11 – 12:30pm | Cato Institute | Register Here | Should the United States continue to use its military to guarantee the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf? For more than 30 years, U.S. foreign policy has been shaped by a commitment to safeguard the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Yet profound changes in international oil markets, growth in domestic U.S. energy production, and dramatic shifts in the Middle Eastern balance of power suggest that it may be time to reconsider whether this commitment is still warranted. In Crude Strategy, a multidisciplinary team of political scientists, economists, and historians set out to explore the links between Persian Gulf oil and U.S. national security. Their essays explore key questions such as the potential economic cost of disruption in oil supply, whether disruptions can be blunted with nonmilitary tools, the potential for instability in Saudi Arabia, and the most effective U.S. military posture for the region. By clarifying the assumptions underlying the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, the authors conclude that the case for revising America’s grand strategy towards the region is far stronger than is commonly assumed.
  4. The Trump Administration and the Future of the Kurds | Monday February 27 | 2 – 3:30pm | Wilson Center | Register Here | The Kurdish issue in the Middle East is at an important juncture. The Iraqi Kurds, faced with an unsettled Iraq, are itching to declare their independence. The Syrian Kurds have managed to affiliate themselves with the United States against ISIS but face a hostile reaction from Turkey, their northern neighbor, intent on rolling back their successes. The Turkish Kurds have to contend with the effects of government attempts at suppressing their legal political representatives and the war between the Turkish state and the PKK, which are challenging the country’s stability. Our panel will discuss these and other issues pertaining to the future Kurdish political landscape.
  5. U.S. – Turkey Cooperation in Syria and the Role of the U.S. in the Middle East | Monday February 27 | 3 – 4:30pm | Turkish Heritage Organization | Register Here | The Trump administration has inherited numerous, complex challenges in the Middle East. Regional instability caused by the Syrian civil war continues to have a profound impact on one of the U.S.’s most strategic NATO allies – Turkey – and on the bilateral relationship between Washington and Ankara. As the Trump administration prepares to tackle these issues and re-shape America’s role in the region, experts will discuss the choices and challenges facing the U.S. and Turkey.
  6. The Impact of Shifting Geopolitics on MENA Energy | Tuesday February 28 | 12 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | Changes in the energy market, new entrants, and conflicting economic and national security interests at the regional and global level have altered the market power of Middle Eastern oil and gas producers. Industry developments and new policies under the Trump administration are likely to lead to the expansion of U.S. shale oil and gas production and increased exports. Russia vies daily with Saudi Arabia to be the world’s largest producer, while prices remain far below levels of a few years ago. How are Middle Eastern states coping politically and economically with the challenges of a global energy market in an historic transition?
  7. Obama’s Legacy, Trump’s Inheritance in the Middle East (Annual Kuwait Chair Lecture) | Tuesday February 28 | 6:30 – 7:45pm | Elliott School of International Affairs | Register Here | Join us as Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm examines the environment in the Middle East that President Trump inherits from his predecessor and explores the parameters for action by the new administration.
  8. Food for Humanity | Wednesday March 1 | 12:15 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | The Middle East Institute’s Arts & Culture Program is pleased to host a conversation about the political, emotional and symbolic significance of food for displaced and diaspora communities. The panel will explore the unifying role of food, its ability to generate empathy, and its power to build community among diverse peoples through the ritual sharing of a meal. The panel will also discuss how food can serve as a source of income, a form of cultural resistance, and as a means of preserving identity and heritage for refugee communities in the face of loss.
  9. How People Become Terrorists | Wednesday March 1 | 12:15 – 1:45pm | New America | Register Here | In the years since 9/11 the scope and nature of the global neo-jihadi threat to the West has changed radically, prompting reassessments from those following the threat. In his latest book Misunderstanding Terrorism, Marc Sageman examines the current threat and articulates a new model of how people become terrorists, which has strong implications for the fight against terrorists that go against the conventional wisdom. New America welcomes Dr. Sageman for a discussion of what is driving the current generation of jihadists to become terrorists and how the U.S. should adapt to the threat. Marc Sageman is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the author of Misunderstanding Terrorism and two other critically acclaimed books: Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004) and Leaderless Jihad (UPP, 2007).
  10. Women of the Caliphate: Gender Dynamics in State-Building Jihadi Organizations | Thursday March 2 | 5:30 – 7pm | American University | Register Here | A Talk with Hamoon Khelghat-Doost, from the National University of Singapore. Hamoon Khelghat-Doost looks at gender dynamics within jihadi organizations by examining their standpoint on the state-building process. His talk will explore the reasons for jihadi organizations, such as ISIS, to incorporate a relatively high number of women. Khelghat-Doost has conducted fieldwork in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and along Syrian borders in southern Turkey.
  11. Prospects for the Next Generation of Palestinian Leadership | Friday March 3 | 12 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | President Trump’s backpedaling on the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution shines a spotlight on the Palestinians’ looming leadership crisis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now 81, has yet to cultivate a successor, and his administration faces growing concerns about its credibility twelve years after the last national elections. How should the next generation of Palestinian leaders approach such complex issues as Israeli settlement expansion, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, economic troubles, and engagement on the international stage?
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The US-Iraqi relationship re-examined

At an event at the Wilson Center last Wednesday experts gathered to discuss the US-Iraqi relationship under the new administration. The panel included Luay Al-Khatteeb, Executive Director at the Iraq Energy Institute and Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University- SIPA, Abbas Kadhim, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at SAIS- Johns Hopkins University and President at the Institute of Shia Studies, and Denise Natali, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Henri J. Barkey, Director at the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, moderated the discussion.

Al-Khatteeb discussed the ways in which Iraq and the United States could start a new chapter and develop a more solid relationship. Iraq has experienced two different US foreign policies in the last 15 years, one heavy engagement under Bush and then lesser interest and engagement under Obama. Trump has an opportunity to turn in a better direction. But Al-Khatteeb believes that the administration is off to a troubling start with its executive order on immigration, which sends a bad signal to Iraq.

Iraq still faces challenges. Each is  an opportunity for US engagement and partnership. As a major producer of oil, Iraq has the potential to be a commercial economic hub if the right policies are implemented. Iraq must address mismanagement, corruption, and the legal vacuum still plaguing government institutions. Iraqi security forces have become far more effective in fighting transnational terrorist groups, but they still must contend with the post-Mosul security situation as well as maintaining stability as the basis for reconciliation between political actors.

Kadhim underlined the importance of the American-Iraqi relationship from both the Iraqi and US perspective. From the Iraqi point of view, the US provides vital support for the fight against terrorism. The US is also still considered a broker inside Iraq to navigate rivalries between groups within the country. It is America’s moral responsibility to stand by Iraq and help it become a vital state and prevent it from disintegrating into a failed state. Trump cannot ignore the policy of the previous administration or return to a Bush-style engagement, but he should take into account what has been happening and react to the realities on the ground. The United States will also need to decide whether a one Iraq or two-Iraq policy is appropriate for how to work with the country. For its part, Iraq must decide how vital the US relationship is to Iraq, and whether they truly want to engage with America.

Natali said that Iraq is hyper-fragmented and hyper-localized, with a great deal of distrust and revenge within communities that does not necessarily fall along ethno-sectarian lines. This has led to an increased need for protection among these groups, which has subsequently led to a proliferation of militia and transactional security agreements across localities. Cross-ethnic and cross-sectarian pacts have formed in a way unimaginable before, greatly changing societal relations within the country and presenting new challenges. Other challenges include disputed territory and how to delineate boundaries, the relationship between the Kurds and Baghdad, and control of Iraqi oil. While the Trump administration will not fundamentally change US policy towards Iraq, Natali believes it will be important to engage with local partners and state institutions as strategic anchor points. The most important issue is the post-ISIS endgame and its cultural, educational, and strategic impact, as well as border security, military support, and humanitarian relief.

Questions addressed America’s role in fostering reconciliation after ISIS as well as its role as a regional broker. Natali said that the US will not get engaged directly but rather through third parties at the local level and again sought to de-emphasize the ethno-sectarian aspect of conflict resolution. She also said it was important to differentiate between actors who are working to destabilize Iraq. Distinguishing between Iran and IRGC-backed militias, for example, is necessary to make policy more targeted and responsive. Kadhim also emphasized the local level as the site of reconciliation and recommended a committee of experts and people who have the tools to successfully create peace and stabilization to act as brokers. From a regional perspective, Al-Khateeb said that because Iraq is surrounded by six countries that will inevitably be in conflict with one another, state relations will be challenging and the country must adjust to regional realities.

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Challenges to Yemen’s peace process

In an event held by the Atlantic Council on Monday February 13, experts gathered together to discuss challenges to the Yemeni peace process and its outlook for success. Moderated by Mirette F. Mabrouk, Deputy Director and Director for Research & Programs at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, the panel included H.E. Khaled Ayemany, Permanent Representative of Yemen to the United States, Nawda Al-Dawsari, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy, Mohammed Khalid Alyahya, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, and Nabeel Khoury, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.

Ayemany said UN Resolution 2216, passed in 2015, is the most important legal instrument the international community has to end the conflict by recovering legitimate governance and law and order. But the Obama administration has kidnapped the entire peace process and negatively impacted the outcome. According to Ayemany, the United States has always had a special relationship with Yemen, especially in the war against terrorism. But the “deceiving alliance” with America under Obama led to obstacles in the peace process largely due to other regional American concerns in Syria and with Iran. Ayemany feared that Yemen would become worse than Somalia if the government was dissolved completely, and hoped that the Trump administration would reverse the Obama administration’s damaging effec. Iran is also a significant actor in the conflict, though Ayemany felt Iran had lost its ability to gain control or influence in Yemen.

Al-Dawsari discussed her research into civilians’ perspectives on the peace talks, noting there is deep resentment and distrust of both the negotiations as well as the actors involved in the peace talks. The UN-sponsored peace process is deeply flawed because it is elite-centric and neither inclusive of Yemenis nor understanding of the conflict. There are two major reasons for the conflict—power struggles between former president Saleh and his traditional allies, and local grievances and resentment towards elite. Because the UN and the international community have only addressed the former cause, peace talks have and will continue to fall short. Allowing elite actors and issues to monopolize peace talks, Al-Dawsari argues, will not end the conflict. It is important to engage local actors who have the potential to develop a more comprehensive solution.

Alyahya discussed the role of Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict. Because Yemen is in its back yard, Saudi Arabia is interested in having a stable and prosperous neighbor. The Kingdom has attempted to keep Yemen afloat with aid. Alyahya highlighted the achievements of the coalition, which he said now controls 80% of land in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s help is far preferable than what Yemen might look like had the Kingdom not intervened at all.

He also discussed Iran’s role in the conflict. With a wide network of militias across the Arab world, Iran maintains influence over the Houthis and provides material support in the form of weapons and training. Saudi Arabia is frustrated with the roll back of US operational support and wants the Trump administration to increase assistance through intelligence sharing as well as political and logistical support.

Khoury provided insight into the bigger picture of the conflict as well as obstacles to peace on the national, regional, and international level. On the national level, Saleh’s departure left a void that Yemen struggled to fill; if Yemenis had gotten together to form a power-sharing arrangement for governance, the country would not today be entrenched in conflict. Regionally, Khoury echoed Alyahya in saying that it is important for Saudi Arabia to have a stable Yemen, but intervention further complicated the picture by throwing Yemen into the greater regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. On the international level, Khoury identified three goals the United States has in Yemen: pursuing its counterterrorism efforts, supporting Saudi Arabia’s operations, and countering Iran’s influence. There is no “Yemen first” approach; if the country were to fall apart, it would be worse than Afghanistan.

The panelists also discussed the various rounds of peace talks, the role the international community has played, and what the outcome of the current process might be. Al-Dawsari said that tribal leaders, whose local capacity can better resolve internal conflicts, could more effectively mitigate the broader conflict in Yemen. Khoury agreed that the crux is at the local level and that the peace process has not empowered traditional tribal mediation skills. To truly be successful, the talks must bring major tribal powers together. Alyahya believes that the coalition should stand behind a legitimate Yemeni government and in support of stability on the ground.

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Peace Picks February 13-17

  1. Challenges to the Yemeni Peace Process | Monday, February 13 | 10:00am – 11:30am | The Atlantic Council | Register HERE Please join the Atlantic Council for an on-the-record discussion with H.E. Khaled Alyemany, Yemen’s permanent representative to the United Nations, to discuss challenges and opportunities in the Yemeni peace process. In March 2015, an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen at the request of Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to reverse an offensive by Houthi rebels allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was ousted following mass protests in 2011. Almost two years into the conflict, we will assess the main challenges and opportunities in the peace process and the prospects of a sustained political settlement to end the war as well as the role the United States could play in bringing that to fruition.
  2. Afghanistan: Prospects for 2017 and Beyond | Monday, February 13 | 12:15pm – 1:45pm | New America | Register HERE With his inauguration as President, Donald Trump is the third president to command American forces in Afghanistan. Yet Afghanistan continues to receive little attention in public debates over policy. More than 15 years after American forces first entered the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, what are the prospects for the Afghan government and people and how will Donald Trump shape American policy towards Afghanistan?
  3. Yemen at a Crossroads: The Role of the GCC in 2017 | Monday, February 13 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm | Persian Gulf Institute | Register HERE Please join PGI for a discussion on Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC’s) role in the country for the coming year. We will begin with opening remarks by three individuals with unique experiences in the region followed by a group discussion -that includes you! It will be moderated by PGI President Shahed Ghoreishi and will feature PGI Research Director Robert Bonn. The event will also include time for networking and further discussion in a more informal setting at the end. The bios of our panelists are below. Please reserve your tickets soon because space is limited in order to promote a quality group discussion. We look forward to seeing you there!
  4. The Arab World Upended: Revolution and its Aftermath in Tunisia and Egypt | Tuesday, February 14 | 12:00pm – 1:00pm | Woodrow Wilson Center | Register HERE As Egypt marks the sixth anniversary of the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, The Arab World Upended undertakes to track the similarities between the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the great Western revolutions. It also seeks to explain why the two Arab uprisings experienced such vastly different outcomes and examines the likely enduring legacies of these first two major Arab revolutions of the 21st century on the politics of the entire region.
  5. Iraq and the GCC: New Realities in Gulf Security | Tuesday, February 14 | 1:00pm – 2:30pm | The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington | Register HERE This AGSIW panel will discuss the state of relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Iraq. How do Gulf countries view Iraq’s evolving regional role? What role might they play in reshaping Iraq’s domestic landscape, particularly the crucial struggle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and bolstering its political stability? Besides counterterrorism and trade, what other opportunities for cooperation and strengthened ties can be explored? Can Iraq reassure GCC states regarding its relationship with Iran, or even use them as a counterweight to Iranian pressure? Could Baghdad help mediate between Tehran and its GCC rivals? What is the Gulf interest in the Kurdish question, and its impact on other regional concerns, including Syria? How does American policy factor into these and other questions?
  6. Challenges and Opportunities for US-Iraqi Relations in the New Era | Wednesday, February 15 | 9:00am – 10:00am | Woodrow Wilson Center | Register HERE Fourteen years after the American-led invasion, Iraq remains a fractured country and stability continues to be an elusive goal. The Kurds in the north are threatening secession while neighboring Iran is projecting its influence to Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iraq is the site of one of the most intense fights against ISIS where Iraqi troops, assisted by American special forces, are slowly working to recapture Mosul. As an oil and gas rich country, Iraq is also an important player in the world energy markets and more strategically significant to the United States than many other states in the region. Complicating the U.S.-Iraqi relationship is the recent White House executive order that temporarily bans Iraqi citizens from entering the United States. Experts will discuss the future of U.S.-Iraq relations within the context of a new American administration.
  7. UN Human Rights Chief on His ‘Impossible Diplomacy’ | Thursday, February 16 | 4:30pm – 6:00pm | United States Institute of Peace | Register HERE Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a Jordanian career diplomat and leader in international criminal justice, serves as the seventh United Nations high commissioner for human rights. He led in the creation of the International Criminal Court and in the framing of the world’s legal definition of “crimes against humanity.” On Feb. 16, the U.S. Institute of Peace will host Amb. Zeid as he receives the annual Trainor Award from Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Amb. Zeid will speak on “The Impossible Diplomacy of Human Rights.”
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The Middle East post-Khamenei and Sistani

In a February 6 event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, leading thinkers on Iran gathered to discuss the future of Iran post-Khamenei. Ali Mamouri, lecturer at the University of Sydney, and Suzanne Maloney, a deputy director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Mehdi Khalaji, the Libitzky Family Fellow at the Washington Institute, moderated.

Khalaji framed the conversation around his new study, The Future of Leadership in the Shiite Community. Specifically, he discussed the role Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi might play in the post-Khamenei Shiite community. Because of both Khamenei and Sistani’s advanced ages (seventy-seven and eighty-six respectively), Shahroudi may be poised to become Supreme Leader of Iran as well as to take over the role top religious authority for Shia Islam. Khalaji believes it is useful to know him because there is no pattern to follow on succession. We can and should expect surprises. This opened the discussion up to the future of Shiism in the region more generally.

Mamouri discussed the future of Iraq and the prospects for Shiism after Sistani. The relationship between Sistani and Khamenei, while not hostile, is also not entirely friendly. Sistani’s Iraq and Khamenei’s Iran present two different models of governance and religious authority, a traditional Shiite system and the wilayat al-faqih theocratic model respectively. He said competition between the two sides has centered on control of Shiite Iraqis. Sistani tries to avoid sectarian problems while Iran tries to remain influential among Shiites within Iraq. The death of either would create a vacuum that the other could easily dominate. If Sistani dies first, the search for a new leader could take five to ten years, during which time Khamenei would expand his influence.

Maloney  discussed US policy in Iran and how religious succession might influence America’s attitude in the region. The US government is concerned about the nature of the Iranian regime and how it might evolve, adapt, and promote responsible policy around the region. Iran’s regime type drives its political attitudes, worldview, and foreign policy. This in turn will influence Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and subsequently US policy choices. While different administrations have different theories on Iran, Maloney said that we are living through an interesting moment because we might be on the verge of a wholesale transformation in US policy from Obama to Trump.

The central question remains, what creates positive change in Iran? Maloney expressed skepticism of Obama’s theory that diplomatic engagement could bring long-term moderation and wondered if Trump’s confrontational approach would produce short-term change. Succession remains a key factor in Iran’s evolution, and the country is currently at a critical juncture in choosing its next Supreme Leader.

Khalaji then asked the panelists what the immediate implications of the leaders’ deaths would be for US policy within the next four years. Maloney said it depended on who moves into Khamenei’s position, how quickly that happens, and how people react. Mamouri said that Sistani is important for the US because of his wide influence on Shiite Arabs; without him, American policy might not continue to push for a democratic political system.

Both panelists also discussed the role of Iran’s Shiite militias in the region and how they would impact succession. Mamouri said that while Iraqi security forces could incorporate them, some factions would resist following this pattern and instead turn to Iran. Maloney pointed to the heavy military intermingling between groups as well as the greater respect for the institution of the Supreme Leader’s office as differences between succession today and what occurred in 1989. Khalaji concluded by saying that the sustainability of future leadership is reliant on the military, specifically the IRGC, and whether they can come to a consensus on important issues.

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