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This article will situate the recent Aktau Agreement reached by all coastal states of the Caspian Sea within the context of Iran’s protracted quest for sovereignty over parts of the Caspian, an endeavor that has been in place since the emergence of boundary confrontations and diplomacy with its northern neighbors during the eighteenth century. It will seek to either verify or dispel myths and rumors that have emerged within Iranian public opinion on the extent of territorial waters and coastline that Iran is entitled to, and has exercised control over during the past few centuries. The role of public opinion is heightened by the extent of popular
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Tehran’s rekindled, yet dangerously more assertive role in Syria is testament to its efforts to expand strategic depth, ranging from Iraq, over the Shia-offshoot Alawite-dominated heartland in Syria, to the Mediterranean shores in both Syria and Lebanon. In that context, asserting leverage in the Golan Heights represents a vital element in the larger struggle to connect the dots of an Iranian-controlled arc of influence across the Levant. In doing so, Iran will likely draw from lessons learned in its substantial, for the most part successful, and well-documented tool of statecraft, namely, the s
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The Kurdish referendum has been perceived by the neighboring countries as a threat to their national security, territorial integrity, and, of course, their regional policies. The international community has also ignored the right to self-determination practiced by the Kurds. This paper seeks to identify options open to the Kurds in the aftermath of the referendum. Whether or not successful, the Kurdish referendum is one of the only referendums exercised in the region since the establishment of the nation-state in the Middle East. Consequently, the referendum will have a significant impact on the ethnic politics of region for years to come. The paper, t
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The growing ideological gap between the Islamic state and its people, particularly youth and women, has never been wider in Iran. Women and youth advocating modern and Western lifestyles and norms are undermining the regime’s Islamic legitimacy. This article examines the hard-liners’ attempt to re-revolutionize Iran and to bring back the ideological Islamic values that increase the likelihood of societal insecurity and domestic disorder. Through this lens, it attempts to explore the increasing discontent among a large segment of Iranians, including liberal and secular groups, women’s rights groups, and the ever-increasing sociopolitic
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The recent ratcheting up of tension between the Trump administration and the Islamic Republic has cast the spotlight once again on the regional activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the controversial elite body that handles most of Iran’s regional Middle Eastern policy. Caught on the defensive after the substantial failure of candidates considered to be allied, or very close to it, in the May 2017 presidential elections in Iran, such as Ebrahim Raisi and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the IRGC has also been hit by an increasing offensive coordinated by the president, Hassan Rouhani, against its sprawling domestic economic empire. Y
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On July 21, 2017, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters initiated an assault across the Qalamoun Mountains near Arsal in northern Lebanon’s Baalbek-Hermel governorate. Soon joined by the Syrian air force, the offensive was aimed at rooting out pockets of entrenched fighters affiliated with the former Syrian al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, which was relabeled in 2016 as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS). Just one week after the onset of the operation, Hezbollah declared victory over the militants who were stranded in the contested Jroud Arsal region. As an immediate result, the belligerent parties struck a deal, which was mediated and confirmed by Lebanon’s Gener
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Populism is said to be the major new political trend. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump in the United States, old ideas and conceptions of the Left and Right are being deconstructed before our eyes faced with populist mantras. The French presidential election of 2017 was a story of a pro-European, pro-business, globalist centrist candidate and underdog, Emmanuel Macron, defeating the favored right-wing candidate, decimating the Socialist left, and going on to win a super majority in the National Assembly, with a movement turned-party he only recently created. However, what is not told, are the populist elements and narratives, coopted by all candidates in the French pr
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On 19 May 2017, the Iranian electorate will go to the polls to choose the next president of the Islamic Republic. The poll will once again give an opportunity for Iranian society to make its views felt, and to choose from amongst a restricted but relatively diverse roster of candidates approved by the clerically-led vetting body, the Guardian Council. The elections are important on a number of levels. They provide society with the chance to approve or reject the significant developments of the last four years, from the rise of the moderate faction headed by the incumbent president, Hassan Rowhani, through to the nuclear deal signed in 2015 and its economic consequences. T
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The Iranian political scene has been deeply affected by the sudden passing away of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the stalwart political figure at the centre of the Islamic Republic's politics since early 1979. His death deprives the political elite of a figure who, while not universally revered, was instrumental in the stabilization and strengthening of the post-revolutionary state order and in solving frequent intra-elite crises. This article will provide an in-depth analysis of Rafsanjani's career, his core beliefs and strategies. In addition, it provides a description of the potential trajec
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This study investigates minority issues in Syria through the observation of their numbers and geographic locations as well as their economic, political, and social status before and after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2013, in light of the Syrian authorities’ unwritten proscription of minorities imposed since the country’s independence, and their reluctance to make relevant data accessible to researchers. The research focuses on the impact of the Syrian crisis on minorities both in terms of population presence and political status, as minorities become key players in
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