Posts Tagged ‘influence’

‘Old Empires Rise Again’

June 19th, 2012 Comments off

“… There are naturally rivalries and friction among and between these five states. Turkey and Russia compete for influence in Central Asia and the Caucuses. Russia continues to fear Chinese encroachment in Siberia. India and China watch each other warily across their common border, compete for influence in Myanmar and have conflicting relationships with Pakistan. Brazil and China vie for influence in Africa.
Nevertheless, all believe that the United States, and even more so Europe, no longer should monopolize decision making for the international community. They reject the post-World War II settlement as outdated and will not automatically accept American leadership on any given issue. It is noteworthy that Turkey is the only one of the five that has contributed to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and that none of the five contributed forces to the coalition in Iraq. Again, Turkey was the only one of the five to participate in any way in the Libyan operation, and its primary contribution, made with the utmost lack of enthusiasm, was to forego blocking the rest of NATO from mounting its offensive against Qaddafi.
There is no indication that the sense of empire, and of the entitlement that accompanies it, is waning in any of these five countries. On the contrary, it seems to get stronger with each passing year. Washington policy makers, currently obsessed with that other imperial legatee, Iran, would do well to recognize that there is more to these states than impressive economic growth, military expansion and political influence. Americans are known for their lack of historical sensitivity. They will need all the sensitivity they can muster in order to deal successfully with states whose claim to a greater role on the world stage is motivated as much by past glory as by present success...”

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. . . And Tamazight Influence on Libyan Colloquial Arabic

March 10th, 2012 Comments off

While writing my immediately previous post on the Amazigh revival in Tunisia I stumbled across a link that involves several of this blog’s odder little side interests: colloquial dialects, minority languages, and language generally: a series on “Amazigh Words in Libyan [Colloquial Arabic] Dialect.”  It’s written in Arabic and this is actually installment number 12. I had trouble finding earlier examples on that site but an Arabic search (cut and paste ??????? ?????????? ?? ?????? ??????? if you like) shows that it’s apparently been appearing on several other websites as well.

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RAND: "Iran is stable & seeks stability in the Region!"

November 26th, 2011 Comments off

Excerpts from RAND’s report:Forecasting the Future of Iran:  Implications for U.S. Strategy and Policy”

Political Issues

• President Ahmadinejad will remain influential in Iran and will see only a slight reduction in power prior until his second Presidential term ends naturally in 2013.
• Iran’s next Supreme Leader is likely to be only slightly more moderate than Supreme Leader Khamenei.  Ayatollahs Rafsanjani and Shahroudi are currently the stongest candidates, with Shahroudi being favored over Rafsanjani.   
• The current system of velayat?e faqih appears stable, and further conservative shifts in the system as seen in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election are unlikely.
Economic and Civil Society Issues
• There is substantial pressure for economic reform in Iran, which has only been partially met by the reforms introduced in January 2011 (which occurred after data collection for this study
• The IRGC’s influence appears unlikely to grow significantly in the next few years, and may even diminish.
• The influence of Iran’s bonyads will likely hold constant or grow slightly in the coming years.
• Recent setbacks experienced by the women’s movement in Iran are likely to be short?lived and completely reversed within the next few years.
Foreign Policy and National Security Issues
• US?Iran relations will continue to remain primarily informal and halting
• Iran will not submit to full IAEA compliance, but is unlikely to restart its nuclear weapons program unless there are significant changes to Iran’s internal calculus.
• Iran will develop a strategic relationship with Iraq that will not be destabilizing to or compromise the new Iraq government.  Domestic and international pressure will prevent the nations from developing the closer alliance sought by Iran’s leaders.   
• In Afghanistan, Iran’s relations will be less influential than in Iraq, and will be focused on stability
and economic opportunities.
• Iran’s relations towards Israel are unlikely to change.  Iran will continue its calculated rhetoric, antagonizing Israel and supporting the Palestinians while avoiding direct confrontation.   
The conclusions from the sensitivity analysis that explored the influence of the US, the Supreme Leader, Iran’s President, and the IRGC are:
• Waiting for a turnover in leadership is a game both the US and Iran are playing to lose. Both nations need to realize and accept that national outlooks are evolving gradually and are not dictated solely by the personalities of their incumbent leaders.  Neither nation benefits from maintaining strained relations, nor remaining staunchly entrenched in its own position vis?à?vis the other.  
• A new Supreme Leader coming to power probably will be a fortuitous event for the US, likely leading to modest improvements across a broad range of issues, but the differences between Iran’s next Supreme Leader and Khamenei are likely to be subtle.  However, the fate of Iran’s nuclear program lies with the Supreme Leader, and a new Supreme Leader, even if he half as influential as Khamenei, could restart Iran’s weapons program.  
• Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric colors Iran’s foreign relations, but his influence does not weigh heavily on the course of Iran’s foreign policy.  A new president with a more pragmatic outlook could lead to slight improvements on many issues, but the biggest benefit would be the opportunity to engage with a less strident personality.
• The IRGC is not dominating Iranian policy decisions.  Even significant growth in the organization’s power and conservatism would do little to affect the current character of Iran.  
Thus, US fears of a radicalizing religious and militant Iran are likely misplaced.  Moreover, the IRGC is a key element of the conservative block, and if the IRGC’s influence diminished, it could enable Iran’s more progressive elements to begin making inroads…”

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Wikileaks: ‘US not doing enough for Syria regime change!’

August 7th, 2011 Comments off

“… A cable from December 13, 2006, opens with the conclusion that the Syrian government has ended 2006 “in a position much stronger domestically and internationally than it did [in] 2005.” It features a collection of possible actions that could be taken to undermine the Assad regime.
The vulnerabilities listed include: the Rafiq Hariri investigation and tribunal (Hariri was a Lebanese Prime Minister who was assassinated in a major car bombing); the alliance with Tehran; the regime’s “inner circle”; divisions in the military-security services; the corrupt Baathist elites; previous failures of reform; the economy; the Kurds; extremists and the “Khaddam factor” (Abdul Halim Khaddam is an exiled former Syrian Vice President, whose name appears in a number of the cables released thus far.)
Some of the proposed actions for exploiting these vulnerabilities are outlined in the cable:
“…ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING: The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military.  Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rifat Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards.  This again touches on this insular regime,s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction.
THE KHADDAM FACTOR: …We should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to allow Khaddam access to their media outlets, providing him with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry.  We should anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors…
HIGHLIGHT KURDISH COMPLAINTS: Highlighting Kurdish complaints in public statements, including publicizing human rights abuses will exacerbate regime,s concerns about the Kurdish population.  Focus on economic hardship in Kurdish areas and the SARG,s long-standing refusal to offer citizenship to some 200,000 stateless Kurds.  This issue would need to be handled carefully, since giving the wrong kind of prominence to Kurdish issues in Syria could be a liability for our efforts at uniting the opposition, given Syrian (mostly Arab) civil society’s skepticism of Kurdish objectives.
PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE:  There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.  Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue. (more,here)…”

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Evidence of Hizbullah’s "vast influence in Latin America"

July 9th, 2011 Comments off

Comrade Ben, a Latin America scholar in the US, sent me this: “I thought you would find this amusing:
This was the evidence provided in a House sub-committee meeting that Hezbollah has “vast influence in Latin America” –““Hezbollah members have used the porous U.S.-Mexico border as an entrance to the United States,” Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council Ilan Berman said. Farah agreed, saying that some gang members, who entered the U.S. through the southern border with Mexico, have been arrested in the U.S. proudly displaying Farsi tattoos.“”

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"’Obstacles to Iranian influence in Iraq"

July 6th, 2011 Comments off

“…Whereas Saudi Arabia and Iran may continue to vie for hegemony in hot-spots such as Bahrain, Ankara may be replacing Riyadh as Iran’s primary local contender for influence in Iraq. The added dimension of Turkish influence in Iraq poses an interesting prospect that may be palatable to major foreign actors in a post-US presence Iraq. As the American administration devises its exit strategy – irrespective of whether that takes place beyond the scheduled end of 2011 deadline – it may regard Turkey’s rising role in Iraq as an attractive alternative to Iranian influence and breathe easier upon its withdrawal.
When push comes to shove the Saudis, whose influence has waned in Iraq since the height of sectarian violence in 2006-2007, may also be more amenable to Turkey’s role as opposed to Iran’s. As for Iran, Iraq is a central component in its foreign policy and regional ambitions. Therefore while Tehran will be relieved to see the US out of its backyard, it may not be thrilled with Turkey’s new assertive position in Iraq. Furthermore, their clashing hegemonic aspirations in the region may set the two regional powers on a collision course further down the line. Still, Tehran may be more comfortable with Turkey as opposed to Saudi Arabia, which has been its major ideological and political rival since the Islamic Revolution.”

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The Arabs and Iran

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

“Regardless of Arab public opinion, governments in the Arab world remain largely authoritarian, with a demonstrated capacity to go against their public sentiment on critical issues, such as war. ….. the Iran issue, including the prospects of an American or an Israeli attack on Iran?
The first thing to note is that there is no unified Arab government position. Although, with the exception of Syria, most are suspicious of Iran and worry about rising Iranian power and influence, the degree of concern varies, and the sources of concern vary even more. Even in the case of Syria, where Iran is seen for the foreseeable future as a strategic partner, the Syrian government, a secular Arab nationalist government, is not naturally comfortable with the Islamic regime in Tehran. This much is clear (and is the basis of the prevailing conventional wisdom in Washington): most Arab governments would like Iranian power trimmed, with some supporting a potential attack on its nuclear facilities by either Israel or the United States.
But Arab governments’ calculations cover a broad spectrum and are based on assessments on several issues: the impact of an attack on their own security (and longevity) particularly in the short to intermediate term; the impact on the regional balance of power, which includes the impact on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict; the impact on domestic politics (and in some places this also means the Sunni-Shiite divide); the impact on broader Arab regional and global influence; and the impact on Iraq’s future. The weight of each issue varies across the Arab world, partly as a function of proximity to Iran or to the Arab-Israeli arena, partly as a function of internal demographics, and partly as a function of size and aspirations…..
Their publics may see the United States as a bigger threat than Iran, but governments of Iran’s small Arab neighbors see the United States as protecting them from Iran, particularly after the decline of Iraq. Even Qatar, which has maintained good relations with Iran, at the end of the day is an American ally; it hosts a large American base—not Iranian troops. The differences are all about available options and the prospects of their success. And this is central in calculations of the possible use of force by either Israel or the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
If the assessment is that there would be a limited war that does not expand to their countries and disrupt their comfortable lives, and that the war would end by destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons potential, weakening Iran’s influence, and better yet, lead to regime change in Iran—supporting war would be a no-brainer for most of them. If on the other hand, there is a high risk that the war would not be short, that Iran would still be able to develop a nuclear-weapons capability and also acquire an interest in disrupting their lives (particularly if American forces operate from within their borders), the calculations will be different….
There is a big strategic picture that matters to Arab elites, especially those with a strong Arab identity and in states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia where there is an expectation of regional leadership and of an enhanced global role. There is no escaping the current sentiment that overall Arab influence has diminished and that all non-Arab states in the region—Iran, Israel, and Turkey—have grown in power—particularly since the Iraq war. While governments in the region are first and foremost driven by what’s good for them, they also face a public, including elites, that places more emphasis on transnational identity, whether Muslim or Arab, than on state identity. This means nuclear power not only has strategic value but also symbolic weight. And Arab governments would have to deal with the sense that Arabs are falling further behind….
This perspective also gives a different view of a possible Israeli (sans America) attack on Iran. An Israeli success would be a mixed blessing: Iran would be weakened, but Israel would emerge even stronger. On the other hand, Israel would then be engaged in a real conflict with Iran bound to last for the long term, regardless of the government in power. Whereas, at the moment, the conflict between Israel and Iran remains primarily ideological; war would create a deeper divide. The negative turn in Turkish-Israeli relations, particularly since the Gaza war in 2008, has oddly left Israel dependent particularly on its relations with Egypt, for creating some regional balance. To be sure, Israel continues to rely primarily on the backing of the United States and on its own military capacities, but it has always been mindful of maintaining regional friends. A war with Iran would jeopardize that leverage in the long term.
Taken to an extreme, a protracted Israeli-Iranian conflict (that did not draw in other Arab states) would be seen by many in the region in the same way that the protracted Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s was seen by Israel: two powerful and feared countries weakening each other—in this case, with strategic benefits for the Arab states.
The trouble is that it is hard to envision a war scenario that does not impact Arabs in the region, directly or indirectly—just as it is hard to envision an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities that does not draw in the United States. For states like Egypt, Jordan, or Morocco, the Iranian threat is not a direct military threat. What they fear most is Iranian influence, in the region, broadly, and in their own internal politics. In particular, they worry about the success and popularity of the militant narrative that Iran sells, and its support for groups they oppose, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, far more than they worry about the number of Iranian troops, or the number of Iranian weapons. And it is for this reason that these states see a connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the degree of Iranian influence: diplomatic failure sells militancy, and conflicts like the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war and the Gaza war in 2008 make Hezbollah and Hamas more popular in Arab countries. That is why they emphasize Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy as a way of curbing Iranian influence…………. assuming that Iran lacked the immediate capabilities (or the political will) to retaliate against Arab targets in the Gulf, its will to support Hezbollah, Hamas, and any other militant group in the region will only expand, thus expanding the main threat that states like Jordan and Egypt fear.
There is another way in which the calculations of Iran’s energy-rich neighbors differ from other Arab states: the economic consequences of war. Even the energy producers have to worry about production-interruptions that affect them at least in the short to intermediate term. But they also may benefit from spikes in energy prices down the road. For the majority of Arab governments whose economies are not energy-based, they stand to pay a price, with little silver lining.
This complex picture—from Arab governments that may favor an American or Israeli attack on Iran to those who fear the consequence of such an attack—is not captured by the current debate about Arab support or opposition for an American or an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. These calculations vary depending on proximity to Iran or to Israel, on the internal demographic mix of Arab states, and the level of aspiration for Arab and regional leadership. Above all, they depend on an assessment of the probability of “success” which is defined both in terms of the military outcome, and in terms of the subsequent Iranian capabilities and will to influence politics in the Arab world. For most Arab governments that are not neighboring Iran, the latter fear dominates.”

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Biden: Iran’s influence in Iraq is "Minimal & greatly exaggerated"

August 24th, 2010 Comments off


“… Is Joe Biden freelancing again?

According to CNN, the U.S. vice president told a VFW audience Monday that Iran’s influence in Iraq is “minimal” and “greatly exaggerated.”

But who, then, is doing the exaggerating?
As recently as Sunday, Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Baghdad, was warning about Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs:

“…CROWLEY: Let me turn to Iran. We know that throughout this process, Iran has been involved at some level, certainly helping the Shia in the fight. What is the level, as far as you can tell, of Iranian involvement in Iraq, both in the government — in trying to form a government and in the fighting that still exists?

ODIERNO: Well, they — they clearly still fund some Shia extremist groups that operate in Iraq. They train them. They continue to try to improve their capabilities, partially to attack U.S. forces, partially to make sure everybody understands that they can have some impact in the country. They clearly want to see a certain type of government that is formed here.

CROWLEY: So is that Iran’s ambition, do you think, in Iraq, to keep it from becoming a functioning democracy?
ODIERNO: I think they don’t want to see Iraq turn into a strong democratic country. They’d rather see it become a weak governmental institution, so they don’t add more problems for Iran in the future…”

Now, that doesn’t 100 percent contradict the veep’s statement, but the general’s tone is markedly different. So what’s the administration’s position? It was probably most clearly articulated by Colin Kahl, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, who said last week in a briefing:

“… I think that General Odierno remains concerned about certain aspects of Iranian meddling in Iraq, principally the continued provision of certain kinds of lethal assistance to Shia militant groups. But I think that Iran has recognized in the last couple of years that its influence in Iraq is somewhat overstated. I think that they clearly – they tried to influence the provincial and national elections not very successfully. They tried to defeat the U.S.-Iraq security agreement not very successfully. And I think that their experience with the militias that they’ve backed is that when they’ve overplayed their hands, they’ve gotten a lot of Iraqi pushback on this.

And I think basically that’s because at the end of the day, there are kind of at least three antidotes to overwhelming Iranian influence in Iraq. The first and most important one is that the Iraqis don’t want Iran to dominate their country. Iraqi nationalism is real, it is powerful, and it’s a much more powerful force than whatever affinity might exist between Iraq and Iran.

The second is the fact that Iraq wants good relations with all its neighbors, not just Iran…….with Turkey,……with Saudi Arabia and others, which means that it’s not inclined to have a desire to be firmly in Iran’s camp.
And the last point that I would raise, last but not least, is the vast majority of Iraq’s political parties want a long-term partnership with the United States, which, of course, is not consistent with being dominated by Iran. So I think when you factor all of those things in together, I don’t think we’re at risk of Iraq being dominated by Iran.”

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Taliban influence Spreading in Afghanistan

August 1st, 2010 Comments off

A former Afghan warlord who turned to supporting President Hamid Karzai and two others were blown up at a soccer match in the northern city of Qunduz by Taliban.

Kunduz is only 1/3 Pashtun, the ethnic group from which the Taliban spring (though most Pashtuns oppose the Taliban). But they are using guerrilla tactics to even the playing field. The US is now putting troops into Kunduz, formerly a mainly German zone, since the Germans only signed on for peace-keeping, not for counter-insurgency.

Aljazeera English reports that the eastern Pashtun city of Jalalabad is facing increasing Talibanization, affecting storekeeper’s playing of music, video stores’ business, and even ring tones.

Virtually everywhere you look, then, Taliban influence is rising and spreading. One has to ask why the influence of the Afghan government isn’t doing the same, and more effectively. Karzai had enormous advantages over the Taliban, including massive aid donations, US backing for his armed forces, and the unpopularity of the Taliban with the Afghan people. by now, Karzai appears to have frittered away those advantages….



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"… Iran’s fight for influence in Iraq has not been won — it is only just starting"

May 10th, 2010 Comments off

LOWY institute/ here

“…. in its dealings with Iraq it has shown a clear understanding of its own national interest. Iraq is a complex and immature political landscape. It thus represents an opportunity for Iran to achieve what it has sought since pre-revolutionary days — regional influence befitting its view of itself and ultimately, the role of regional security guarantor in place of the US.

The first step in achieving this aim is to establish an Iraq devoid of US troop presence, where pro-Iranian Shi’a dominate politically but where the Shi’a nationalists and Sunnis are sufficiently empowered to ensure their quiescence but not powerful enough to stymie Iranian interests. And this influence is best entrenched while the institutions of state are still relatively weak.

In the not too distant future it is quite possible that the two countries may once again become rivals: as energy producers, as centres of Shi’a Islamic learning (and the economic benefits that accrue with it), but more worryingly for Iran as alternative models for Shi’a (and indeed multi-confessional) political development.

The notion of Iran as Iraqi kingmaker therefore sits well with Tehran. And if the post-election events are anything to go by it appears to have made a good start in achieving this position…..

But even as US influence recedes as its troops leave, the field is not being left to Iran. Saudi Arabia has sought to blunt Iran’s influence by engaging with a broad spectrum of Iraqi political players, in contrast to its virtual dismissal of the 2005 election (along with many Iraqi Sunnis) which resulted in a diminution of its influence…..

For those interested in Arab political development it is going to be an interesting struggle to see whether nationalism, ethnicity, sectarianism or naked economic self-interest wins out in Iraq in the long term. There is no doubt that Iran seeks to become the dominant external influence in its western Arab neighbour, but there are any number of potential roadblocks both at present and into the future that may serve to stymie Tehran’s intentions. Iran’s fight for influence has not been won — it is only just starting.”

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