Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Saving the Iran Nuclear Deal Requires Balancing it

It has become increasingly evident that restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal, is extremely challenging without ensuring its durability. Several years after Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and began pursuing a maximum pressure campaign against Iran, and Tehran retaliated by accelerating and expanding its nuclear program, policymakers in Washington and Tehran must ensure that the deal, once revived, remains in force for all its parties over its entire duration. While some politicians call for intensifying economic pressure and military threats against Iran to bring it into conformity with U.S. objectives, these tools have proven to be counterproductive and dangerously escalating. Rather, the best solution lies in strengthening the JCPOA in a manner that would minimize the possibility of defection by the parties.

It is no secret that the JCPOA’s enforcement mechanisms and overall costs and benefits are distorted, but what is less recognized is that the JCPOA’s built-in imbalance is undermining U.S. interests and nuclear nonproliferation goals. By far the most notable manifestation of this imbalance is the agreement’s failure to establish mutual legal and political deterrence between Iran and the United States with respect to violating the agreement or quitting it altogether. Instead, the JCPOA constructed one-sided deterrence against Iran by threatening the snapback of multilateral and unilateral sanctions against it and automatically triggering its referral to the UN Security Council, should it violate the agreement or withdraw from it. Continue reading on The National Interest or Foreign Policy In Focus

Friday, August 20, 2021

What Awaits Afghanistan after the Taliban Takeover?

The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, especially its capital city Kabul, with little resistance from the Afghan army has come as a shock to the world and Afghan people alike. Few observers, including American officials, could see it coming this soon or imagine the well-trained and heavily-equipped Afghan military crumble so fast against swarming but lightly-equipped and ill-trained Taliban fighters. It was only over a month ago that President Joe Biden and his foreign policy officials were denying the possibility of the fall of Kabul in light of the Afghan government’s superior military force and effective air power. Why this outcome unfolded requires careful investigation and merits a separate analysis of its own. But the reality of the Taliban’s present control over Afghanistan demands urgent attention. The international community needs to devise short-term and long-term strategies to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people and push the parties toward reaching a fair and durable solution to Afghanistan’s enduring political instabilities and security predicament.

Today, public sentiments in Kabul and other Afghan cities toward the Taliban takeover, as reflected in citizens’ reporting, is a mix of panic, shock, helplessness, anger, uncertainty, and relief. The memories of the Taliban’s brutal rule in the 1990sand the stories of its conduct in recent years have fed into widespread fears and anxieties among many Afghan citizens. Women, ethnic and religious minorities, intellectuals, and the political and security cadre of the collapsed Afghan government have the most to lose from Taliban rule as the group is expected to impose their own strict reading of the Islamic Sharia law on society and to punish the collaborators of the ancien regime. The flood of many thousands of Afghan people to the Kabul airport in recent days and their frantic attempts to flee their country by any means reflect this dominant mood among these segments of Afghan society.

Afghans’ weariness and frustration over four decades of foreign occupation and civil wars, daily scenes of violence and bloodshed, and the incompetence and corruption of their government have ironically led some of them to see the Taliban as their saviors. Thus, some Afghans welcomed the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and other major cities. These Afghans see the Taliban’s victory and dominance as heralding the end of insecurity, instability, and corruption. But for other Afghans, the future is simply fraught with uncertainties as they wonder how the Taliban may rule and how other actors will react to that. Continue reading on National Interest