This month last year, the Kuwaiti government hosted a ‘Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq’. It was attended by the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, along with dozens of foreign ministers and large numbers of other government and business representatives. The timing was perfect for Iraq. The country had recently announced the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) and was enjoying an unprecedented level of optimism and all-round international good will.
A new group paper published by the Brookings Institution explains how the United States can reinvigorate its engagement with the reconstruction of Libya by pursuing a city-centered approach that empowers local governments and actors. It explains the various incentives that can be used to bring local militias and political actors under greater control and how rejuvenated cities can eventually be stitched together into national institutions.
When in 1979 a revolutionary mass movement in Iran ousted Shah Reza Pahlavi to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran, political leaders in Iran’s immediate neighbourhood became anxious about the potential appeal of the Islamic Revolution on their own populations. Not only had one of the key aims of the revolution been to empower the “downtrodden” (mostaz’afin) — a notion many Arab leaders saw as being directed at different strata of their societies.
The Islamic Republic, whose survival nobody would have betted on, still lives on. No matter what John Bolton predicted last year – “the Islamic Republic will not last until its 40th birthday” – or what common sense suggested in the early days of the revolution, when very few people thought it would have lasted more than six months.
Of the many challenges that Iran has faced over the 40 years since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah and established the Islamic Republic, one was dead on arrival: the impossible fight against time by the generation who fought the revolution. Four decades later, of that circle of combatant clergy fewer and fewer members are still alive and in power.
The establishment of official diplomatic relations between China and Iran dates back only to 1971. Nevertheless, the two countries share a web of economic and cultural interactions rooted in history, which finds in the ancient Silk Road its idealised apogee. A flourishing past, a shared sense of national humiliation, and the idea of a possible alternative world order frame the narrative that backs the Sino-Iranian axis.
As the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Iran was approaching, the head of Iran’s international trade center, Mohammad Reza Sabzalipour, said that the impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy does not exceed 20 percent of the country’s problems, while 80 percent of problems are attributed to the mismanagement of President Hassan Rouhani’s consecutive governments. Sabzalipour’s response came after President Hassan Rouhani blamed US sanctions for the unprecedented pressure the economy is facing.
Who can speak about Iranian society without speaking for it? How can one engage in critical reflection on the Iranian revolution at forty, without claiming the right to force Iranians’ will into crystallized categories and fallacious lines of reasoning?
On 11 February 2019, the Islamic Republic will celebrate forty years of political life in Iran. It has been the first experience of a modern Islamic State in the world. In other words, the rise of the Islamic Republic in Iran could be seen as the first political experience in institutionalisation of political Islam.
Since the onset of the Islamic Revolution of 1978-9 the Iranian foreign policy motto has been “Neither East, nor West, Islamic Republic”. But one has to consider that Iran has always been more East than West by both necessity and design. Faced with the economic consequences of Western containment, Iran put aside its historic rivalry with Russia, and included it in its Look East policy – referring to China, Russia and India.
Engagement and constructive dialogue, albeit conditional, are the leitmotif that have driven the European strategy towards Iran for the past three decades. While this is likely to continue being the case, the fear of being back to the future, in a situation in which such approach yielded limited results, might lead to a new and different stage in the EU-Iran relations moving forwards.
For the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the year of tolerance has just begun: domestic cohesion is critical for a country in which expatriates make up to 90% of the population. However, in the Emirates’ cultural rush, geopolitics matters a lot.