Iran Backgrounder

Author: Michael Flickinger

Iran endures as the last functional theocracy in the world, steeped in a history rich with conquest, subjugation, and cultural innovations. Popular conceptions of Iran stir images of the 1979 Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seizure of the American embassy, and murals in Tehran depicting America as “the Great Satan.” More recent portrayals, however, offer what some speculate might be a crack in the impenetrable regime that has ruled Iran since the Revolution. Pictures of men and women adorned in green to support Mir Hossein Mosavi, leader of the Reformists and the Green Movement, chanting, “Death to the dictator” mingle with footage of Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death, while Basij militiamen on motorcycles beat protestors. In the span of three decades, violence once again erupted within Iran and protestors railed against the current regime with a fervor similar to Khomeini’s followers against the shah. For those who favor a less opaque and more cooperative Iran, these events raised the hope that change looms on the horizon. But does it?
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The Question of Iran: Stability and the Future of the Revolution

Author: Michael Flickinger

Iran endures as the last functional theocracy in the world, steeped in a history rich with conquest, subjugation, and cultural innovations.  Popular conceptions of Iran stir images of the 1979 Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, seizure of the American embassy, and murals in Tehran depicting America as “the Great Satan.”  More recent portrayals, however, offer what some speculate might be a crack in the impenetrable regime that has ruled Iran since the Revolution.  Pictures of men and women adorned in green to support Mir Hossein Mosavi, leader of the Reformists and the Green Movement, chanting, “Death to the dictator” mingle with footage of Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death, while Basij militiamen on motorcycles beat protestors.  In the span of three decades, violence once again erupted within Iran and protestors railed against the current regime with a fervor similar to Khomeini’s followers against the shah.  For those who favor a less opaque and more cooperative Iran, these events raised the hope that change looms on the horizon.  But does it?
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The Potential of Rare Earth Elements for Strategic Leverage

Author: Sean Wolfgang

 

What are Rare Earth Elements?

Rare Earth Elements (REE), also known as Rare Earth Minerals and Rare Earths, are a group of 17 elements composed of the chemical category known as lanthanides and the elements yttrium and scandium1. REE have several unique properties that make them valuable in a variety of civilian and military high-technology applications. Small amounts of REE enable the miniaturization of a number of high technology components, especially permanent magnets. On the civilian side, REE are integral to LCD screens, fiber-optic cables, rechargeable batteries, various appliances, and are increasingly becoming valuable for their use in ‘green’ technologies such as wind power generation and hybrid motor vehicles. Their military utility is enormous and includes applications ranging from aircraft engines and precision-guided munitions to communication and tracking satellites2.

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Somali Pirates: The Anatomy of Attacks

Authors: Beatriz Binkley & Laura Smith
Introduction

Somali Pirates

Somali Pirates © Veronique de Viguerie, via The Guardian

The past two decades have witnessed a significant increase in the level of worldwide maritime piracy. With more than 50 percent of all contemporary maritime attacks attributed to Somali pirates, no other region is capable of generating more piracy-related investigations and analysis. Unfortunately, as the proliferation and success of Somali pirates continues, the organizational sophistication of pirate gangs will also increase, and the problem will spread to other areas with similarly enabling factors. Somali pirates are models for other prospective pirates to emulate. Yet they also provide case studies into how shipping companies and the international community can work to address the piracy problem. Against this background, this analysis moves beyond discussing the root cause of Somali piracy and breaks down the anatomy of attacks, looking at the possible successes and failures at different stages of the process. However, with high rewards and low risks for the pirates, the struggle to reduce piracy may be an uphill battle. Continue reading

Piracy off the Horn of Africa

Author: Sean Hannan

Introduction

According to Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), piracy: consists of any of the following acts:

  1. any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
    1. on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
    2. against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
  2. any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
  3. any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b). Continue reading

Hezbollah

Author: Drew Stragar-Rice

The purpose of this analysis is to track the military trends and political developments associated with Hezbollah. Of particular interest is the paternal relationship extended from Tehran and Damascus toward the “Party of God.” The implication of this nexus impacts American interests pertaining to a non-nuclear Iran, a secure Israel, and ultimately a stabilized Middle East. Through careful analysis of Hezbollah’s actions we hope to provide a better understanding to some of the most essential obstacles toward stability in the region. Continue reading

Russia Regional Relations

Author: Matthew Regenbogen

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of democracy, market economies and civil society among former satellite states, Russia has not given up its aspirations for regional hegemony. The resulting conflict of interest between Moscow and its “near abroad,” has led many Eastern European nations to look to the West for security assurances. Currently, ten members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact have come under the protective umbrella of NATO, originally an exclusively Western institution.1 For Ukraine and Georgia, such an option is also appealing since Russian regional aspirations have threatened the security of both countries.2 For NATO these regional clashes raise concerns about energy security, instability and the overall relationship between the West and Russia.

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Niger Delta

Author: Tomas Malina

Map of the Niger Delta

Strategically located along the Gulf of Guinea and atop enormous high quality oil reserves, the three Nigerian states of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers – commonly referred to as the Niger Delta – have been plagued with armed groups and insurgents for decades. Although its tremendous resource wealth should make the Delta one of Western Africa’s most prosperous regions, decades of neglect by the Nigerian government, widespread corruption, and the environmental damage caused by the MNCs operating in the region has alienated and marginalized the local population and allowed armed groups to proliferate.1 Compensation paid out by the MNCs for appropriated and polluted land has led to inter-communal and inter-ethnic violence, most notably between the Ijaws and the Itsekiris in the Warri area of Delta State.2 Since the discovery of oil in the Delta, this type of ethnic conflict has been driven primarily by the desire to control resources along disputed community borders. Continue reading