In order to persuade its allies in Israel and Gulf Arab states to support the Iran nuclear deal, the United States is relying on inducements of weaponry sales; this regional militarisation is destabilising the wider Middle East region.
While the US and its allies have had a monopoly on drone technology until recently, the uptake of military and civilian drones by a much wider range of state and non-state actors shows that this playing field is quickly levelling. Current international agreements on arms control and use lack efficacy in responding to the legal, ethical, strategic and political problems with military drone proliferation. The huge expansion of this technology must push the international community to adopt strong norms on the use of drones on the battlefield.
Barack Obama’s new strategy against the Islamic State commits the United States to further long-term conflict. It involves a great forgetting of the recent war in Iraq.
Despite not yet entering into force, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has succeeded in almost eliminating nuclear weapons testing and in establishing a robust international monitoring and verification system. A breakthrough in its ratification by the few hold-out states could have important positive repercussions for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.
An unlikely alliance of four states – Iran, Syria, the United States and Russia – is coalescing to oppose the ISIS advance in Iraq. Is military intervention in Iraq imminent?
The Russian annexation of Crimea may be in direct contravention of international agreements but is popular in Russia and almost certain to hold. Given tensions within Ukrainian society and its weak transitional government, there remains some risk of further intervention in eastern Ukraine and possibly the Trans-Dniester break-away region of Moldova. Even if there is no further escalation in the crisis, the deterioration in EU/Russian and US/Russian relations is of great concern, not least in relation to two aspects of Middle East security – the Syrian civil war and the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Implementation of the interim deal with Iran, which freezes the country’s nuclear enrichment in exchange for limited sanctions relief, began in January. As a result, we are witnessing a substantial shift in diplomatic relations between Iran and its regional neighbours – some positive, some not. This deal marks a significant step for the international non-proliferation regime, but will it achieve the trust and confidence-building goals intended? As the US and Iran face increasing domestic pushback on the terms of the agreement, questions remain on the interim deal’s impact on relations in the region and abroad, and the effect these relations may have on the prospects of coming to a full comprehensive follow-up agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries.
If Iran and the P5+1 succeed in negotiating a robust agreement on the nuclear issue, then Iran will be less preoccupied with rebalancing its relationship with antagonistic western powers and its role in the Middle East and the wider region has scope for developing in many new directions. This briefing looks ahead to a post-agreement environment and assesses where Iran might chose to concentrate its resources. A key question is whether it will work to build better links with the US and selected European states or whether it will be more interested in the BRIC and other states, not least Turkey. Its choice will be influenced strongly by domestic politics and the urgent need for a more stable region.
The recent announcement that the so-called Geneva II conference would finally convene on 22 January 2014 is overdue but good news. What are the chances of it bringing peace? With an interim deal signed on Iran’s nuclear programme, Richard Reeve discusses what chance the great powers, Middle Eastern diplomats and the mediators of Geneva have as they turn their attention to ending the war in Syria.
The recent walkout by Egyptian negotiators at UN talks have demonstrated that, like a building with rotten foundations, the nuclear non-proliferation regime is far less stable than many believe it to be. Egypt’s actions make clear that anything less than a regime specifically geared towards addressing the reasons why some states seek nuclear weapons is a regime existing on borrowed time.