The Great Debate

Iran transformed Syria’s army into a militia that will help Assad survive another year

By David Axe
December 17, 2014

A man inspects a damaged site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs thrown by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on al-Ghariya, in the east of Deraa province

In early 2015, the civil war in Syria will turn four years old. If current trends hold, the terrible conflict — which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions — will almost certainly continue to rage through the end of the year. That’s my prediction.

It’s a weird war when Iran and the U.S. are bombing the same country

By Michael Williams
December 10, 2014

A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires rockets during an air strike in the village of Tel Rafat

The McDonnell Douglas’ F4 Phantom was a workhorse of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It was retired from the USAF and the British Royal Air Force some 20 years ago. But the vintage fighter-bomber put in a surprise performance a few days ago over the skies of northern Iraq.

A misconception that could scuttle nuclear talks with Iran

By Jim Walsh and Aron Bernstein
November 24, 2014

EU envoy Ashton, Britain's Foreign Secretary Hammond and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif sit at a table during talks in Vienna

As nuclear talks between Iran and the other members of the so-called P5+1 group are extended for another seven months, one issue is sure to remain a sticking point. The most important differences between all sides relates to the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.

from Ian Bremmer:

Oil price plummet won’t help U.S. with Iran or Russia

By Ian Bremmer
November 11, 2014

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London

Plummeting oil prices — down more than 25 percent since June to three-year lows — should relieve pressure on consumers at the pump. But is it pushing oil-exporting regimes past the breaking point?

The U.S.-Iran non-alliance alliance against Islamic State

By Aki Peritz and Faris Alikhan
October 29, 2014

Smoke rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border

One irony about the fight against Islamic State is that the nations now striking the extremist group the hardest also dislike each other the most.

How congressional hawks plan to kill Obama’s Iran deal

By Trita Parsi
October 27, 2014

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gives a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York

Negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program have not even concluded yet some members of Congress are preparing to manufacture a political crisis over a deal. Their beef? President Barack Obama may initially bypass Congress and suspend sanctions imposed on Iran to make a deal possible and only later ask lawmakers to end them permanently when it is determined that Iran has complied fully with its obligations under the deal.

Why Iran, U.S. aren’t on quite the same side in fight against Islamic State

By Davoud Hermidas Bavand
October 8, 2014

Iraqi women walk past a poster depicting images of Shi'ite Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at al-Firdous Square in Baghdad

It might seem counter-intuitive to think that attacking the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would damage Iran or Shi’ite interests in the Middle East. After all, Iran shares the West’s concerns about the radical Sunni group and is in a tacit alliance with the United States when it comes to defeating their common enemy. And yet, Iran fears it might end up being the loser in this battle.

As Iran talks resume, it’s time to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

By Daryl Kimball, Kelsey Davenport and Ali Vaez
September 18, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif speak together during the third day of closed-door nuclear talks at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva

On Thursday, negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other world powers begin the final stretch of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. A deal is within reach. But time is short.

If U.S. joins Islamic State fight, how will it get out?

By Bill Schneider
September 10, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

When President Barack Obama makes the case for military action against Islamic State militants on Wednesday night, it won’t be hard to convince Americans to get involved in the conflict. The hard part will be explaining how we get out.

The best weapon to fight the Islamic State is already in Iraq

By Robert Caruso
August 28, 2014

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard at the Bakirta frontline near the town of Makhmur

In 21st century Iraq, the enemy is not a state, though it calls itself one. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a group of Islamist insurgents whose presence stretches across the border between Syria and Iraq.