Can the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Defeat Iran?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 6, June 2019 

By William R. Hawkins

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There is concern that President Donald Trump’s last minute decision to call off airstrikes against Iran signals weakness in the White House. The Commander in Chief stated, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” This explanation will feed critics the next time there is an American strike anywhere, for any reason, that kills enemy troops.

President Trump’s explanation did not address why Iran is shooting at drones (the one downed was not the first targeted). Drones are used to survey Iranian attempts to attack oil tankers, a major threat with the strategic goal of pressuring the international community to lift the sanctions on the sale of Iranian oil which are crippling the Iranian economy. The attack on shipping also threatens the lives of crews. By taking the one drone out of context, its loss seemed too minor to justify retaliation. This was a mistake in analysis that fostered a mistake in principle. Continue reading

How to bring Russia into INF compliance — without triggering a war

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 3, March 2019  

By Anna J. Davidson

Russian S-400 air defence missile systems roll at Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2016.
AFP / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / GETTY

ABSTRACT   For all intents and purposes, the prevailing wisdom in both East and West suggests that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is lost. On 4 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree officially terminating his country’s participation in the INF “until the United States of America rectifies its violations of the said Treaty or until it expires.” This action mirrors that by the United States in early February that accused Russia of violating the Treaty and instigated the six-month withdrawal process. Both of these steps follow five years of continuous effort by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to compel Russia’s compliance with the stipulations of the INF to no avail. As the August deadline approaches, the United States and Russia face three options: reach a mutual agreement on one another’s compliance to preserve the INF, draft a new arms control agreement, or allow the INF to expire and risk a renewed arms race as both countries continue developing their defense capabilities. Despite the wide acceptance of the latter, a potential incentive for Russia to return to INF compliance, and thus preserve the Treaty, exists in the Kremlin’s relationship with Ankara. As a NATO member state, Turkey finds itself in a unique position with the United States as an ally and Russia as a strategic partner. Turkey’s desire to purchase both the American Patriot and the Russian S-400 missile defense systems presents an opportunity to increase the value of Turkey’s partnership with Russia and decrease the significance of Russia’s need to develop missiles noncompliant with the INF. Turkey insists that it will proceed with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 systems regardless of Washington’s willingness (or lack thereof) to offer the American Patriot systems, as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act currently obstructs the purchase of Russian S-400s by Turkey. Yet, Turkey and Russia are proceeding with the exchange while simultaneously deepening cooperation in the Syria crisis, particularly Idlib. If the United States and NATO leverage Turkey’s request for the Patriot systems and take advantage of Russia’s urge to sell its S-400s to Turkey, the opportunity for a renegotiation and recommitment to the INF Treaty remains within reach.  Continue reading

Senate Undermines America as an Alliance Partner: The Resolution to Ban US Military Assistance in Yemen

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 12, December 2018 

By William R. Hawkins

Tribal gunmen loyal to the Huthi movement brandish their weapons on March 26, 2015 during a gathering in Sanaa to show support to the Shiite Huthi militia and against the Saudi-led intervention in the country. Warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition bombed Huthi rebels in support of Yemen’s embattled president, as regional rival Iran warned the intervention was a “dangerous” move. Credit: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Those who pushed the U.S. Senate to adopt Senate Joint Resolution 54 (S.J.Res.54), “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress” in mid-December sought to avoid any mention of the strategic importance of Yemen, the nature of the civil war that has been raging there, or the support Iran has been giving the Shia Houthi rebels who started the conflict. Instead, the resolution aimed only at the U.S.-Saudi alliance and the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting to defend the internationally recognized Yemen government. No American combat units are involved in the Yemen conflict. The U.S. has been providing intelligence and logistical support to give a critical edge to the coalition forces that are doing the actual fighting.

The supposed purpose of the resolution was to “punish” Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi activist working to topple the regime. He is commonly called a “journalist” but was actually only a writer of opinion pieces published by The Washington Post and other liberal outlets. His views were not compatible with American interests in the Middle East as I outlined in the October 20 issue of this journal.

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Alleged Corruption in Mongolia’s Resource Extraction Sector

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2018 

By Enkhzul Tsatsral

Dump trucks operate in an open pit at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, jointly owned by Rio Tinto Group’s Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. unit and state-owned Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC, in Khanbogd, the South Gobi desert, Mongolia, on Saturday, July 23, 2016. Mongolia exported 817,000 tons of copper concentrate in the first half of the year compared with 663,800 tons a year earlier, an increase of 23.1 percent. Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

The year is 2008 and Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, still resembles a gritty Soviet satellite state with its deteriorating apartment blocks and a statue of Lenin standing bold. Fast-forward a mere four years later and the apartment blocks have deteriorated further while a dazzling 25-story hotel overlooks the shadow of the recently removed statue. Today, with a plethora of Western companies ranging from luxury brands such as Rolex to the familiar Pizza Hut sprouting all over the city, you will be forgiven for mistaking Ulaanbaatar as one of the Four Asian Tigers. Unlike the Four Asian Tigers, which flourished predominately through industrialisation, however, Mongolia’s rapid ‘development’ is mainly attributed to the country’s colossal mineral wealth.

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China’s Compromise of Duterte, the Selling of Philippine Sovereignty, and Risk to Western Market Share in Southeast Asia

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 2018

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

In his visit to China in October 2016, President Duterte of the Philippines broke with the United States and all but pledged allegiance to China. In February 2018, he joked that China could make the Philippines into a Chinese province, “like Fujian.” This joke was made at an event for the Chinese Filipino Business Club Incorporated (CFBCI), members of which stand to benefit from closer China-Philippine ties. Ambassador from China to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (趙鑒華) reportedly smiled at Duterte’s jokes. Duterte again brought up an unfounded fear of war with China, which serves to justify his negotiations with the country. Duterte’s actions are destabilizing the Philippines and regional stability, and could threaten the regional market share of western companies.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on May 15, 2017, on the second day of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Source: Kyodo News via Getty Images.

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China’s $60 Trillion Estimate Of Oil and Gas In The South China Sea: Strategic Implications

U.S. hydrocarbon estimates imply a maximum of $8 trillion worth of oil and gas in the region, explaining part of the strategic divergence of the two superpowers.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2018

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

China’s estimates of proved, probable and undiscovered oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea imply as much as 10 times the value of hydrocarbons compared with U.S. estimates, a differential that has likely contributed to destabilizing U.S. and Chinese interactions in the region. While China estimates a total of approximately 293 to 344 billion barrels of oil (BBL) and 30 to 72 trillion cubic meters (TCM) of natural gas, the U.S. only estimates 16 to 33 BBL and 7 to 14 TCM. Considering that the inflation-adjusted value of oil vacillated between approximately $50 and $100 per barrel (in 2017 prices) since the mid-1970s, U.S. estimates imply a hydrocarbon value in the South China Sea between $3 and $8 trillion, while Chinese estimates imply a value between $25 and $60 trillion. In addition to other factors, China’s greater dependence on oil imports and higher estimates of hydrocarbons in the South China Sea have driven it to invest more military resources in the region. An overly economistic approach by the Obama administration probably led the U.S. to allow China’s expansion in the South China Sea too easily.

Photo taken on June 13, 2015 shows the Xingwang deep-sea semi-submersible drilling platform at Liwan3-2 gasfield in the South China Sea. China’s largest offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC Ltd. announced on July 3, 2015 that its Xingwang deep-sea semi-submersible drilling platform started drilling at 1,300 meters underwater in Liwan 3-2 gas field in the South China Sea. Credit: Xinhua/Zhao Liang via Getty Images.

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Scare of War with China in the Philippines:  Its Source and Implications to the Allied Nations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 5, May 2017

By Sannie Evan Malala

Sannie Evan Malala is a small farmer in the Philippines.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte revealed on Friday, May 19, that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened war if the Philippines forced its claims in the South China Sea.  Duterte and Xi had a restricted meeting last May 15 during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.  There Duterte expressed his plan to drill oil in the South China Sea, as he claimed.  And he said the response was “we’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.”  (I think I’m familiar with this pulling of words.) This is clear lawlessness.

Rice fields on Palawan

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Iran’s New Generation of Oil and Gas Contracts: Historical Mistrust and the Need for Foreign Investment

Iran Qatar Gas

In this Monday, July 19, 2010 file photo, portraits of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, right, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei adorn a construction site which is part of the South Pars gas field, on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf in Assalouyeh, Iran. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his country intends to increase production from a giant joint gas field shared with neighboring Qatar, state TV reported on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The report quoted Rouhani as saying Iran that intends to match Qatar’s production by 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Originally published in Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 4, April 2015.

Revised version published in Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 4, No. 2, February 2016.

By Reza Yeganehshakib, Ph.D.

Reza Yeganehshakib  holds a Ph.D. in history with a specialization in World and Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Iran Azad University, and an M.A. in history from UCI, where he serves as a Research Associate at the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies. Dr. Yeganehshakib is a member of the Middle East Studies Association and the International Society for Iranian Studies. He is affiliated with the Persian Language Institute at California State University, Fullerton and was previously affiliated with the National Iranian Oil Company.

Abstract

After nationalizing the oil industry in Iran in 1951, the government passed protectionist laws that restrained foreign ownership of Iran’s oil fields and industries. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, these laws have been reinforced to further reflect the anti-Western ideological underpinnings of the revolution. Yet, after the Iran-Iraq War and the beginning of the era of so-called “reconstruction” in 1988, the Iranian government adopted several laws to encourage foreign investment, particularly in the country’s largest industry, oil and gas. These laws, chiefly the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), despite having been revised several times, have not been successful in encouraging foreign companies to invest in Iran’s oil and gas industries. As a result, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran recently announced that it would issue a new generation of oil and gas contracts, Iran Petroleum Contracts (IPC) that are more attractive to foreign investors. This paper investigates possible challenges that Iran’s protectionist laws may pose for these contracts, especially in light of Iran’s prevailing political and religious anti-West/anti-imperialist ideology and Iran’s distrust towards the West after the fall of Mossadegh’s government in 1953. It also studies Iran’s political and legal realities and whether they might provide foreign investors with attractive incentives, such as partial or conditional ownership of the industries, for investment.

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Iran Interview: the Shia-Sunni Conflict, Israel, Nuclear Weapons, and Investment

Iranians wave Islamic flags while chanting against the al-Qaida inspired Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, during a rally in central Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranians wave Islamic flags while chanting against the al-Qaida inspired Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, during a rally in central Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 7, July 2014.      

In this July 20 interview with the Journal of Political Risk, Dr. Yeganehshakib discusses how the present conflict in Iraq will affect Iran’s role in the Middle East and its relations with the United States.

Reza Yeganehshakib  holds a Ph.D. in history with a specialization in World and Middle Eastern history at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Iran Azad University, and an M.A. in history from UCI, where he serves as a Research Associate at the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies. Dr. Yeganehshakib is a member of the Middle East Studies Association and the International Society for Iranian Studies. He is affiliated with the Persian Language Institute at California State University, Fullerton and was previously affiliated with the National Iranian Oil Company. Continue reading

Investment implications of President Rohani’s economic opening

Iranian car workers assemble a car at the state-run Iran-Khodro automobile manufacturing plant near Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 29, 2014. Iran began exporting automobiles to Russia for the first time in five years on Sunday, after meeting upgraded emission standards, the country's largest auto manufacturer said. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian car workers assemble a car at the state-run Iran-Khodro automobile manufacturing plant near Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 29, 2014. Iran began exporting automobiles to Russia for the first time in five years on Sunday, after meeting upgraded emission standards, the country’s largest auto manufacturer said. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 7, July 2014.

By Reza Yeganehshakib

After the election of Hasan Rohani as the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there has been hope among Iranians and the international community for change in Iran’s economy and foreign policy.[1] Hasan Rohani, who is known for being relatively moderate particularly in comparison with his conservative predecessor, made several promises during his campaign regarding his government’s efforts to lift foreign sanctions, restore Iran’s relationship with the West, and decrease inflation, for example. The supreme leader’s approval of Rohani’s election can also be interpreted as an indicator of a potentially major shift in Iran’s policies. Considering Iran’s economic and strategic massive capacities, the incorporation of Iran into the global market and the possibility of further security cooperation between the U.S. and Iran will contribute to a more secure Middle East that can be used as a safe pool for investments. As Iran already proved in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, its cooperation with the U.S. could contribute to the security of the volatile Middle East and an increase in foreign investment in the region. Likewise, the Syrian conflict and recent turmoil in Iraq have shown that Iran and the U.S., as well as Israel and other U.S. allies, have one enemy in common, the jihadists and Islamist radicals.[2] It seems that if Rohani can overcome the obstacles to Iran’s entering the global economic system such as sanctions, lack of a sustainable relationship with the West, and unresolved nuclear issue, Iran could become an investment hub in the Middle East, especially in the oil and gas industry.

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