Amir Taheri, Arab News

Amir Taheri

Arab News


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Past articles by Amir:

Iran: Speaking Swedish, acting North Korean

For the past decade, February — part of which coincides with the month of Bahman in the Iranian calendar — has been marked by febrile political activities in Iran under the Khomeinist regime. Feb. 1 marks the anniversary of the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Tehran after 16 years in exile. And Feb. 11, regarded as the crescendo of the Iranian revolution, marks the day that Shapour Bakhtiar,… → Read More

Turkey: No longer a friend, but not a foe

In May 1994 during a trip to Istanbul to address a conference of Turkish women, I asked colleagues whether there were any rising stars in the then-obscure firmament of Turkish politics. Their almost unanimous answer was: Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the time, Erdogan was a 40-year-old politician who had just become mayor of Istanbul, the nation’s most populous city, against all odds. → Read More

Iran nuclear issue must be revisited

The decision by US President Donald Trump to waive sanctions against Iran for a further 120 days has reopened the four-year-old “what to do about Iran” debate. While some have condemned Trump for delaying the imposition of harsh sanctions against the mullahs, others have castigated him for his call to re-negotiate the nuclear deal pushed by his predecessor Barack Obama. Conducting the debate on… → Read More

Regime change is the wisest option in Iran

Iran has been in something of turmoil for more than a week now, with crowds of various sizes holding protests in many cities, including Tehran. Thanks to scenes not seen in Iran since 2009, when the regime managed to put down a popular uprising in the capital, many questions have been raised about what is euphemistically referred to as “the events.” → Read More

The year of the Rohingya

Medieval historians in the Middle East often used the memory of particularly great disasters as a label for a year or even a whole epoch under study. The original model came from pre-Islamic Arabia with such well-known examples as “The Year of the Elephant,” remembering the year in which the Abyssinians invaded the Tihama, or the Year of the Locust, in which swarms of insects wiped out crops… → Read More

Corruption — the Mideast’s political gangrene

Following the strict measures taken recently by the Saudi government against dozens of prominent figures, the issue of corruption has moved to the center of public attention in several other regional countries, notably Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Corruption has always been a major cause of concern in those nations and throughout the Middle East, but people usually treat it as “one of those… → Read More

Where Russian and Iranian aircraft carriers clash

Last week, the Kayhan daily, believed to reflect the views of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, offered its readers a front-page treat. It claimed that Arabs are “clamoring” for statues of Gen. Qasem Soleimani to be installed in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, “cities that he has saved from ISIS (Daesh).” The claim came hot on the heels of the Sochi meeting, in which Russian President Vladimir… → Read More

Iranian regime overplays the military card

To prolong its power in the face of mounting domestic problems and diplomatic isolation, the leadership in Tehran is increasingly dependent on the military establishment. The “Supreme Guide,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has held conclaves with the military chiefs three times in less than a month, during which time signs of the military’s ascendency within the regime’s power structures have… → Read More

Lebanon: Is cheat-and-retreat back on the menu for Hezbollah?

The Arab League holds an emergency meeting on Lebanon. France and the US agree to work together to contain Hezbollah. Russia indicates support for compromise. Iran’s official government invites everyone to “joint diplomatic efforts” while the unofficial government promises fire and brimstone for those who try to curb Hezbollah. Recent Middle East headlines remind me of “The Adventures of Emir… → Read More

China unveils global leadership ambition

This week, President Xi Jinping informed the 19th Congress of the ruling Communist Party that China is ready to seek a more active presence in the international arena. Three factors may have contributed to his decision to bring forward his world leadership bid. The first concerns Xi’s desire to ever so gingerly build up his status within China’s political system. → Read More

Iran and this dog’s dinner of diplomatic deception

“Trump violates international treaty!” “Trump tears up pact signed by world powers!” These were some of the headlines when US President Donald Trump’s refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the “nuclear deal.” Some in the Western media said would complicate the task of curbing North Korea as Pyongyang might conclude that reaching any deal with the world powers, as Iran did, was useless. But… → Read More

A crucial meeting you probably didn’t know about

It is a testimony to the peculiarities of international attention to world events that while every tweet by US President Donald Trump triggers an avalanche of reports, analyzes and outright abuse, little attention is paid as the People’s Republic of China prepares to hold its five-yearly National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing. → Read More

Kurdish secession and the mysteries of identity

An old Arab adage asserts that there is always something good in whatever happens. The secession referendum held in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is no exception. Yes, it has added to tension in the region, awakened many old demons and diverted attention from more urgent problems, but at the same time it has also provided an opportunity to examine and debate some important issues in a… → Read More

Barzani should tell the truth: This is about secession

The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum is a fait accompli. It must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Masoud Barzani, the man who orchestrated it, must be as pleased as Punch. In contemplating the future, it is important to know exactly what we are talking about. Supporters of the referendum have pinned their flag to two concepts: Independence and self-determination. They say… → Read More

The Kurdish referendum imbroglio

What is the first thing you should do when you have dug yourself into a hole? Stop digging, obviously. Those involved in the imbroglio over the so-called independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, due to be held on Monday, would do well to heed this advice. → Read More

Why Iran’s plan in Syria will fail

For the past week or so, Iranian official media and social networks have been abuzz with anecdotes woven around a football match in Tehran between Iran and Syria, and the light it might shed on a complicated relationship. According to most accounts, a group of Syrians flown in by special charter to cheer their national squad in its bid for a place in the World Cup in Moscow staged an anti-Iran… → Read More

North Korea: The Kims’ cheat-and-retreat game

It is too early to guess how the latest storm triggered by North Korea’s behavior might end. Will this lead to a “surgical” strike on its nuclear sites by the US? Or will it cause “a global catastrophe,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin, never shy of hyperbole, warns? If past experience is an indicator, the latest crisis is likely to fade away, as did the previous six triggered by North Korea… → Read More

Why Khamenei’s real teacher is not who you think

According to the initial narrative of the Khomeinist ideology, the perfect state to which Muslims should aspire was the brief period when Ali ibn Abi Taleb governed the Caliphate against a background of revolts and civil war. However, it now seems that Khomeinist zealots have found another ideal model outside the world of Islam. → Read More

Turkey and Iran may be ending 40 years of enmity

When I commented recently on efforts by NATO powers to establish some contact with the Iranian military, I did not expect a quick development. But that is precisely what happened last week when Iran’s new chief of staff, Gen Muhammad-Hussein Baqeri, led a 40-strong military-political delegation to Ankara. This was historic for at least three reasons. To start with, it was the first visit to… → Read More

As Trump tweets, US ‘cold monster’ starts to awaken

How is Donald Trump doing? In the past couple of weeks, this question has been making the rounds in political and punditry circles, as people ponder the new US president’s first six months. → Read More