• Will the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria be
annihilated in Libya?
• Will the Venezuelan government remain in
• Will Donald Trump take the US out of the
Paris Climate Agreement?
• Will relations between Iran and the United
• What is the current state of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps?
• Predicting the outcome of the 2017 French
• Will the construction of the TAPI natural gas
pipeline proceed in 2017?
• Will the divided island of Cyprus come closer
FOREWORD BY JOHN NOMIKOS
EDITED BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
• Will the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
be annihilated in Libya?
• Will the Venezuelan government remain
• Will Donald Trump take the US out of the
Paris Climate Agreement?
• Will relations between Iran and the
United States improve?
PUBLISHED BY THE
EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE ACADEMY
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE
CHANTICLEER INTELLIGENCE BRIEF
COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
• What is the current state of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps?
• Predicting the outcome of the 2017
French Presidential Election
• Will the construction of the TAPI natural
gas pipeline proceed in 2017?
• Will the divided island of Cyprus come
closer to reunification?
European Intelligence Academy www.euintelligenceacademy.eu
The European Intelligence Academy (EIA) was established in 2013 as an international network of
intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students, who are dedicated to promoting research and
scholarship across the European Union (EU), as well as between the EU and other parts of the
world. One of the primary aims of the EIA network is to highlight the work of emerging graduate
and undergraduate scholars in the intelligence studies field, while encouraging cooperation in
research and scholarship between students of intelligence. The EIA is an initiative of the Research
Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS).
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief www.cibrief.org
The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) was established in 2015 as a student-run initiative
supported by the Department of Politics at Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in Conway, South
Carolina, United States. It operates as an ancillary practicum for students in the National Security
and Intelligence Studies program who wish to cultivate and refine their ability to gather, present,
and analyze information in accordance with techniques used in the analytical profession. The goal
of the CIB is to train aspiring intelligence professionals in the art of producing well-researched,
impartial and factual analytical products.
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Table of Contents
Foreword page 07
Dr. John Nomikos
Introduction page 09
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
Will the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria be Annihilated in Libya in 2017? page 13
Who Will Win the First Round of the 2017 Presidential Election in France? page 19
Kayla “Ace” Chambers
Will the Divided Island of Cyprus Come Closer to Reunification in 2017? page 23
Will the Venezuelan Government Remain in Power in 2017? page 27
Will the US Leave the Paris Climate Agreement Under Donald Trump’s Presidency? page 31
Will the Construction of the TAPI Natural Gas Pipeline Proceed in 2017? page 37
What is the Current State of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps? page 41
Will Relations Between Iran and the United States Improve in 2017? page 45
Biographical notes on contributors page 51
The Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS) was founded in 2006
with the aim of promoting the understanding of international affairs. Special attention is
devoted to transatlantic relations, intelligence studies and terrorism, European integration,
international security, Balkan and Mediterranean studies, Russian foreign policy, as well as
policy-making on national and international markets. In 2013, RIEAS initiated the European
Intelligence Academy (EIA) project, in order to promote the field of intelligence studies in
European academic institutions.
The EIA aims to advance the intelligence profession by setting standards, building resources,
sharing knowledge within the intelligence field, and promoting a strong intelligence culture
in European Union (EU) member-states. It also promotes international research and
scholarship cooperation between intelligence scholars in the EU and scholars in other parts
of the world. Furthermore, the EIA highlights the work of emerging postgraduate and
undergraduate scholars in the intelligence studies field, and provides a forum for them to
exchange ideas and pursue relevant research. The Intelligence Review, which was launched by
the EIA in the summer of 2016, reflects our organization’s ultimate goal, which is to promote
synergy between young undergraduate and graduate students of intelligence in Europe, the
United States, and the rest of the world.
The Intelligence Review is a collaborative effort between the EIA and the Chanticleer Intelligence
Brief (CIB), an innovative new program that highlights the work of young student analysts
in the Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University in
the United States. This third issue of The Intelligence Review (Vol.2, No.3, October 2017) follows
the success of the journal’s first issue (Vol.1, No.1), which was published in July of 2016.
The extremely positive response we received from intelligence academics and practitioners
alike, ensured the continuation of this transatlantic collaborative project. The EIA is proud
to be part of this effort, and to work in partnership with the outstanding young analysts of
the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) and their mentor, Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis.
Much of the work that Dr. Fitsanakis and I do seeks to highlight the work of young scholars
in the intelligence studies field. Several young scholars participated in the conference
entitled “Intelligence Studies in a Time of European Crisis”, which took place between 22
and 24 June 2017 in Athens, Greece. The conference was co-organized by RIEAS and the
International Association for Intelligence Education – Europe Chapter, which is headquartered
in Breda, the Netherlands. The three-day international conference brought
together panelists from the armed forces, law-enforcement, intelligence and academic
community from a host of countries including Greece, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the
Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates,
Turkey, Israel, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, France and Switzerland. Many of them
were young intelligence scholars and trainees. Their presence at the conference furtehred
the goal of RIEAS and the EIA, which is to highlight the work of the emerging generation
in the intelligence studies field.
It is indeed through collaborative projects, such as the recent international conference in
Athens, and the present journal, The Intelligence Review, that knowledge in our field of study
is constantly reexamined, refined, and reshaped to address the challenges of the 21 st
century. I offer my congratulations to the young scholars who worked with Dr. Fitsanakis
to produce this excellent volume. You have set the bar very high for all of us, and I am
certain that your future accomplishments in the field will be as exceptional as your work in
Dr. John Nomikos
Director, European Intelligence Academy
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
Associate Professor, Intelligence and National Security Studies, Coastal Carolina University
Deputy Director, European Intelligence Academy
The philosophical foundations of Western civilization owe much to the ancient Greek
thinker, Plato. In several of his dialogues, including Phaedo and Phaedrus, the Athenian sage
deliberates on the nature of wisdom —what the Greeks called γνώσις. He goes to great pain
to distinguish wisdom from virtues such as knowledge, a profound understanding of reality,
and even intelligence. He appears to conclude that wisdom exceeds all those in both magnitude
and intensity. Ultimately, he says, wisdom is not simply a skill or a virtue, but a higher state
of being, a “state of the soul”, in which the soul “returns into itself” (Plato 1995). Education
in all its forms, therefore, should exceed the purely mechanistic, and should seek to initiate
the learner into a higher state of being.
The Platonic understanding of education forms the basis of the Chanticleer Intelligence
Brief (CIB). Admittedly, a significant portion of the CIB it rests on instruction, insomuch
as the students who participate in it are coached —by both professors and peers— in the
esoteric techniques of intelligence analysis. But the ultimate goal of the CIB is to help
students develop and harness their intuition —a combination of knowledge and feeling that
comes in layers, and gradually assembles elements of what the ancients would have
recognized as wisdom. Intuition is an indispensable quality for the intelligence analyst. It
allows her to assess data, not simply as static arrangements of facts, but as itinerant values
on a three-dimensional landscape that must be understood in motion. Intelligence analysts
who reach a high state of intuition become capable of anticipating events in very much the
same way that a mariner navigates a rough sea —that is, through a mixture of knowledge,
experience and sensation.
The present compendium, issue #3 of The Intelligence Review, is designed to showcase
modest examples of that crucial marriage of tangible and intangible abilities in prospective
intelligence analysts. The concept behind this process is simple: Upon joining the CIB,
student analysts join ‘Divisions’ —groups of analysts who specialize in a common
geographical region. They work collaboratively to issue measurable periodic forecasts on current
topics that relate to their region. Additionally, each analyst is given the task of answering a
specific question about an ongoing development that relates to her area of expertise. In
some cases, analysts are asked to produce what is known as ‘current intelligence’, namely
research that focuses on immediate problems and threats of an ongoing nature. In other
cases, they are asked to engage in ‘estimative intelligence’ —that is, to attempt to predict
and anticipate future developments. The latter is arguably the most challenging task given
to an intelligence analyst, and one that leaves their analytical products most open to dispute.
Analysts occupy themselves with their question for an entire semester. Throughout that
time, they are expected to brief the entire CIB analytical team on a weekly basis, sometimes
in the presence of inquisitive experts from the United States Intelligence Community. The
product of this effort is a brief but dense report, which contains the results of the
application of the author’s analytical skills on her subject matter. Eight of these reports form
the content of this volume, whose publication is the outcome of a fruitful transatlantic
collaboration between the CIB and the European Intelligence Academy.
Topics in this volume include the current and projected strength of the Islamic State in Libya,
the status of unification efforts on the island of Cyprus, the future of the government in
Venezuela, and the United States’ place in the Paris climate agreement. There are also
papers examining the construction of energy pipelines in Central Asia, as well as aspects
of Iranian geopolitics in relation to the United States. Last, though certainly not least, we
have included an estimative intelligence analysis of the first round of this year’s presidential
elections in France. It refers to an event of global significance that has already taken place.
However, it is included in this volume as an illustration of the power of intellectual accuracy
and the ability of an intelligence analyst to achieve 100 percent accuracy —as this analyst
does— by methodically considering and evaluating the analytical parameters of her question
with the right balance of precision and intuition.
In the past year alone, CIB analysts have made some impressively accurate forecasts. For
example, our Venezuela Analyst, Kiersten Chambers, whose work is included in this volume,
predicted with high confidence that Caracas would voluntarily withdraw from the Organization
of American States nearly two weeks before it happened. And our Saudi Arabia Analyst,
Antigua Clyburn, concluded her analytical forecast in April of 2017 by stating “with
moderate-high confidence that women will gain more rights in Saudi Arabia in 2017”. That
statement was made long before September of 2017, when, in a surprise move, the Saudi
monarchy issued a royal proclamation lifting the ban on women drivers —thus instantly erasing
one of the Kingdom’s oldest laws. These are just two of many examples that illustrate the
successful marriage of factual understanding and intuition in the work of the CIB.
This compendium represents a small sample of the CIB’s extensive output. It is presented
in the hope that the reader will benefit from the precision, astuteness and analytical clarity
of these very timely reports produced by a very talented team of young analysts.
Plato (1995) Phaedrus, Tr. A. Nehamas and P. Woodruff, Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.,
Indianapolis, IN, 1995.
Will the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria be
annihilated in Libya in 2017?
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has arguably become the premier terrorist
organization on the world stage, inspiring a new generation of Islamist militants in the
Middle East, Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, and even in the West. Because of Libya’s
political and economic instability, ISIS has been able to exploit such vulnerabilities and
build a formidable infrastructure. For a period, the organization even controlled an entire
city. Although ISIS no longer controls substantial territory in Libya, the organization
continues to pose a significant security challenge. With the current political chaos engulfing
Libya, it seems unlikely that political differences can be put aside to focus on eradicating
Islamist militant groups. It is with high confidence, therefore, that I assert that ISIS will
not be wiped out in Libya in 2017.
In 2011, a wave of revolutions swept across the Middle East. The Libyan dictator, Muammar
Gaddafi, who had been in power for 42 years, was quickly ousted from power and killed.
Since then, however, no one has been able to take a firm hold over the entire country and
unify it, leaving Libya divided between various militias and tribal groups. There are two
main groups vying for control of Libya. One faction is the Government of National
Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al Sarraj and supported by the United Nations (UN). The
GNA is based in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, yet has no territory or military of its own. It
must rely on alliances with various militias and tribal groups. Sarraj is supported by Western
powers because of his business background and advocacy for a democratic, free-market
governmental structure. Sarraj was chosen by the UN because of his ability to compromise,
which will be crucial if the UN hopes to unite Libya under one government. The other
group is the Tobruk government in the east, which is backed by Russia, Egypt, and the
Libyan National Army (LNA). Much of the Tobruk government’s strength and legitimacy
derives from its affiliation with the LNA, which is led by General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar,
a former US intelligence asset, is vehemently anti-Islamist. He justifies his military
campaign “as an effort to prevent Islamist forces from controlling Libya, although his
critics view his motives as being rooted in a desire for personal power” (Blanchard
2017:30). The biggest rift between Sarraj and Haftar is the debate over whether or not the
military should be civilian-controlled, as Sarraj and the GNA advocate, or remain
independent, as the Tobruk government and Haftar assert.
Due to the political instability in Libya, many areas, called ‘security vacuums,’ are devoid
of any government authority and protection. In 2014, increased fighting between the
different Libyan governmental forces opened up new security vacuums, which allowed
ISIS to launch a satellite base in Libya. Doing so allowed the organization to amass land,
finances, and power, and eventually take control of the coastal city of Sirte. On December
5, 2016, US airstrikes combined with assaults by pro-GNA ground forces were able to
push ISIS out of Sirte (Anon. 2016:1). Across Libya, various forces were able to oust “ISIS
cells and fighters from Derna and Benghazi in the east, from Tripoli, and from the town
of Sabratha near the Tunisian border” (Wehrey and Lacher 2017). Today, ISIS no longer
holds physical territory in Libya.
Since being evicted from Sirte, ISIS militants have migrated south into the Libyan Desert,
which remains a security vacuum. There, they have been able to regroup and amend their
modus operandi. The latter has shifted from taking control of physical territory, to disrupting
critical infrastructure using small groups, usually of no more than 20 militants. Conducting
operations in such small groups and carrying out attacks on specific facilities, rather than
carrying out full scale operations, makes it much harder for the GNA and the US to track
down and stop these Islamist militants.
ISIS’s flexibility and innovation, however, are not the most important factors determining
their viability in Libya in the upcoming year. Instead, the survival of the group in Libya is
contingent upon the existence of security vacuums resulting from political instability. The
prevailing instability in Libya is the result of no singular entity controlling Libya as a whole;
thus, the tug-of-war between Sarraj and Haftar plays a significant role in determining ISIS’s
strength in Libya.
On February 14, 2017, Fayez al Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar had been scheduled to meet in
Cairo, Egypt, to discuss a political settlement in which Haftar would agree to a civiliancontrolled
military. Haftar would therefore become the head security official of the “UNsponsored
and international[ly] supported political process” —in other words, the GNA
(Saied 2017). In return, Sarraj would hold a presidential election sometime in 2018, in
which Haftar could run as a legitimate candidate. Haftar, however, has rejected similar
deals in the past, arguing that the military “must be independent from civilian oversight,
not subject to it” (Toaldo 2017). Haftar is also extremely anti-Islamist and has serious
qualms with the GNA’s cooperation with Islamists during the Libya Dawn operations and
Islamist militias like the Benghazi Defense Brigade. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the meeting
was therefore cancelled after Haftar refused to speak with Sarraj.
Tensions continue to escalate between the two sides, as fighting becomes more intense. In
early March 2017, an Islamist militant group loosely aligned with the GNA, the Benghazi
Defense Brigade (BDB), captured two major oil ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, from the
LNA (Wintour 2017). The goal of the BDB is “to rescue Benghazi from Haftar and return
displaced families to their homes” (Wintour 2017). The LNA retaliated by launching a
successful operation to reclaim Es Sider and Ras Lanuf from the BDB, with alleged help
from Russian special forces (Anon. 2017c). The LNA launched an aggressive campaign
shortly after to oust the Islamist Shura Councils in Benghazi and Derna, where the army
had desecrated the dead bodies of forces aligned with the Shura Councils. LNA soldiers
were then photographed “parading [dead bodies] through the streets of Benghazi” and, in
one instance, strapping a corpse “to the front of a car” (Anon. 2017b). Despite Haftar’s
proclamation on July 6 that Benghazi was under his full control, fighting continues between
the LNA and the remaining fragments of the Shura Councils (Ben Ibrahim 2017).
On April 5, 2017, fighting reached new levels of ferocity, as LNA fighter aircraft began
“bombing locations around Timnahent airbase” followed by a ground attack (Assad 2017).
To counter the LNA’s advances, the GNA’s defense minister, Al Mahdi Al Barghathi,
announced the commencement of Operation Al Amal Al Muad “to push back Haftar’s
forces” (Pearson 2017). The GNA retaliated by launching airstrikes against LNA bombers
at the Brak Shati airbase. The Timnahent air base is “the most important air base in south
Libya”, making it a critical square in Haftar and Sarraj’s chess game to control Libya (Anon.
2017a). Indeed, this battle was the first major confrontation between the LNA and “forces
officially linked to the GNA”, as opposed to the proxy battles that have been more
common, like the aforementioned showdown between the LNA and the BDB (Lewis
2017). On May 25, 2017, the GNA conceded defeat and withdrew its forces from the
Timnahent airbase, which means that the LNA now has control of the most crucial air
base in southern Libya (Anon. 2017d).
On June 2, 2017, the LNA launched an attack on the outskirts of Sirte, ISIS’s self-described
former capital in Northern Africa. Sirte was recaptured by US-backed GNA forces in early
December 2016, but is still recovering from its occupation by ISIS militants. Haftar’s forces
attempted to take advantage of the city’s vulnerability, but was unsuccessful in capturing
Sirte. On July 5 the LNA launched a second offensive to take Sirte, but was again
unsuccessful. This is a clear move by Khalifa Haftar to move further up the Mediterranean
coast, amass more territory and potentially clear a road to Tripoli.
During the first few months of 2017, the LNA has been consistently “extending [its] reach
along Libya’s central Mediterranean coastline and into the desert regions”, working its way
towards Tripoli (Lewis 2017). The political and military struggle in Libya between the LNA
and the GNA has reached a pinnacle with the recent developments around the Timnahent
airbase and Haftar’s advancements towards Sirte, pushing the country deeper into conflict.
Taking control of the Timnahent air base was a major victory for the eastern government
and has given Haftar the impetus to march onward toward Tripoli, as indicated by his
continued efforts to storm Sirte.
The international community hoped that, by focusing efforts against ISIS, the political
factions in Libya would have a common enemy and band together as a singular force. “In
fact, the opposite has happened” (Wehrey and Lacher 2017): the campaigns against ISIS
were disorganized and “carried out by disparate and hostile militias without any unifying
authority”, thus intensifying the political divide between the GNA and the LNA as well as
the various tribal groups (Wehrey and Lacher 2017). The fight between the two opposing
government factions will likely rage on well into the next five years, even with the promise
of democratic elections. That being said, as long as the GNA and LNA continue to fight,
the political chaos will allow for the existence of security vacuums, which Islamist groups
may use to their advantage. Based on these developments, it can be stated with high
confidence that ISIS will not be wiped out in Libya in 2017. As long as Libya remains in
its current state of political pandemonium, ISIS and other Islamist militants will be able to
exploit these conditions and remain operationally active well into 2017.
Anonymous (2016) “The Repercussions of Losing the Sirte Region on ISIS’s Position in Libya
and the Nature of the Islamic State (Preliminary Assessment)”, The Meir Amit Intelligence and
Terrorism Information Center, 19 December , accessed on 28 February 2017.
Anonymous (2017a) “East Libya Forces Fight Each Other for Southern Air Base”, Middle East Online,
6 April , accessed on 10 April 2017.
Anonymous (2017b) “Libyan Army Accused of ‘War Crimes’ as Mutilated Bodies Paraded around
Benghazi”, Middle East Monitor, 20 March , accessed on
21 March 2017.
Anonymous (2017c) “Libya’s Bloody Conflict Continues to Escalate at Oil Terminals”, Haaretz,
12 March , accessed on 14 March 2017.
Anonymous (2017d) “Third Force Withdraws from Timnahent Airbase in Southern Libya”, Libyan
Express, 25 May ,
accessed on 10 July 2017.
Assad, A. (2017) “UN-Proposed Government’s Air Force Air-Attacks Haftar’s Warplanes in
South Libya”, The Libya Observer, 6 April ,
accessed on 10 April 2017.
Ben Ibrahim, A. (2017) “Fighting Continues in Benghazi”, The Libya Observer, 8 July , accessed on 10 July 2017.
Blanchard, C.M. (2017) Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, Library
of Congress, Washington, DC, United States.
Lewis, A. (2017) “Deadly Air Strike on Libyan Desert Base as Rival Factions Clash”, Reuters, 10
April , accessed on 10
Pearson, J. (2017) “Libya Oilfield Shuts Down as Fighting Intensifies in South-West”, The
National, 10 April ,
accessed on 10 April 2017.
Saied, M. (2017) “Cairo Continues to Mediate Libya Conflict Despite Failures”, Al Monitor, 22
February , accessed on 28 February 2017.
Toaldo, M. (2017) “How to Stabilize Libya if Haftar Won’t Play Ball”, Middle East Eye, 23 February
, accessed on 28 February 2017.
Wehrey, F., and Lacher, W. (2017) “Libya After ISIS”, Foreign Affairs, 22 February , accessed on 15 May 2017.
Who Will Win the First Round of the 2017
Presidential Election in France?
Kayla “Ace” Chambers
Editor’s Note: The present analysis refers to an event of global significance that has already taken place.
Its current predictive value is therefore diminished. However, it is included in this publication in order to
illustrate the power of intellectual precision and the ability of an intelligence analyst to achieve 100 percent
accuracy —as this analysis did— by methodically considering and evaluating the analytical parameters of
I assert, with low confidence, that Emmanuel Macron will win the first round of the French
elections. I conclude with high confidence that Marine Le Pen will make it to the second
round of the elections, though I also conclude with high confidence that she will not win
the second round. Due to the scandal that is currently afflicting his candidacy, it is unlikely
that François Fillon can gain enough support to get into the second round, much less win
the election. With the sudden increase in support for Mélenchon, it is possible for him to
gain enough support to win a place in the second round, but I doubt he will win the first
round. I have high confidence that none of the other seven candidates will win the French
The French presidential election occurs every five years through a two-round voting
system. The first round includes all candidates. If no candidate receives more than 50
percent of the vote, there is a second round runoff between the two candidates who
received the most votes in the first round. Candidates receive a spot on the first-round
ballot by having at least 500 elected officials submit sponsorship pledges. According to
France’s Constitutional Council, 11 candidates met that condition by the deadline. However,
only four have a legitimate shot at the presidency: François Fillon for the conservative
Republican party, Marine Le Pen for the far-right National Front, Emmanuel Macron for
the centrist En Marche!, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the leftwing Unsubmissive France.
Fillon, France’s former prime minister, was originally one of the frontrunners in this
election. He is campaigning on a platform of spending cuts in multiple areas, including
cutting many public-sector jobs, raising the retirement age, cutting back employment
benefits, and ending the 35-hour work week in favor of a 38-hour work week (Anon.
2017a). Early on, Marine Le Pen was considered to be his biggest opponent. Le Pen is
campaigning for a ‘Frexit,’ or a referendum for France to leave the European Union (EU),
following in the United Kingdom’s steps. She is also planning on reforming France’s
policies towards migrants, including deporting all immigrants whose names are on watch
lists maintained by the French intelligence services. Le Pen has also promised to deny illegal
immigrants health care, suspend all immigration temporarily, and make it impossible for
illegal immigrants to become French citizens (Melander 2017). Now, however, the tide has
turned, and Le Pen is likely to move on to the second round, with her primary competitor
being Emmanuel Macron, who is running on a platform of economic change. The former
economy minister plans to cut corporate tax from 33 percent to 25 percent, and cutting
public sector jobs to save money. He also plans to impose stricter enforcement of France’s
secular laws and ban the practice of hiring family members as parliamentary assistants
(Love 2017). Jean-Luc Mélenchon is also challenging the frontrunners for a spot in the
second round. His platform includes renegotiating France’s current treaties, and in failure
of that, possibly pulling out of the EU. He has also pledged to increase public spending
and the minimum wage. Additionally, Mélenchon plans to move towards renewable
energy, give legal status to working undocumented immigrants and, most importantly,
create a ‘Sixth Republic of France’ by moving towards what he calls “a true parliamentary
system”. All four candidates have a chance to move on to the second round, with all
scoring above 20 percent in the polls as of April 16, 2017. Consequently, all four have a
shot at becoming president.
Until the end of January 2017, Fillon was favored to win the presidency. However, on
January 29, French satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné published a report claiming Fillon
had hired his wife and children for posts under his political office that they did not perform.
While hiring family members is not illegal under French law, there must be proof that the
family members actually performed the work, and the paper claimed that there was no
proof of this (Anon. 2017b). Fillon and his wife initially denied these claims, with Fillon
himself going so far as to say that he would back out of the race if the issue was brought
to court, however, after the French police picked up the investigation, raiding Fillon’s
parliamentary offices and interviewing him and his wife, Fillon retracted this statement. He
admitted that he had hired his wife and children, but claimed that they had performed the
work for which they had been hired. As of March 28, 2017, both Fillon and his wife have
been placed under official investigation, which continues to this day (Anon. 2017c). Fillon
claims he is innocent, but the damage to his reputation has been substantial. He began to
slip in the polls, and has yet to return to his original polling numbers from back in January.
This scandal also paved the way for Macron’s rise to prominence, because Fillon political
freefall left center-right voters with no other candidate to turn to. Thus, the centrist
Macron stepped in to take his place.
Fillon’s scandal can be contrasted with Marine Le Pen’s even bigger job scandal, which
appears to have barely touched her popularity at all. This scandal has caused a rift between
her and the European Parliament (EP), with the latter claiming that she took funds that
were meant to hire an assistant, and instead used them to pay employees for her party. In
response to the scandal, the EP is currently garnishing Le Pen’s wages. She denies any
wrongdoing on her part, claiming the investigation is politically motivated (Bulman 2017).
It is worth noting that this scandal has left Le Pen’s polling numbers largely unaffected: similar
numbers of voters pledged to vote for her before and after the scandal reached its peak.
This election period has seen the introduction of debates before the first round. Previously,
only the two candidates moving on to the second round were invited to participate in
debates, which were hosted between the first and second election rounds. However, in
2017 the nationwide television station TF1 announced that it would be holding three
debates before the first round. The first debate took place on March 20 and included the
four frontrunners, as well as Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party candidate. The debate
lasted three and a half hours and, according to the leading French polling agency
Opinionway, as well as multiple other sources, viewers saw Macron as the most convincing
of the participants. This coincided with a boost to his polling numbers and saw Macron
passing Le Pen in many polls for the first time. Mélenchon also received a boost in polling
numbers, which marked the beginning of a steady increase in popular support for him.
The second debate took place on April 4, and saw yet another boost for Mélenchon. This
debate included all 11 candidates, and lasted four and a half hours. This time, Mélenchon
was rated as most convincing by viewers (23 percent of the time) followed by Macron (20
percent of the time) (Micheau 2017b). This was reflected in the polls, as Mélenchon
received a boost shortly after, with Macron’s numbers declining slightly.
Fillon must overcome the scandal surrounding his candidacy and regain the trust of his
voters in order to have a chance at making it to the second round. Based on his attitude
towards the police investigations, as well as his ill-received performance at the debates, I
have low confidence he will be able to. I have high confidence that Le Pen will make it to
the second round, looking at how her scandal and being heavily criticized by the other
candidates at the debates has failed to damage her in the polls. I have high confidence that
Macron will make it to the second round. When looking at his performances in the debates,
I believe that out of all the candidates, he has the best chance of winning the first round,
but Le Pen also has a decent chance of winning as well. I have moderate confidence that
Mélenchon will make it to the second round; while it is unlikely, he could squeak past Le
Pen or Macron in the vote. Any of these four could continue on into the second round.
While it is statistically possible for the remaining seven to make it, I have very low
confidence that any of them will net anything higher than fourth place.
Anonymous (2017a) “Factbook: Francois Fillon’s presidential election policies”, Reuters, April 14,
accessed on April 15, 2017.
Anonymous (2017b) “François Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid more than €900,000 for work she
allegedly didn’t perform”, France 24, February 1, accessed on April 17, 2017.
Anonymous (2017c) “Francois Fillon’s wife Penelope under formal investigation”, BBC. March 28.
accessed on April 17, 2017.
Bulman, M. (2017) “Marine Le Pen refuses to repay €300,000 in ‘misspent’ EU funds.” Independent.
accessed on April 17, 2017.
Conseil Constitutionnel (n.d.) “Les Parrainages Validés par Candidat”, Conseil Constitutionnel,
Paris, France ,
accessed on April 15, 2017.
Love, B. (2017) “Factbook: Emmanuel Macron’s presidential election policies”, Reuters. April 14.
. accessed on April 17, 2017.
Melander, I. (2017) “Factbook: Marine Le Pen’s French presidential election policies”, Reuters,
April 14, accessed on April 17, 2017.
Micheau, F. (2017a) “Les réactions au premier débat entre les candidats à l’élection présidentielle”,
Opinionway, March, accessed April 17, 2017.
Micheau, F. (2017b) “Les réactions au premier débat entre les candidats à l’élection
présidentielle”, Opinionway, April, accessed April 17, 2017.
Sandford, A. (2017) “Jean-Luc Mélenchon: What Do We Know of His Policies?”, Euronews, April
accessed on April 17, 2017.
Will the Divided Island of Cyprus Come Closer
to Reunification in 2017?
It can be stated with high confidence that the Republic of Cyprus will not come closer to
reunification in 2017. Throughout the beginning of 2017, the two sides of the divided
island have made it clear that they want leader-led negotiations without United Nations
(UN) arbitration. While a resolution may seem plausible, the complexity of this issue is
often underestimated. There have been various external and internal indicators highlighting
the local and regional issues that are factoring into its reunification. Understanding why
the island is divided is essential when it comes to considering the reunification process.
For a question that may appear to have a simplistic answer, this solution is far more
complex. It should be noted that when defining closer, one must look at progressive
measures in political relations and tangible indicators to the security of the island’s citizens,
on both sides of the divide.
On July 15, 1974, a failed coup d’état by a Greek paramilitary group calling itself EOKA-
B resulted in the Turkish military invasion on the northern shores of Cyprus. The Turkish
invasion was prompted by the fear of the Greek military neglecting the rights of the
Turkish-speaking minority on Cyprus. The Turkish military remained on the island after a
bilateral cease-fire, leading to its partition. The Greek Cypriots remained in control of the
island’s southern two-thirds, while the Turkish military controlled the north. Subsequently,
hundreds of thousands of Cypriots were displaced as a result of the invasion and
intercommunal violence. The following year, the de facto state of Northern Cyprus
proclaimed itself as the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. In 1983, the name was formally
changed to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Although a government was
established to represent the Turkish Cypriots in Northern Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots and
the international community, represented by the UN, view the continuing presence of
Turkish troops on the island as an illegal occupation. Even though the island was divided,
the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004. During the same
year, the UN proposed a referendum to reunify the island, which was approved by the
Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek Cypriots (Kambas and Karadeniz 2017).
Arbitration by the UN drove a wedge between the two communities, leaving the leaders
of the UN, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots to reconstruct a cohesive plan. Not only
did the failed arbitration show that the UN had limited influence on the state of affairs, it
also showed that the two communities on the island were not equally prepared for
The current leader of the Greek Cypriot people is Nicos Anastasiades. Elected to office in
2013, President Anastasiades has been working in conjunction with Mustafa Akinci,
President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Both leaders have publicly
announced that they wish to reunify Cyprus in the future. However, external political
figures, like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Special Advisor Espen
Barth Eide, should be expected to contribute to the success or failure of the reunification
process. Additionally, an increasingly difficult internal factor for Cyprus’s reunification will
be the National Popular Party (ELAM), a small but vocal far-right Greek Cypriot political
group, which opposes talks with the north.
In early February 2017, the Greek Cypriot government passed a ruling which would allow
for secondary schools to honor the Enosis (Union) Referendum, a proposal led in 1950 by
the Christian Orthodox church, aiming to unify Cyprus with Greece. Records show that,
nearly 96 percent of Greek Cypriots voted in favor of the annexation at that time (Christou
2017). But the 1950 proposal was not backed by British authorities and only the Greek
Cypriots took part in the vote. Although the Enosis referendum failed to pass, some prounion
Greek Cypriots see it as a historic moment in the age-old struggle for union with
Greece, which many Greek Cypriots see as their motherland. As many Greek Cypriots
view the 1950 Enosis Referendum as the first step towards independence from Britain,
some Turkish Cypriots see the attempt to unify with Greece as the beginning of a
communal division. Therefore, the recent proposal to commemorate the bill has raised
tensions between the two sides on the island. Recently, when the Cypriot leaders met under
UN sponsorship to deliberate over the reunification progress, Mustafa Akinci attempted
to discuss the Enosis Day bill but the request was allegedly declined.
Shortly after the request was denied, Akinci and his delegation abandoned the meeting.
Despite calls from Eide and Anastasiades to resume talks, Akinci warned that “the talks
‘will be pointless’ if Anastasiades doesn’t distance himself from parliament’s vote
“regarding the Enosis commemoration (Anon. 2017a). To further-complicate an already
complex situation, the Enosis commemorative bill was proposed by ELAM, the far-right
Greek party, which gained their first two seats in the Cypriot House of Representatives in
the 2016 election. ELAM reportedly has ties to Greece’s far-right-wing group Golden
Dawn (Stefanini 2017). In addition, ELAM opposes the creation of two constituent states,
which would be overseen by a federal government, and argues that the Turkish military
occupation of Cyprus must be brought to an end (Stefanini 2017). The bill was opposed
y the House of Representatives’ second largest party, the Progressive Party of Working
People (AKEL), but the House’s largest party, the Democratic Rally (DISY) abstained in
the vote. DISY’s abstention allowed the bill to receive enough votes to pass through the
House. Things could have been different if Anastasiades party, DISY, opposed the vote.
That would have caused the bill to fail to receive enough votes. On the other hand,
Anastasiades’ party’s abstention from the vote indicates that he may be trying to have all
parties involved in the reunification process. If DISY voted for the passing of Enosis Day
commemoration, it would have severed ties with the Turkish Cypriot leadership. By DISY
taking a neutral stance, it allowed for other House parties to deliberate over the bill without
influence from the largest party. This could have been an indirect attempt to see where the
rest of the parliament stands on the readiness of reunification.
Despite the seemingly tic-for-tac politics in Cyprus, there have been progressive steps
towards reunification. Recently Exxon Mobil signed an exploration- and productionsharing
contract with the government of the Republic of Cyprus. The contract was
approved by the official Cypriot Government and Mr. Anastasiades. Although the drilling
will take place off the southern shores of Cyprus, Northern Cyprus and Turkish President
Erdogan could profit remarkably. Egypt’s deep-water Zohr gas field is the largest in the
Eastern Mediterranean (Anon. 2017b). It lies south of the boundary line on Block 11 in
Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The discovery of natural gas in the EEZ could
turn the nation into the new hub for fossil fuels in the Eastern Mediterranean. If directing
a pipeline into Southern Turkey is proposed, Turkey could profit extraordinarily. Routing
this gas back into southern EU nations may relieve some of the dependence of Europe on
Russian fossil fuels. But not everyone agrees that the gas exploration will result in a friendly
conclusion. Former Undersecretary of the TRNC Presidency, Mustafa Ergun Olgun,
stated in a recent interview that if the Greek Cypriot government continues to explore for
hydrocarbons, it could result in a bloody conflict between the two sides (Olgun 2017). In
the likelihood that Erdogan continues to seek EU membership, this may be the biggest
bargaining chip in recent years he has had to play with. But this may change due to the
passing of the recent referendum in Turkey, which consolidated the powers of the
parliament to a single executive position, the president —a position currently held by Erdogan.
Although the concept of reunification may seem improbable to some, the strongest
influencing factor will be the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Though politicians should work
for the needs of the republic, the leadership is expected to adhere to the requests of the
citizens. A potential reunification of this divided country may be the first step in stabilizing
a notoriously unstable region. In the meantime, the likelihood of Cyprus reunifying in 2017
is rapidly vanishing. It can be stated with high confidence that the island will not come
closer to reunification this year. To many, the proposal of reunification appears to be a
nostalgic idea from the past. Still, a reunification would not only be a victory for the wider
region, but also for the EU, which has struggling with its own divisions in recent years.
Anonymous (2017) “Anastasiades Calls on Akinci to Return to the Talks – UPDATED”, In-Cyprus,
16 February, , accessed on 17 April 2017.
Anonymous (n.d.) “Zohr Gas Field, Egypt”, Offshore Technology, ,
accessed on 18 April 2017.
Christou, J. (2017) “Leaders’ Dinner Fails to Set New Date for Talks, UN Issues Revised
Statement”, The Cyprus Mail, 02 April, ,
accessed on 18 April 2017.
Kambas, M., Karadeniz, T. (2017) “Cyprus Reunification Talks Break Up With Plan to Keep
Talking”, Reuters, 12 January, ,
accessed on 17 April 2017.
Olgun, E. (2017) Personal interview given to the author in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 25 May 2017.
Stefanini, S. (2017) “Cyprus Talks on the Rocks Over School History Rule”, Politico, 21 February,
on 18 April 2017.
Will the Venezuelan Government Remain in
Power in 2017?
Currently, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is experiencing what some experts refer
to as the “worst economic crisis in the history of the country”, in addition to political
instability (Lubben 2016). As a result of the recent economic and political situation, the
Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) has faced increasing domestic opposition,
as well as rising criticism from nearby countries such as the United States, Argentina,
Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Canada, and Paraguay (Anon. 2016). Although President
Nicolás Maduro’s government has the support of Chávistas —those in favor of the political
legacy of the late Hugo Chávez— as well as countries such as Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru
and many other American states, the ability of the government to remain in power in 2017
is in question.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is led by President Maduro, who was elected to
office in 2013, after the death of former President Hugo Chávez (Anon. 2016). Since that
time, the hyperinflation rate of 800 percent has caused food and medicine to become scarce
and rationed. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate has reached 21.8 percent, and the
crime rate has increased dramatically —especially in the area of homicides, where it was
estimated that for every 100,000 people 92 were murdered in 2016 (Venezuela Investigative
Unit 2016). Due to these and other factors, Venezuela’s government has received the
attention of organizations such as the European Union, Mercado Común del Sur
(Mercosur), and the Organization of American States (Boothroyd-Rojas 2017a). The
oppositionists —that is, Venezuelan citizens who strongly oppose the government— have
called for the removal of President Maduro. The Chávistas, who show strong support for
the political precedents set by the late Hugo Chávez, have continuously supported the
government. Currently, the Chávistas still lead the polls in Venezuela with the Partido
Socialista Unido de Venezuela being the favored party for 35 percent of those polled
Earlier this year, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis
Almagro, called for Venezuela to hold general elections within 30 days and “retake an
institutional route” or face suspension from the regional bloc (García Marco 2017). An
extraordinary meeting was held by the OAS permanent council to determine the standing
of Venezuela within the organization, but a consensus was not reached, which allowed the
country to remain a member (Charles 2017). After weeks of speculation regarding the
membership of Venezuela in the OAS, on April 27, 2017, President Maduro made the
executive decision to withdraw from the Organization that the country has been a member
of for 65 years. The process of removing the country from the Organization will take about
two years to complete. This decision came as a result of President Maduro’s belief that the
OAS and conservative regional governments were trying to remove him from power
As a result of the escalating efforts to suspend Venezuela from the OAS, protests by
Chávistas, determined to defend their government, erupted in the streets. On the same day,
oppositionists also took to the streets, protesting a recent ruling by the Tribunal Supremo
de Justica, or the Supreme Court (Koerner and Charles 2017). The ruling called for the
investigation of allegations of vote-buying in the December 2015 election of the legislative
branch, which allowed the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, to take the place of the Asamblea
Nacional —the National Assembly. But the ruling has since been reversed (Boothroyd-
Rojas and Mallet-Outtrim 2017). These demonstrations, which continue unabated as of
September 2017, mark the longest stretch of protests in three years. On June 28, 2017,
what Maduro deemed a “terroristic attack” took place against the Venezuelan government.
A stolen police helicopter fired fifteen shots at the Interior Ministry and dropped four
grenades on the Supreme Court building in Caracas. However, the grenades did not
detonate as planned, and there were no human casualties. (Anon. 2017b). Attacks such as
these have caused the European Union to call on all a parties to “find a common ground
and end the violence”. Mercosur, or the Common Market of the South, has also threatened
to expel Venezuela if the protests do not subside (Boothroyd-Rojas 2017b). In response
to both the protests and the attention received from Mercosur and the EU, President
Maduro called upon the Consejo Nacional Electoral —the National Electoral Council— to
set a date for regional and municipal elections, which have not been held since 2012 (Koerner
2017). That date has now been set for October 15, 2017 (Boothroyd Rojas 2017c).
Venezuela could face severe economic and diplomatic implications due to its voluntarily
withdrawal from the OAS and threatened removal from Mercosur. Since Venezuela has
technically withdrawn from the OAS, a diplomatic charter can no longer be implemented,
which would allow for the assistance in regaining a democratic route and alleviating some of
the economic crisis and political instability. Venezuela will also lose its ability to participate
in meetings of the General Assembly and the Inter-American Defense Board. That could
potentially further-worsen relationships with several nearby countries —specifically those
that openly support the Venezuelan opposition. The country may also lose its funding
from the Inter-American Development Bank, which has given it roughly $1.8 billion todate
(García Marco 2017). In addition, if Venezuela were to be suspended from Mercosur,
it could deeply worsen the economic crisis the country has been suffering from.
Regarding the political aspect of the country’s situation, President Maduro’s efforts to hold
reelections in order to curtail the opposition protests shows the confidence that the
President has in his party. Maduro believes that, by responding to the oppositionists with
votes, he can silence the protesters by proving that a majority of the country still supports
the PSUV. Such a move could further-radicalize and entrench the Bolivarian Revolution.
Regional elections were set for last year, but were delayed due to a decision by the National
Electoral Council, which said that elections would conflict with the recall referendum
process. The ruling postponed the elections even further, on account of 53,658 signatures
collected by the opposition proving to be fraudulent (Koerner 2017). Not only does this
particular incident shed light on the corruption of the political system as a whole, but also
demonstrates the continuing ability of the Venezuelan Government to remain in control
in the face of strong popular opposition.
According to a number of recent polls taken, the current support of the Partido Socialista
Unido de Venezuela has actually risen to 35 percent. This shows that the core of Chávistas
continue to favor the current government regardless of the ongoing economic crisis and
political instability. The opposition remains fragmented. But even when combined,
opposition parties are supported by less than 30 percent of the country, while 36 percent
of the Venezuelan population do not identify with any particular national party
(Boothroyd-Rojas 2017). While economic and diplomatic implications do threaten the
current Venezuelan government, the political aspect outweighs all factors that contribute
to the government’s ability to remain in power. Due to the percentage of voters that favor
Maduro’s party, it can be stated with high confidence that the Venezuelan Government
will remain in power in 2017.
Anonymous (2016) “Venezuela country profile”, BBC News, 31 July, , accessed on 17 April 2017.
Anonymous (2017a) “Venezuela to quit Organization of American States”, Aljazeera, 26 April,
, accessed on 17 April 2017.
Anonymous (2017b) “Venezuela supreme court attacked from a helicopter”, Al Jazeera, 27 June,
, accessed on 17 April 2017.
Boothroyd-Rojas, R. and Mallett-Outtrim, R. (2017) “Why has Venezuela’s Supreme Court
Assumed Legislative Power?”, 31 March, , accessed
on 17 April 2017.
Boothroyd-Rojas, R. (2017a) “International Community Responds to Venezuela’s Political Unrest”,
Venezuela Analysis, 11 April, , accessed on 17
Boothroyd-Rojas, R. (2017b) “Support for Chavismo Climbs in Venezuela”, Venezuela Analysis,
13 April, , accessed on 17 April 2017.
Boothroyd Rojas, R. (2017c) "CNE Fixes Date for October Regional Elections", Venezuela Analysis,
13 September, , accessed on 18 September 2017.
Charles, J., and Koerner, L. (2017) “Chavistas and Opposition Forces March on Caracas amid
Clashes”, Venezuela Analysis, April 6, , accessed
on 17 April 2017.
Charles, J. (2017) “OAS Fails to Reach Consensus on Venezuela Suspension in Latest Extraordinary
Session”, Venezuela Analysis, 28 March, ,
accessed on 17 April 2017.
Garcia Marco, D. (2017) “El secretario general de la OEA, Luis Almagro, propone la suspensión
de Venezuela si el gobierno de Maduro no convoca elecciones generales en 30 días”, BBC
Mundo, 15 March, , accessed
on 17 April 2017.
Koerner, L. (2017) “Venezuela’s Maduro Calls for Regional and Municipal Elections”, Venezuela
Analysis, 12 April, , accessed on 17 April 2017.
Lubben, S. (2016) “The Coming Mess in Venezuelan Debt”, The New York Times, 28 January,
accessed on 17 April 2017.
Venezuela Investigative Unit (2017) “Venezuela Set for Murderous 2017”,Insight Crime, 08
January, , accessed
on 17 April 2017.
Will the US Leave the Paris Climate Agreement
Under Donald Trump’s Presidency?
The early days of the administration of United States President Donald Trump saw a very
purposeful assault on Washington’s longstanding environmental policies. Steps taken by the
Trump administration have included revoking several environmental regulations put in place
during the presidency of President Barack Obama and proposing major cuts to the
Environmental Protection Agency. Most notably, on June 1, 2017, Trump announced his
decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement —the world’s most
extensive climate initiative. If carried out, this policy would make the US the only developed
nation not included in the agreement. Upon leaving the agreement, the US would join the
ranks of Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world to shun it. Despite the seeming
finality of the US president’s decision, nothing is certain. Unless he is willing to take drastic
measures, the Trump administration will be forced to undergo a lengthy withdrawal process
that may see the end of his presidential term before its completion. It is therefore not certain
that the US will manage to leave the Agreement under Trump’s presidency. The process may
take so long that in the meantime Trump may be unseated by a Democratic president who
will reverse his administration’s decision. It can therefore be stated with low confidence that
the US will not withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement during Trump’s presidency.
The 1980s saw the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
after a majority of environmental scientists ascertained that global temperatures were
warmer than any time since the 1800s (Maslin 2004:20). Since then, research has found
that the 14 warmest years in recorded history have occurred within the last 17 years.
Furthermore, the IPCC established that the warming of the climate is due in large part to
the greenhouse gas emissions —specifically carbon dioxide— released into the atmosphere
as a by-product of human industrialization (Boland 2014:255).
Eventually, IPCC scientists defined climate change as “a change in the state of the climate
that can be identified and that persists for an extended period of time, typically decades or
longer; whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity” (ctd in Boland
2014:250). Based on that definition, the IPCC spent decades spreading public awareness
of what its scientists described as the critical nature of global climate change. This
awareness culminated in officials around the world coming together under the umbrella of
the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, to establish the 2015
Paris Climate Agreement.
As the world’s largest international climate treaty, the Paris Climate Agreement obligates
signatory nations to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions and to collectively
keep the global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius over the next 80 years. The
only legally binding stipulations of the Agreement are found under Article 28, which
dictates a withdrawal process that can be no shorter than four years (United Nations n.d.).
However, despite not being a legally binding document, the Paris Climate Agreement
creates an umbrella under which countries can create and implement legally binding,
environmental protection legislations that are tailored specifically to their respective
nations. Additionally, it serves as a tool for the international community to hold signatory
countries responsible to their commitments under the Agreement.
With America being responsible for 45 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,
the 2016 Obama administration’s decision to join the Paris Climate Agreement was a
pivotal moment for the survival of the agreement and the international community’s ability
to meet its collective goal (United Nations n.d.). However, as President Obama’s time in
office was coming to an end, candidate Trump made his opposition to the agreement
known. During his May 2016 campaign speech, Trump promised that during his first 100
days he would “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions, including
cancelling the Paris Climate Agreement and stopping all payments of US tax dollars to UN
global warming programs” (US Office of Management and Budget 2017).
According to Article 28 of the Paris Climate Agreement, the course of action needed for
the US to withdraw from its obligations requires a four-year process. Signatories must wait
3 years after signing to apply for withdrawal, which will take effect one year after the
submission of the documents. This makes April 2020 the earliest possible withdrawal date
for the US. However, Article 28 also stipulates that any party that withdraws from the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change will be considered to have also withdrawn
from all the agreements it houses —including the Paris Climate Agreement (United
Nations n.d.). This creates a loophole that would allow Trump to make the unilateral
decision to withdraw from the UNFCCC and thereby the Paris Agreement, well within the
time of his presidential term. Doing so would be a bold and controversial move, almost
guaranteed to create stark divisions within both political parties in the US. Recognizing
this, the Trump administration has elected instead to supplement the Paris Climate
Agreement withdrawal with severe reductions to the size and power of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA is an American government agency with the stated mission of “protecting human
health and the environment”. It has defined its Congressional mandate as ensuring —
among other things— “that federal laws protecting the environment are enforced fairly and
effectively, that environmental protection is an integral consideration in US policies, and
that the US plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the environment”
(EPA 2017). The EPA has the authority to develop environmental regulations and enforce
them by way of civil or criminal litigation. Furthermore, it is one of the largest environmental
research agencies in America. As such, it was one of the most important agencies in the
country when it came to its ability to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.
In January 2017, the Trump administration took its first action against the EPA by ordering
a freeze of all EPA-related grants and contracts, effectively stopping the agency’s core
operations. The administration explained its actions as a way to ensure that its officials had
a clear understanding of all activities currently underway by the agency. The head of the
EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, stated that it was “trying to freeze things to make sure
nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward,
contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first” (Merica 2017). That
same month, two hundred investors with over $2 trillion in assets, as well as some
of America’s largest companies that collectively employ nearly 2 million people and take in
an annual revenue of $1.15 trillion, signed an open letter to the Trump Administration
(Gensler 2017). The letter underscored the companies’ support for environmental
protection and the Paris Agreement. This move by prominent American businesses had
an almost immediate impact on the actions of the Trump administration. Twenty-four
hours after the open letter was released, Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson
expressed his belief in the importance of America staying at the Paris
Agreement roundtable so as to “understand its impacts on the American people and
American competitiveness” (Tollefson 2017). A week later, the EPA freeze was lifted, with
the Trump administration stating that “as of now, nothing has been delayed. Nothing has
been cut. There was simply a pause and everything’s up and running” (King 2017).
On February 17, 2017, Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma Attorney General and selfdescribed
“leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”, was confirmed as the new
EPA Administrator. Following this, on March 16, President Trump released a budget
proposal that went uncontested by the new administrator. The budget proposed a $2.6
billion (31 percent) cut to the EPA’s budget, as well as a workforce reduction of 3,200
people that would begin in October 2017. Particularly momentous cuts suggested a $129
million reduction of the EPA’s enforcement budget, a $73 million reduction in chemical
safety and renewable energy research, a $66 million reduction in climate protection
funding, as well as the complete removal of funding for lake restoration, diesel emissions
reduction, and 60 other programs (Korte 2017).
The magnitude of the suggested reductions will have a direct impact on the ability of the
US to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement that it is still held accountable to during
the four years of the withdrawal process. Research conducted by the EPA helps to
determine national areas of environmental interest and create realistic goals for progress.
In relation to this, specific pieces of legislation were created in compliance with the Paris
Agreement in the 2016 fiscal year during the Obama administration. They included
pollution limits for power plants and fuel efficiency and pollution standards for vehicles.
They were regulated and enforced by the EPA in 46 civil and 81 criminal lawsuits against
various American companies, cities and states (EPA 2017). When asked about the impact that
the Trump administration’s cuts would have on the Paris Agreement, White House budget
director Mick Mulvaney stated that the administration simply “went to what the President
said during the campaign and turned those policies into numbers” (US Office 2017).
Recent developments saw increased Republican Party support for withdrawal from the
Paris Agreement. On April 14, 2017, a statement from EPA Administrator Pruitt said that
“Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in
my opinion” (Mooney 2017). This was supported by EPA transition team head Ebell, who
said that “if the US were to stay in [the agreement] but followed through on its [EPA]
commitments, it would face a continual uproar over its policies”. Ebell went on to repeat
his belief that “kind and gentle international postures will not be effective”, but that the
nation must also remove itself from the Paris Agreement all together in order to ensure
consistency in America’s national and global environmental positions (Eilperin 2017). In
the wake of the June decision to withdraw from the agreement, dissent has rung just as
loudly as support, with Republican leaders such as Senator Rand Paul tweeting that the
decision is “great news for the economy”, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel’s
stated praise for “dealing yet another significant blow to the Obama administration’s
assault on domestic energy production and jobs” (Mascaro 2017).
It initially seemed that the protests of some of the wealthiest businesses and investors in
the US may have the influence necessary to mitigate the resolve of the Trump
administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Yet, confirmation of Trump’s
choice of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator brought with it a revitalized commitment to
halt America’s involvement in the Paris Agreement. According to the President of the
Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook, “Trump’s budget proposal would effectively
cripple the EPA’s ability to do anything on behalf of public health and environmental
protection, and leave local and state governments on their own in fighting climate change,
water contamination, and air pollution from toxic industries” (Hulac 2017). These cuts
ensure that the EPA will be unable to effectively carry out its stated mission, particularly
as it pertains to its role in carrying out US commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Despite having four years in which to act before the formal withdrawal is implemented,
US involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement will be crippled. By financially gutting the
EPA, the Trump administration has effectively achieved its desired result of stymying US
action on climate change, thus diminishing any need to enact Article 28, which would allow
for withdrawal within a year. As such, it can be stated with low confidence that the US will
not withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement during Trump’s presidency.
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Will the Construction of the TAPI Natural Gas
Pipeline Proceed in 2017?
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project is focused on
transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to India, passing through Afghanistan and
Pakistan in the process. However, this project is not simply designed to provide three of
these four nations with energy capability. It may also have the ability to improve relations
between the TAPI member countries, which have a history of discontent and conflict in a
region known for its constant border disputes (Reyaz 2015). Due to this, some have
described the TAPI project as a “peace pipeline” (Bhutta 2017). Since all four national
entities stand to benefit from the project, the TAPI pipeline may help eradicate discontent
between some of the countries involved and promote economic stability in the region.
Despite this potential, the project has faced significant uncertainty since 1995, when it was
originally conceived (Bhutta 2017).
After years of minimal progress, December 14, 2015, marked the ground-breaking, official
commencement of the TAPI project (Reyaz 2015). Originally scheduled to be fully
operational by December 2019 (Reyaz 2015), the pipeline’s completion date has more
recently been postponed to after 2021 (Putz 2017). The TAPI pipeline is designed to carry
3.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) and 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually, from the
Turkmen gas field Galkynysh to the Indian city of Fazilka (Putz 2017, Reyaz 2015). Of the
3.2 bcfd intended to be transported, Afghanistan will receive 0.5 bcfd, while Pakistan and
India will each receive 1.325 bcfd. The intended pipeline route will travel through the Herat
and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan, and through the Pakistani cities of Quetta and
Multan, before arriving in India’s northern Punjab province (Reyaz 2017). The total length
of the pipeline is unclear, as there is much disparity in the relevant reporting. One expert
believes the pipeline will total 1,680 km (Afzal 2017); another estimates it to be 1,735 km
(Putz 2017); and a third that it will total 1,800 km in length (Vaid 2016). Other reports
suggest it will reach 1,814 km (Reyaz 2015). Assuming the 1800 km ballpark figure is
correct, Turkmenistan would hold 200 km, Afghanistan would contain 773 km and
Pakistan would encompass the remaining 827 km of the pipeline (Vaid 2016).
The TAPI project is estimated to cost around $10 billion (Reyaz 2015). The funding for
the pipeline primarily comes from the TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TAPI Co Ltd).
The company consists of the Turkmen national energy firm, TurkmenGaz, the Afghan
national oil corporation, Afghan Gas Enterprise, the private Pakistani energy firm Inter
State Gas Systems, and Gas Authority of India Limited —the state-owned Indian energy
enterprise (Reyaz 2015). Turkmenistan controls 85 percent of the shares of TAPI Co Ltd,
while the other three countries each hold 5 percent respectively. Turkmenistan is the leader
of the consortium and plans to spend $15 billion on discovery and development of gas
fields, and close to $10 billion to lay the pipeline (Afzal 2017).
Regional and international issues have plagued the support of potential investors. One
issue that many worry about is the domestic insurgencies in Afghanistan by militant groups,
such as the Taliban. Despite the Taliban stating publicly in December of 2016 that they
will protect the pipeline (Putz 2017), there is concern over the TAPI’s chances of ever
being operational. This lack in trust of its feasibility stems from factors like disagreements
over natural gas prices and transit fees, doubts about the commercial validity of
Turkmenistan’s gas quality, and fears generated from transporting energy through
politically unstable countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan (Anon. 2013).
A few events occurred in the spring of 2017, which may indicate a more positive outlook
for the constructors of the TAPI pipeline project. On January 17, ILF Beratende
Ingenieure GmbH (ILF), a German engineering firm, signed a contract with TAPI Co Ltd
agreeing to perform geological surveying to determine the feasibility of both the Afghan
and Pakistani routes. Roughly a month later, on February 22, ILF began their geological
surveying of the Afghanistan route. There is concern over Afghanistan’s route —expected
to take one year to complete (Putz 2017)— due to domestic issues like inter-clan fighting,
a struggling economy that is largely dependent on drug-trafficking, and the presence of
Islamic State insurgents (Levit 2017). Despite these issues, Turkmenistan continues to push
for the project and to increase its natural gas exports, as it has been doing over the last
decade. Turkmenistan had a pipeline project named “Line D” in the works, which was
intended to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to China, passing through
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. However, on March 2, the China National
Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Uzbekneftegaz suspended the “Line D” project until
further notice (Pannier 2017). One day later, on March 3, the Front and Engineering
Design ceremony signaled the beginning of ILF undertaking the Pakistani route survey
The outcomes of the Afghan and Pakistani surveys will determine the fate of the TAPI
pipeline. Despite the various domestic and regional factors that may negate the completion
of the project, it can be stated with moderate confidence that the TAPI pipeline will be
built —for a number of reasons. Not only do the member countries benefit from the
overall development of the region, but each nation has individual benefits to gain as well.
Turkmenistan holds the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world —estimated to be
7.504 trillion cubic meters— and exported 45.79 bcm over the course of 2014 (CIA).
However, this figure has dropped since that time, due to a number of conflicts with some
of their largest clients regarding gas pricing. Russia cut Turkmen gas exports at the
beginning of 2016 and Iran suspended Turkmen gas exports at the beginning of 2017
(Pannier 2017). Furthermore, China’s decision to suspend “Line D” makes the TAPI
pipeline more important now than ever for Turkmen prosperity. With natural gas exports
accounting for nearly 31 percent of its national GDP (CIA) and the TAPI project’s
intended 3.2 bcfd output, Turkmenistan is unlikely to stop pushing for the TAPI project,
because it can resurrect the country’s lost output and revenue.
Through transit fees, Afghanistan is estimated to make $400 million annually (Reyaz 2015).
While this would not greatly improve the country’s national GDP —estimated by the
World Bank at nearly $20 billion in 2015 (World Bank)— it would improve the country’s
energy capabilities. With only 30 percent of the country’s population having access to
electricity (World Bank 2017), this would be welcome news. Additionally, Afghanistan is
hopeful that the successful installation of the TAPI pipeline can promote further
investment and thus further benefit its unstable economy (Reyaz 2015). Furthermore,
Afghan leaders are hopeful that TAPI would increase Afghanistan’s international
economic credibility, opening opportunities for other regional infrastructure projects,
including railway projects (Putz 2017).
Pakistan looks to the TAPI pipeline to alleviate an energy shortage, from which the country
has suffered for the better part of the past decade. These energy deficiencies are estimated
to impede 2 percent of the country’s economic growth annually (Jorgic 2016). The
Pakistani Petroleum and Natural Resources minister has said that Pakistan is hopeful that
the TAPI project “will meet a large part of the country’s demand” (Bhutta 2017).
India stands to benefit from the successful completion of the TAPI pipeline for multiple
reasons. First, India holds 0.4 percent of the world’s proven oil and 0.6 percent of the
world’s proven natural gas reserves (Anon. 2013). These numbers are not sufficient to
enable the country to develop. Additionally, India has the world’s fastest-growing economy
and is expected to experience a 5.5% increase in its economy over the next two decades,
according to the United States Energy Information Agency (EIA 2016).
Despite the factors seemingly in the way of successful completion of the TAPI pipeline, it
can be stated with moderate confidence that the project will ultimately be completed. The
TAPI pipeline has the potential to benefit all countries involved, and because of that, those
countries should be expected push for the pipeline to become operational. While some of
these countries have experienced conflict with one another in the past, the mutual benefit
of this project may be able to partially mend those damaged relationships. The surveying
of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a necessary step in the process toward completion. It can
be said with moderate confidence that those routes will be deemed feasible by ILF. With
that in mind, and considering the extensive time period expected for the Afghan route to
take, it can be said with low confidence that physical construction of the TAPI pipeline
will proceed in 2017.
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What is the Current State of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps?
Since its creation in 1979, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also
referred to as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has developed into one of
the most widely recognized organizations within the Iranian state. Created as a tool of the
Guardian Council by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in May 1979, the IRGC was
intended to protect the then-new Islamic system. They also served to counterbalance the
power of the post-revolution Iranian military, which had remained largely loyal to the
monarchy (Wehrey 2009:20). The IRGC, however, has evolved from a tool of the
government to a self-sustaining and nearly self-determining entity that acts as a military,
economic, and political powerhouse within the country. This is similar to the praetorian
guard raised by the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) to protect himself from
the threat of a coup d’etat (Safshekan and Sabet 2010:543). Over time, the IRGC has faced
international condemnation, terrorist designations and even international sanctions
(Pecquet 2017). Despite this, the organization has managed to make strides economically,
politically, and militarily over time. Taking into consideration events in both the distant
and recent past, I am highly confident that the IRGC has risen to a near-praetorian status.
Specifically, it does not have political control over the Iranian government, but still
manages to exercise very strong influence on it. I am highly confident that the organization
is prospering under current conditions in Iran and the surrounding region.
In January 1979, the world watched as the Iranian masses overthrew the pro-Western
monarchy that had ruled the country since 1925. The speed and conditions under which
the Iranian Revolution took place caught the international community —including the two
superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union— by surprise. In April 1979, an
official referendum passed, forming the Islamic Republic of Iran (Nohlen 2001:68). On
May 5, 1979, under the decree of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, the IRGC was
formed. The group was organized around the idea of consolidating several paramilitary
forces throughout the region into a single force loyal to the new government (Ostovar
2009). The IRGC was intended to help protect the recent and ambitious strides of the new
clerical leadership by enforcing laws and protecting the Islamic system from opposition
In 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran and the eight year Iran-Iraq War began, the IRGC found
itself needing to adapt to the rapidly changing situation. Under the pressure of an invading
army, this conflict saw the creation of the Basij. This was a volunteer militia, known as the
‘Army of 20 million’, which attracted thousands of eager volunteers rallying behind the
new Islamic government and against a common enemy (Hiro 1991:205). This nationalism
would translate into the rapid growth of the IRGC naval, air, ground, and missile forces,
as the organization adopted a more traditional military structure. In August 1988, the Iran-
Iraq War ended and the United Nations began peacekeeping operations in the area. At that
point, the two previously warring nations turned towards reconstruction. The IRGC,
which had developed considerable expertise in the fast construction of fortifications and
shelters, quickly seized the opportunity to expand its Khatam al-Anbiya Construction
Headquarters, which would soon evolve into Gharargah Sazandegi Khatam Alanbia
(GHORB), the IRGC’s engineering arm. Both during and after the Iran-Iraq War,
GHORB took a leading responsibility in helping rebuild Iran. Because of this, the IRGC
was awarded billions of dollars in government contracts, making them one of Iran’s largest
contractors. In turn, the influx of cash and influence allowed the GHORB to diversify into
companies involved with mechanical engineering, defense, mining, and energy.
Throughout that time, Iran was considered a major oil and gas exporter in the world. The
government rapidly awarded numerous contracts to develop these resources in the 1990s
and continues to do so today. Currently, the Iranian government plans to invest hundreds
of billions of dollars by 2025 into the oil sector (Anon. 2010). Different groups compete
for the rights to these contracts, but the IRGC has the first choice the majority of the time,
whether it is offered to it or not (Moaveni 2007). It is estimated that in 2007, the IRGC
was involved in over 100 different companies, each with its own independent government
contracts (Murphy 2007). With deep roots in the Iranian economy, the IRGC is also
naturally embedded in Iranian politics. Over time, the IRGC has become much more
involved in parliamentary elections through its veteran militia members. From the 1980s
onward, the number of seats in parliament held by IRGC veterans with connections to the
organization saw a steep rise, and in 2004 IRGC veterans managed to win 16 percent of
seats. (Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani 2011). However, there are still many acrimonious
divides between these former IRGC members of parliament, reflecting the relatively
diverse political climate in Iran. Older IRGC veterans of the Iran-Iraq War are often
aligned with hardliners or “principlists”, who are traditional conservatives. But there is also
a number of former IRGC members in parliament who subscribe to the reformist school
(Boroujerdi and Rahimkhani 2011). The latter has been able to maintain a significant
amount of political power with the re-election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in
2017 (Anon. 2017).
With the recent political changes in the West, including the election of Donald Trump as
President of the United States (US), we saw changes in Iranian-American relations directly
involving the IRGC. Almost immediately, bilateral relations, which had improved under
the administration of US President Barack Obama, iced over. President Trump made it
clear from the onset that he had no interest in honoring his predecessor’s Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (Stone 2016). Alongside its fervently anti-Iran rhetoric, the
Trump administration has considered the idea of labeling the entirety of the IRGC as a
terrorist organization. This would be an escalation from the 2007 move by the US
Department of the Treasury, which designated only the Quds Force —the IRGC
paramilitary operations group— as a terrorist organization for providing material support
to extremist groups (Anon. 2007). If President Trump goes ahead with labeling the entire
IRGC as a terrorist organization, immense stress would be placed, not only on Iranian-
American relations, but on Russian-American relations as well. Russian-American relations
have already suffered due to Washington’s strong objections to Iranian and Russian
military support for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Analysis and Conclusion
The IRGC is a complex organization, which has its roots in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
It has been fighting against real or perceived threats to Iran since its formation. It seems
only appropriate, therefore, that the IRGC is seen as the primary force for combatting
domestic threats, subversion, and insurgencies within Iran, as they emerged through the
country’s violent revolutionary experience. The IRGC has often been criticized for its use
of torture and executions in its actions against perceived domestic threats. However, the
IRGC in recent years has acted less like the brutal secret police of the pre-1979 Pahlavi
monarchy and more like a modern praetorian guard. It is likely that the IRGC will become
increasingly powerful within a praetorian state if left unchecked, like the Praetorian Guard
did in Rome under Emperor Augustus. Despite this, I am moderately confident that the
IRGC has little interest in taking over the Iranian government at this time. They benefit
directly from their relationship with the current Islamic clerical administration. The latter
supports the IRGC, and in return the group supports the clerics with the might of a
modern military. If President Trump were to decide to label the IRGC a terrorist
organization, not only would it damage US relations with Iran, but it would reduce the
possibility of future cooperation between the US and Iran. Because of these factors,
observable evidence, and the recent historical trajectory, I am highly confident that the
IRGC has risen to a near-praetorian status in which it does not have full political control
of the government, but maintains a very strong economic and political influence in Iran. I
am highly confident that the organization is prospering under current conditions in Iran
and the surrounding region.
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Will Relations Between Iran and the United
States Improve in 2017?
After the Second World War, the United States (US) strategically expanded its global
presence to deter foreign nations from increasing their influence. In the Middle East, an
aspect of US foreign policy was to prevent nations like Iran from aligning with the Soviet
Union. Iran in the 1950s is one example of the US plan having unforeseen consequences.
The reason the US wanted to maintain control of the region and specifically of Iran, was
the nation’s energy wealth, its proximity to the energy-rich Persian Gulf, and the fear that
the then hostile Soviet Union would gain access to Iran’s oil (Bakhash 2009). A joint
American and British plan, Operation AJAX, kept Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, commonly
referred to as Iran’s Shah or King, in power for 26 years. The US and the United Kingdom
preferred the Shah to remain in power rather than the legally elected Dr. Mohammad
Mossadeq, who was deemed by London and Washington as pro-Soviet. This even meant
using “quasi-legal” methods to bring down Mossadeq and install a “pro-Western
government under the Shah’s leadership” (Dehghan and Norton-Taylor 2013). However,
the action contributed to the demise of relations between the US and Iran. “Relations” in
this paper are defined as the ever-changing connections between nations and the way in
which their respective political, economic and military policies affect each other. Relations
can be improved by constructive communication between leaders, political compromise,
and military collaboration. There are factions in both the American and Iranian
governments that are not seeking to improve relations. On the other hand, there are
factions in each government that see cooperation and improved relations as a benefit to
both sides. This paper analyzes events that are positively or negatively impacting bilateral
relations between the US and Iran. Currently, relations between the two countries are at
an impasse and are likely to worsen before they improve. Consequently, it can be stated
only with low confidence that Iranian-American relations will improve in 2017.
Many general principles apply can be applied to Iranian-American relations, but three have
been most persistent. The first principle is that most actions are not isolated events. The
second is that most actions are justified with reference to international resolutions or global
conflicts. For example, US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Iran in
February 2017 for testing its ballistic missile program (Anon. 2017f). His administration
cited United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which bans Iran from developing
ballistic missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead, as justification (Anon. 2017e). In March
of the same year, Iran acted similarly when it reciprocated sanctions against American
weapons and military-equipment manufacturers and exporters, for their involvement and
support in Israel’s alleged “brutal atrocities” against Palestinians (Anon. 2017d). A third
principle of US-Iranian relations is consistent interference in each other’s military
development or activities. This was seen in the recent deployment of the USNS Invincible
to the Persian Gulf following several weeks of Iranian war games and a ballistic missile
test. Iran responded to that move with a maneuver that one US official described as an
“unsafe and unprofessional” tactic to disrupt the US operation (LaGrone 2017).
To understand the current relations between the US and Iran, it is critical to examine
several events that shaped the present situation. Operation AJAX was not only about
preventing Soviet influence from spreading to the Middle East; the ensuing coup d’état was
also economically motivated. Specifically, it aimed to prevent Iran’s oil industry from
becoming nationalized and denying profits to British and American companies that were
active in the region. The British approached the Americans following the assassination of
Iranian Prime Minister, Ali Ramzara, “after he renounced nationalization proposals”
(McMurdo 2012:17). The British were concerned that Mossadeq would go through with
his plans to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, a move that would significantly weaken the
post-war British economy. In August 1953, the coup was carried out successfully
(McMurdo 2012:15). The goal of the operation was to guarantee that the “the Iranian
monarchy would safeguard the West’s oil interests in the country” (Dehghan and Norton-
Taylor 2013). Mossadeq’s “handpicked” replacement, General Fazlollah Zahedi, enabled
the “relatively weak” Shah Mohammad Reva Pahlavi, to gain near-absolute power (Anon
2013). With this added power, the Shah enacted brutal policies on the Iranian people (ibid.),
which worsened the Iranian public perception of the US. As the Shah’s health deteriorated,
many Iranians developed an “anti-American character” that fueled the Islamic Revolution
of 1979 (Gasiorowski 2004). The mutual tension caused the 1979 Revolution in Iran and,
in part, to the prolonged hostage crisis that arose after the US Embassy in Tehran was
captured by an Iranian militia. The subsequent fear and outrage in both the American and
Iranian public accelerated the breakdown of Iranian-American relations.
While the 1979 Revolution in Iran intensified the deterioration of relations, the American
response of applying new economic sanctions on Iranian imports in 1979 demonstrates
the principle that most actions come as a response to what the other nation is doing.
Moreover, the US, foreign governments, and multi-state organizations like the European
Union, continue to apply sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. These center on Iran’s
oil sales, conventional and nuclear weaponry, and alleged links to terrorism (Anon. 2012).
The most recent round of sanctions was issued by the US in July 2017. They center on 18
individuals and corporations that supported Iran’s armed forces with the “[development]
of drones and military equipment” in addition to other machinery (Anon 2017g). In line
with the principles stated earlier, Iran’s parliament promised a defiant response and an
increase in military funding (ibid.). Soon after the sanctions were announced, Mohammad
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, argued to reporters that these sanctions could be in
violation of terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement
that had been greeted with optimism by those favoring a rapprochement in Iranian-
American relations (Sanger and Gladstone 2017). While direct military conflict has not
occurred, sanctions have been the most common form of aggression between the US and
Iran. The lengthy history of sanctions dating back to the 1979 Revolution in Iran have
negatively impacted the chances of improvement of US-Iranian relations in 2017.
Recent Developments and Analysis
The development of Iran’s nuclear program is a significant factor in Iranian-American
relations. The American reaction to the prospect of a nuclear Iran has also weighed
significantly on relations. As part of its response, the US, in partnership with Germany and
the United Nations Security Council, reached an agreement on the JCPOA with Iran in
July 2015 (State Department n.d.). Under the plan, the United Nations’ International
Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for inspecting declared Iranian nuclear facilities to
ensure compliance with the JCPOA. The JCPOA established a limit to the volume of heavy
water that Iran can possess to operate its centrifuges. Centrifuges are machines designed
to enrich uranium to optimal purity levels. Heavy water helps prevent the centrifuges from
overheating and not functioning. Iran was found to have violated the condition of
possessing no more than 130 tons of heavy water twice in 2016 (Anon. 2017a). The first
violation, which occurred in February 2016, was taken relatively lightly, as Iran was still
transitioning to meet the terms of the JCPOA (Murphy 2016). However, in December
2016, a second heavy-water violation became a “standoff” that was “defused” when Iran
agreed to ship the excess heavy water to Oman (Anon. 2017a). The issue was brought up
again on March 17, when Iran argued that there was no part of the JCPOA that required
that the extra material be stored outside of Iran’s borders. The US quickly denied the
request, as it believed it was acting within the stipulations of the JCPOA (ibid.). This further
demonstrates the principle that neither the Americans nor the Iranians will act in isolation
or without the perceived backing of international agreements.
The heavy-water debate presents a problem in improving bilateral relations. Iran may be
using the JCPOA as leverage in its foreign policy. Tehran acknowledges that the JCPOA
is a significant milestone in American foreign policy under President Obama’s tenure. Due
to the significance of the agreement, Washington may surrender more in future deals to
ensure the survival of the JCPOA. The goal of the Iranian government appears to be to
reap the benefits of the JCPOA, while the US is still recognizing the agreement. President
Trump recently announced that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement (Anon.
2017h). General David Petraeus, who served as the director of the US Central Intelligence
Agency under the Obama administration in the build-up to the signing of the JCPOA,
recently suggested that the US may be compelled to adhere to the JCPOA agreement. The
consequences of not doing so “would isolate the US more than it does [Iran]”, said General
Petraeus (Anon. 2017b). If General Petraeus’ opinion is shared by members of the US
government, it may explain Iran’s attempt to store the extra heavy water. The latter issue
affirms the aforementioned principles that each nation reacts to the other’s actions, and
also in accordance with international resolutions. The US government has demonstrated a
firm stance on Iran’s possession of heavy water and any attempts to exceed the limits set
by the JCPOA. This indicates that the US government likely does not want to allow Iran
to act freely, nor allow it to make additional demands under the JCPOA.
Ostensibly, the US and Iran are heavily invested in the stability of the Middle East.
However, they envision the stability of the Middle East differently. Iran is in a more central
position than the US in regional affairs, given its geographic location. The frequent US
involvement in the Middle East is seen by Tehran as threatening the interests of Iran. An
example of this is the regular standoffs between US and Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf,
most recently involving the USNS Invincible. The Invincible, an unarmed ship, with
capabilities to measure the strength of missile tests, was confronted by a smaller Iranian
vessel in July 2017 (LaGrone 2017). The Iranian vessel attempted to separate the Invincible
from the British Naval ships that were escorting it through the Strait of Hormuz (ibid). It
seems reasonable that this was done to provoke a violent, protocol-breaking response by
the convoy, which would cast the Americans and British as the aggressors.
Iran’s deployment of a fast attack craft to impede the Invincible is significant because it
typifies Tehran’s attempts to disrupt US operations in the region. These attempts are
consistent with the principles of the US-Iran relationship. The American ship was deployed
after Iranian military forces, specifically, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),
conducted a missile launch and multiple weeks of war-game exercises that began on
February 20. The annual exercises conducted by the IRGC, called Payambar-e Azam 11,
or “The Great Prophet”, are designed to offer a “presentation of power and sustainable
security” (Anon 2017c). The Invincible was likely deployed to provide more accurate data
on future ballistic missile tests. The US positioned the ship to the Persian Gulf in response
to Iran’s military exercises. Iran attempted to deter the Invincible from travelling close
enough for its surveillance equipment to be in range of Iranian activities.
In conclusion, it can be stated with low confidence that Iranian-American relations will
improve in 2017, due to the lack of desire from both the American and Iranian
governments to attempt to reach agreements. The JCPOA is a rare deal that demonstrates
that the leadership of both nations can reach compromise. For Iranian-American relations
to improve there needs to be change through a mutual desire to reach compromise, and
move away from the foundation of bilateral relations that has guided Iranian-American
relations for the past half century.
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accessed on 13 April 2017.
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accessed on 16 April 2017.
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accessed on 8 April 2017.
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Biographical Notes on Contributors
TAHLEIA BISHOP, from Whitby, Ontario, is a recent graduate of Coastal Carolina University,
where she completed an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in International Relations and Civil
Unrest, as well as a minor in Political Science. In the spring of 2017, she served as the head of
the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s North America Section. In May of 2015, she was an invited
keynote presenter at the Crossing Borders International Conference hosted by the State
University of New York - Buffalo. She has also served as a Health Equity Youth Leader for the
Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto in
Canada. Tahleia is currently pursuing a Master in International Law at the University of Nottingham
in the United Kingdom.
KAYLA “ACE” CHAMBERS, from Chapin, South Carolina, is a sophomore majoring in Psychology
at Coastal Carolina University. Her political research primarily focuses on the European Union
and European national elections. In May 2017, she was elected to serve as the Records Officer
for the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief. In August of the same year she was appointed to serve as
the head of the organization’s Europe Desk. Ace is the spring 2017 recipient of the CIB’s Best
Intelligence Essay Award.
KIERSTEN CHAMBERS, from Queensbury, New York, is a recent graduate of Coastal Carolina
University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence and National Security Studies
with a minor in Spanish. She specializes in Latin America, with a focus on Venezuela and has
served as an analyst in the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Americas Section. Kiersten’s research
interests include drug trafficking organizations, street gangs, law enforcement intelligence
and political corruption, primarily within Latin America.
BENJAMIN DUNHAM, from St. Louis, Missouri, is a senior at Coastal Carolina University, where
he majors in Intelligence and National Security Studies with backgrounds in Communications,
Computer Sciences, and Islamic studies. In the spring of 2017, Benjamin was an analyst in the
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Middle East Section. In May of the same year, he was selected to
participate in a security-focused Coastal Carolina University study-abroad program in Greece
and Cyprus, which was organized in association with the University of Nicosia.
CONNOR KILGORE, from Leesport, Pennsylvania, is a senior at Coastal Carolina University,
where he is majoring in Intelligence and National Security Studies with a minor in Global Studies.
In the spring of 2017, he attended the International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT) and
the Model European Union conference held by the State University of New York (SUNY). In the
summer of 2017, he studied abroad in Greece and Cyprus, as well as in Georgia. He specializes
in energy security and international relations. Connor is the spring 2017 recipient of the CIB’s
Best Intelligence Essay Award.
JACK LINCOLN, from Glen Head, New York, completed his freshman year at Coastal Carolina
University majoring in Intelligence and National Security. He is interested in international relations
with a focus on Middle Eastern affairs. In June 2015, he participated in the Intelligence and
National Security program organized by the National Student Leadership Conference at the
American University in Washington DC. Jack has traveled extensively in Spain, where he lived
as an exchange student.
CASEY MALLON, from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is double-majoring in Intelligence and
National Security Studies and Political Science, and minoring in Statistics, Religious Studies,
and Geographic Information Systems at Coastal Carolina University. Her research primarily
focuses on the change and evolution of terrorist groups. In May 2016, she was appointed to
serve as Chief Financial Officer in the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Executive Team, and has
since served as the head of the Cybersecurity Desk and the Alternative Topics Desk. Currently
serving as the Executive Director of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, Casey is also the
Communications Officer for Coastal Carolina University’s National Security Club and an officer
in Women in Intelligence and National Security, of which she is a founding member.
TROY RAMSBACHER joined the United States Marine Corps after graduating from high school
in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After serving honorably during multiple deployments in the Middle
East, he joined the Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University,
where he is now a senior. His research primarily focuses on the ongoing reunification negotiations
between the Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared state of the Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus. He also focuses on Eastern Mediterranean security issues and geopolitical
developments surrounding natural-gas exploration in the region. In May 2017, Troy undertook
field research on the island of Cyprus, where he explored the state of relations between the
Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS, PhD, is Associate Professor of Politics in the Intelligence and National
Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University. Before joining Coastal, Dr. Fitsanakis
founded the Security and Intelligence Studies program at King University, where he also directed
the King Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies. He has written extensively on subjects
such as international espionage, intelligence tradecraft, counterintelligence, wiretapping, cyberespionage,
transnational crime and intelligence reform. He is a frequent media commentator
and senior editor at intelNews.org, an ACI-indexed scholarly blog that is cataloged through the
United States Library of Congress.
JOHN NOMIKOS, PhD, is Director at the Research Institute for European and American Studies
(RIEAS), Chairman of the Mediterranean Council for Intelligence Studies (MCIS), Chairman of the
Greek Intelligence Studies Association (GISA), Chairman of the European Intelligence Academy (EIA),
and Founding Editor of the Journal of Mediterranean and Balkan Intelligence (JMBI). He is Assistant
Professor at Webster University (Athens Campus), and Visiting Scholar at the John Naisbitt
University in Serbia and the University of Rome (Tre) in Italy. He was previously Adjunct Professor
at the Department of International Relations at the University of Indianapolis (Athens Campus).