Southwest Asia

Iran After Parliamentary Elections

EWI's inaugural “Brussels MENA Briefing” focuses on Iran's parliamentary elections and the resulting domestic implications and consequences for Iranian foreign relations.

On March 3, the EastWest Institute (EWI) and the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO), launched its “Brussels MENA Briefing” series with the topic of the recent parliamentary elections in Iran. Dr. Azadeh Zamirirad from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and Adnan Tabatabai from CARPO led the discussion, with EWI’s Wael Abdul-Shafi serving as moderator.

The briefing focused on the domestic and regional implications of the elections held on February 21. Iran’s conservative political camp, the Principlists, claimed victory despite a voter turnout of 42 percent—the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Although the Iranian Parliament does not decisively shape Iran’s foreign policy, the timing of the election results is significant, especially as U.S. sanctions and regional tensions—as well as the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus—negatively impact global perceptions of Iran.

These parliamentary elections may foreshadow the presidential elections of 2021, considering the effect the parliament has on the public-political discourse. This is especially important given the sensitive timing of the elections, in which the looming succession of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is an increasing topic of discussion. Furthermore, the election results may be a manifestation of the more confrontational foreign policy approach Iran has been taking since last summer.

The discussion also touched upon the assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani, who’s death mostly impacted not Iran but Iraq, where Soleimani was able to unite different Iraqi-Shia factions. Soleimani’s image in Iran has become institutionalized, as illustrated by the strategic placement of a billboard overlooking Tehran’s Valiasr Square on the eve of elections, showing a diverse Iranian population standing united behind Soleimani. The image symbolizes a shift of emphasis from Islamic sentiments to national unity.

Other topics raised during the briefing include a need for the European Union (EU) to open communication channels with conservative camps in Iran, the importance of recognizing differences within the conservative factions and a greater consideration of how social issues influence the political sphere. For the EU, the political shift in Iran might be a source of opportunity, confirming the saying that “hawks may be the best peacemakers.”

About the Brussels MENA Briefings:

The Brussels MENA Briefings are bimonthly, in-depth roundtable discussions on topics of current significance in the MENA region, co-hosted by EWI and CARPO in EWI’s Brussels office on the first week of every second month. Please note that attendance is by invitation only.

Should you be interested in being considered for the invitation list, kindly send an email to Desirée Custers with your name, affiliation and geographical or thematic area of interest and expertise in the Middle East.

2018 Annual Report

The EastWest Institute is pleased to release its 2018 Annual Report, chronicling the programmatic activities, achievements and new initiatives in the past year and reflecting key geopolitical trends around the world.

The institute remains focused on tackling these evolving issues, as well as on forecasting challenges in other topics and regions.

To access the complete report, please click below:

Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Policy Assessment

EWI Releases Final Joint U.S-Russia Report on Afghan Narcotrafficking

The EastWest Institute (EWI) has released Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Policy Assessment, the sixth and final report from the institute’s Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Afghan Narcotrafficking, which provides a comprehensive and updated assessment of the Afghan drug trade and the role that both the United States and Russia might be able to play in countering this shared threat.

The Joint Policy Assessment represents a consensus assessment by both U.S. and Russian technical and policy experts and is intended to serve as a toolkit based on which relevant stakeholders can formulate policy solutions on cooperative bilateral and multilateral measures to reduce the threat of Afghan narcotrafficking. These key stakeholders include policy officials and interlocutors in the United States, Russia, Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, as well as regional and global organizations.

“The scale and intensity of the Afghan narcotrafficking threat has increased in past years, and despite differences in the national priorities and interests of the United States and Russia, this remains an issue of mutual strategic concern for the two countries and the region as a whole,” notes Ambassador Cameron Munter, CEO & President of the EastWest Institute. “It is critical for both countries to manage and mitigate the Afghan narcotrafficking threat and foster cooperation on this issue—even in this prohibitive climate for improved U.S.-Russia relations.”

The final installment under EWI’s Afghan Narcotrafficking series, the Joint Policy Assessment follows five successful consensus-based reports: Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Threat Assessment (2013); Afghan Narcotrafficking: Post-2014 Scenarios (2015); Afghan Narcotrafficking: The State of Afghanistan's Borders (2015); Afghan Narcotrafficking: Finding an Alternative to Alternative Development (2016); and Afghan Narcotrafficking: Illicit Financial Flows (2017).

Established in 2011, the Working Group has also garnered positive feedback and support from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN), in addition to various multilateral organizations/agencies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Fully committed to the critical importance of Afghanistan, and the urgent need for continued U.S.-Russia cooperation, the EastWest Institute will establish a new Joint Working Group to assess the threat of terrorism in the war-torn country. Over the course of two years, the Working Group plans to convene in Moscow, Washington, D.C., Brussels and Astana and produce a joint threat assessment, which will be disseminated to key policy officials and interlocutors.

Please click here for the full report.

Click here for the executive summary.

Терроризм в Афганистане: совместная оценка угрозы

Институт «Восток-Запад» публикует перевод на русский язык совместного российско-американского доклада о проблеме терроризма в Афганистане и перспективах международного взаимодействия для ее решения

Институт «Восток-Запад» (ИВЗ) сегодня публикует русскоязычную версию экспертного доклада «Терроризм в Афганистане: совместная оценка угрозы». Доклад представляет собой итоговый отчет созданной под эгидой Института россйско-американской неправительственной рабочей группы по противодействию терроризму в Афганистане. В докладе, подготовленном американскими и российскими авторами, дается беспристрастная оценка терроризма и вооруженного конфликта в Афганистане, а также исследуются вопросы борьбы с терроризмом в более широком геополитическом контексте отношений США и России. Английская версия отчета была выпущена в свет 27 мая текущего года.

«Несмотря на продолжающуюся напряженность между США и Россией, Афганистан и борьба с терроризмом остаются редкими, динамичными областями для продолжения конструктивного двустороннего диалога», - отметил Владимир Иванов, директор Рабочей группы и программы ИВЗ по России и США. «В этот критический момент на пути Афганистана к миру, в то время как вооруженное насилие в стране продолжается, для США и России как никогда важно лучше согласовывать свои усилия по борьбе с терроризмом и поддержке мирного процесса в Афганистане. Согласованность политики этих двух глобальных игроков имеет критическое значение не только для безопасности и стабильности Афганистана, но и для региона, и мира в целом».

Перейдите по ссылке здесь, чтобы увидеть полный текст доклада.

Итоговоый доклад Рабочей группы призван служить аналитическим инструментом для политиков и экспертного сообщества, стимулом для совместных действий США и России. В отчете представлен обзор ситуации в области безопасности и мирного процесса в Афганистане с учетом политики, приоритетов и интересов США и России; дается анализ вооруженных террористических группировок, действующих в Афганистане; исследуются интересы безопасности различных региональных заинтересованных держав по отношению к Афганистану. Также рассматриваются проблемы, связанные с управлением границами, торговлей оружием и финансированием терроризма в раздираемой гражданской войной стране.

В отчете предлагается несколько приоритетных тем для дальнейшего диалога между США и Россией, в том числе:

  • Противодействие угрозе безопасности, связанной с перемещением террористов с Ближнего Востока в Афганистан и с северо-запада Пакистана на север Афганистана.
  • Содействие международным гарантиям для устойчивого прекращения огня и проведения продуктивного межафганского переговорного процесса.
  • Определение размеров остаточного контингента военных и контртеррористических сил США.
  • Разработка стратегии взаимодействия с Талибаном и поддержание рычагов влияния (будь то санкции, военное давление или другие средства), которые стимулируют переговоры и соблюдение Соглашения о мире в Афганистане.
  • Понимание возможностей влияния США и России на региональных игроков, включая Пакистан и Иран.
  • Создание предпосылок для обеспечения нейтральной внешней политики Афганистана в будущем.
  • Обеспечение потенциала для более широкой роли ЕС и НАТО как заинтересованных сторон в мирном процессе в Афганистане, как в качестве партнеров для содействия Афганистану в области безопасности, так и участников его постконфликтного восстановления.

Созданная в октябре 2017 года, Рабочая группа в течение двух лет проводила встречи американских и российских экспертов по политическим и техническим вопросам в Москве, Вашингтоне (округ Колумбия), Брюсселе и Вене. С тех пор деятельность группы получила положительные отзывы и поддержку со стороны ключевых собеседников, включая Государственный департамент США, Министерство обороны США и Министерство иностранных дел Российской Федерации, а также Организацию Североатлантического договора (НАТО) и Организацию по безопасности и сотрудничеству в Европе (ОБСЕ).

EWI Hosts Virtual Roundtable on Security Repercussions of U.S Withdrawal from Afghanistan

On July 15, the EastWest Institute (EWI) hosted a virtual roundtable entitled “U.S. and Russian Perspectives on the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Its Implications for Regional Security.”

Building on themes from EWI’s recently released report, Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment, the roundtable brought together American and Russian policy and technical experts to exchange views on the many uncertainties and complexities surrounding the pending drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan and its likely ramifications for the stability and security of Afghanistan’s neighbors. 

As allegations of Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers have further aggravated bilateral tensions, and intensified violence in Afghanistan has cast doubts on the war-torn country’s prospects for peace, the roundtable provided a rare opportunity for candid dialogue on Russian and American concerns vis-à-vis ever-evolving security threats in Afghanistan and the prospects for continued bilateral cooperation in this arena.

Discussion focused on several possible outcomes of the U.S. troop withdrawal, including the resurgence of terrorist and militant actors in Afghanistan and increased Pakistan-India rivalry; the short- and long-term consequences for regional players, such as Pakistan, India and the Central Asian states; and the role of regional actors in ensuring the stability of Afghanistan following the United States’ departure. Participants also highlighted the obstacles facing the intra-Afghan peace talks and political reconciliation. 

EWI plans to host a second virtual roundtable later this summer focused on U.S.-Russia cooperation on economic development and connectivity in Afghanistan and the region.

Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment

EWI Releases Joint U.S.-Russia Report on Terrorist Threat in Afghanistan

The EastWest Institute (EWI) today released Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment, the culminating report from the institute’s Joint U.S.-Russia Working Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan. Authored by American and Russian contributors, the report provides a timely, even-handed assessment of terrorism and armed conflict in Afghanistan, while also exploring the counterterrorism agenda in the broader geopolitical context of U.S.-Russia relations.

“In spite of ongoing tensions between the United States and Russia, Afghanistan and counterterrorism have remained rare dynamic areas for constructive, bilateral dialogue,” said Vladimir Ivanov, director of the Working Group and EWI’s Russia and the United States program. “At this critical juncture in Afghanistan’s road to peace, and as violence continues to plague the country, it is more important than ever for the U.S. and Russia to better align their counterterrorism and peace-making efforts, not just for the safety and stability of Afghanistan, but for the region and world.”

Click here for the full report. The Russian translation of Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment will be made available in June 2020.

Terrorism in Afghanistan: A Joint Threat Assessment is intended to serve as an analytical tool for policymakers and an impetus for joint U.S.-Russia action. The report provides an overview of the security situation and peace process in Afghanistan, taking into account U.S. and Russian policies, priorities and interests; surveys the militant terrorist groups in and connected to Afghanistan and explores the security interests of various regional stakeholders vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Challenges relating to border management, arms trafficking and terrorist financing in Afghanistan are also briefly addressed.

Launched in October 2017, the Working Group convened U.S. and Russian policy and technical experts in Moscow, Washington, D.C., Brussels and Vienna over the course of two years. The Working Group has since garnered positive feedback and support from key interlocutors, including the U.S. Department of State, U.S Department of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia

On March 2-4, the EastWest Institute (EWI) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), in concert with the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT), convened a high-level dialogue entitled: “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia” in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The dialogue, second in the project series, brought together experts from both the public and private sectors in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to jointly analyze threats to water security in Asia in the face of worsening hydro-meteorological disasters due to climate change. The two-day dialogue consisted of six panel discussions on varied topics related to the politicization of water security, including the economic vulnerabilities of the water crisis and stakeholder engagement, among others. 


Vice Admiral KKVPH De Silva
Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy

Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh 
Observer Research Foundation-Kolkata

Mr. Dipak Gyawali
Former Minister of Water Resources of Nepal

Mr. Ikram Sehgal
Pathfinder Group Pakistan

Dr. Jayanta Bandyopadhyay
Observer Research Foundation

Dr. Khondaker Azharul Haq
Global Water Partnership South Asia

Mr. Ibrahim Zuhuree
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Maldives

Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam
Punjab Environment Protection Council; Pakistan Climate Change Council

Dr. Damodar Pokharel
Nepal Centre for Disaster Management

Mr. Shafqat Munir
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

Dr. Uttam Sinha
Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

Dr. Suba Chandran Durai
National Institute of Advanced Studies

Ms. Dharisha Mirando
China Water Risk

Ms. Ailiya Naqvi
Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research

Ms. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
Observer Research Foundation – New Delhi

Ms. Ruwanthi Jayasekara
Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka

Mr. Nisar A. Memon
Water Environment Forum, Pakistan

Mr. Kumar Pandey
Independent Power Producers’ Association of Nepal

Ms. Mallika Joseph
Chanakya Chakra


Rear Admiral (RNR) D C Gunawardena
Sri Lankan Navy

Dr. Christian Hübner
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung RECAP

Mr. Nishchal Pandey
Centre for South Asian Studies

Dr. Walter Ladwig
EastWest Institute


This roundtable dialogue on “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia” was made possible through the partnership and generous support of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung|RECAP, Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT).

How China Can Offer Pakistan a Path From the Precipice

Valued at $62 billion, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a focal point of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s ambitious undertaking to enhance connectivity between Asia, Europe, and Africa. CPEC promises to create economic prosperity by turning Gwadar, Pakistan, into a trade hub that links China to the rest of Asia and Europe. However, with Pakistan’s economy suffering and in the midst of a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, Islamabad has been more carefully scrutinizing CPEC’s affordability. Pakistan has been coming to terms with the massive, unsustainable amount of Chinese loans it has taken to implement these projects.

Six years into this initiative, Beijing is beginning to acknowledge the growing international criticism about its distortive lending practices, and it is pledging to instill a greater level of openness, transparency, and sustainability. The Chinese government is taking steps to not only help Pakistan, which has been dubbed its “all-weather friend,” to restore its economic balance, but also to realize the true promise of CPEC.

Click here to read the full article on RealClearWorld

Pakistan: Imran Khan's Economic Challenges

After almost 22 years of political struggle, Imran Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have finally emerged victorious in what appears to be, despite allegations, one of the most civil electoral exercises the country has witnessed in the last few decades. Pakistan’s general elections mark the second successful democratic transition of the government, which in and of itself represents a tremendous victory and promising step for the future.

However, the man soon to be appointed for the top job in governing one of the most geostrategically important, yet turbulent, countries in the world has a huge responsibility riding on his shoulders. Khan’s primary voter base, the Pakistani youth, are earnestly looking to him as a pioneer of a new political era,  at a critical juncture when Pakistan is battling a serious debt crisis and facing a policy predicament in light of China’s growing economic foothold in the country. Given his claims to be a transformative leader, Khan’s political momentum and commitment toward the welfare of the youth will profoundly determine the country’s position in face of intransigent socioeconomic challenges.

Read the full article here in The Diplomat.

Image: "Konferenz: Pakistan und der Westen - Imr" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by boellstiftung


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