Insight Turkey
Insight Turkey
Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs


Mahmood Monshipouri

San Francisco State University, U.S.
Mahmood Monshipouri
Why and How Did Iran’s Reformist Movement Perish? Understanding the Implications of U.S. Sanctions Policy
July 20, 2022
Iran’s middle class appears to be on the slippery slope, switching from its dream of political reform to the reality of economic security. This development is imbued with uncertainties and unintended consequences, including reinforcing the authoritarian impulses of the ruling elites. U.S. sanctions on Iran have weakened the country’s middle class and, with that, have dramatically undercut the voices of political moderation and change. Putting political aspirations for reform on the backburner, Iran’s middle class seeks a viable path toward living a dignified life of self-sustenance amid a period of economic drought. While U.S. sanctions are not the direct cause of this political reorientation, they have contributed greatly to such submissive attitudes. This paper attempts to unlock the socio-economic and political dynamics of this trajectory in a country whose middle class once thrived on being an engine of change and moderation. While the campaign for political reform has faded away, its message is particularly germane as the country’s middle class struggles to make ends meet.
Managing the Refugee Crisis in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic
November 27, 2020
This essay seeks to demonstrate that there are both ethical and practical considerations for enabling refugees to manage the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic). Given that a majority of refugees live in highly congested environments, particularly urban areas, an outbreak would swiftly spread through their local communities. Our argument is twofold: (i) That a new approach is needed to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic –one that recognizes mounting challenges facing refugees and relies on international cooperation rather than the myopic rhetoric and sentiments of xenophobic right-wing politicians; (ii) That helping refugees to curb the spread of the current coronavirus cannot be divorced from social contexts, hence the necessity of improving employment, basic health services, and educational opportunities for refugees.
Re-evaluating Iran-Egypt Relations: A Look at the Evolving Geopolitical Context
April 1, 2017
Egypt under President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi appears committed to avoid falling into the contentious Sunni-Shia divide by reconfiguring its security considerations based on the recognition of new circumstances that prioritize stability above sectarian and ethnic identity concerns. While Egypt is unlikely to fundamentally alter its foreign policy anytime soon, largely due to its economic dependency on rich Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, its recalibration of relations with Iran has assumed a new level of importance. The growing threat of violent extremism to destabilize the regional order and state-system is undermining old political alliances. This paper provides a systematic attempt to examine the prospects of Egypt’s foreign policy changes and their regional implications, particularly for its economic dependency on Saudi Arabia.
Syria: The Hope and Challenges of Mediation
April 1, 2014
The civil war in Syria continues to devastate social and political structures, precipitating floods of refugees and surging populations of internally displaced people. Syria has degenerated into sectarian- and ethnic-based warring mini-states vying for power as their country faces utter social disorder. It mass-produces a growing cadre of battle hardened foreign and domestic jihadists affiliated with the various al-Qaeda brands. The war weariness of America and the unmanageable chaos in Syria combine to create shifts in regional politics. This article seeks to put into perspective the crucial role that regional mediation can play in nudging along practical solutions. Without regional commitment and coordination among key Middle Eastern powers, namely Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, international diplomatic efforts to restore order and stability in Syria are not likely to succeed.
Rowhani’s Election: Promise of Change or More of the Same?
July 1, 2013
Rowhani’s victory in Iran’s 2013 presidential election is a clear protest vote against his predecessor’s management of the country’s relations with the Western world. Although Rowhani’s support for broader social freedoms, as well as his advocacy for women’s rights rendered him a favorite candidate for change, undoubtedly economic insecurity — caused by the imposition of sanctions by the Western world in reaction to Iran’s nuclear program — was a key factor in his victory. Since Rowhani is ultimately beholden to the Supreme Leader, the question persists: Does the election of yet another reformist generate false hope or genuine hope? We will have to wait and see if Rowhani’s presidency can provide the perspective necessary for breaking away from the futile approach of the past.
The New Middle East and the United States: What to Expect After the Uprisings?
July 1, 2011
Recent uprisings and unrests across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have brought new leadership to Egypt and Tunisia, and could possibly result in more leadership changes. While it is too early to assess the meaning and implications of the MENA uprisings, it is even more difficult to predict whether the current ferment could fundamentally reshape the region by bringing real democratic transformation. What is evident, however, is that the United States’ old bargain with autocrats is collapsing; and that U.S. strategic interests are seemingly better served, at least during this historic period, by working with governments that genuinely reflect the will of their people. This essay’s central argument is that change and transformation in MENA has resulted from bottom-up, anti-establishment popular movements that have exposed the flaws of the U.S. foreign policy and will most likely challenge the conventional U.S. policies in the region for years to come.
Dealing with Iran: Confrontation or Negotiation?
November 21, 2008
Conflicting dynamics and power calculation: within the Bush administration have given rise to contradictory signals coming from Washington regarding how best to deal with the Iranian puzzle. The situation indicates a lack of strategic coherence that could tip the balance toward a military showdown with Iran. If anything, the 2001 and 2003 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have essentially altered the balance of power to Iran's advantage, represent a total disregard for the ensuing negative consequences for the region. Under such circumstances, the absence of serious, direct talks with Iran have the potential to lead to greater momentum for wan In this paper, we set out to examine the internal and regional consequences of a US. attack on Iran, while asserting that the benefits of cooperation outweigh the costs of military confrontation. Negotiating with Iran is the only reasonable solution to the crisis confronting these two powers, and U.S.-Iran rapprochement can have a stabilizing impact on the entire region. Conversely, the implications of confrontation will be horrendously costly and profound.

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