Posted by: isrj | July 12, 2010

China’s Growing Weariness with Iranian Sanctions

By: Andrew Carson

China and Iran are two countries separated by language and culture but united through oil exports and shared distrust in the West. As China’s importance on the world stage increases, current political international trends have been irritating this important relationship. Most notably, the US has been pressuring China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to pass new economic sanctions against Iran. These sanctions would be a direct response to Iran’s new uranium enrichments attempts, which Iran insists are purely for civilian interests. Although China does support the UN’s demand for Iran’s enrichment program in Qom to be halted because it violates rules of the IAEA, it will not easily agree to proposed sanctions. China’s expected inaction over the matter will only serve to reinforce its historical position that diplomacy should be favored over harsher solutions in Iran. Read More…


“The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth…but not the Mineral Rights.”
-Jean Paul Getty (Getty Oil Company)


The “Resource Curse” has puzzled many scholars. Why do countries that have an abundance of valuable natural resources continue to suffer economically? This trend, first recognized by Harvard University economists Jeffery Sachs and Andrew Warner, has great implications for countries that wish to grow financially while making use of their natural resources. These countries have a comparative advantage at producing their commodities, yet it seems as if they are unable to supply the world without hurting their economies in the process.

However, there are outliers to this phenomenon. Among these countries are Norway, Canada, and Botswana. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on Botswana because it is an outlier in many ways. Botswana is not only an outlier of the resource curse, but an outlier of the global south, and Africa in general. It is one of the few countries that have been able to flourish economically despite being in unfortunate company. Unlike Canada and Norway, Botswana is distinctly non-western, and has a more recent history of colonization. The nation became independent of its European colonizers less than fifty years ago. Yet, we look at Botswana as a model for economic growth in a continent plagued—both figuratively and literally—by poverty, disease, famine, and corruption.

But why has Botswana been able to succeed? How has it become a beacon of hope among nations often stereotyped as hopeless? This is not to say that Botswana is without calamity. The nation still suffers from a grotesque presence of HIV and AIDS—among the highest in the world, even for an African country. However, in terms of economic growth, Botswana has exceeded nearly all states over the past few decades (Background note: Botswana). Read More…

By: Jesse Hubbard


This paper examines hegemonic stability theory, the concept in international relations that an assertive hegemon can act as a stabilizing force in the international system. Through a quantitative analysis looking at both American and British hegemonic governance, it was discovered that in both cases there is a strong negative association between the hegemon’s relative power and levels of military conflict in the international system. However, higher levels of engagement in conflict by the hegemon are also associated wit higher levels of conflict in the international system, and military power is a weaker predictor of conflict levels than economic power. This has a number of potential implications, the most notable of which is that hegemons may be more effective in promoting peace through economic power than through the exercise of military force. Read More…

By: Cat Baker

The presence of oil in Venezuela and the cooperation its past governments have fostered a strong U.S. interest in the nation over the course of the twentieth century.  With the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez, the United States grew increasingly concerned that its interests might be compromised.  Diplomatic relations between the two countries began to strain under the Bush administration as Chávez refused to allow the United States to continue antidrug over-flights in Venezuela and Washington analysts feared that Chávez might use oil shipments and prices as a weapon against the United States.1 Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution quickly transitioned from promoting political changes, such as a new constitution, to advocating social and economic policies that differed greatly from the neoliberal agendas proposed by the Washington Consensus.  The international community grew alarmed once petroleum production in Venezuela became nationalized and Chávez initiated agrarian reforms.2 President Bush responded by utilizing a program founded during the Reagan administration to prevent Chávez from becoming excessively authoritarian.  The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded various organizations in Venezuela, all of which were in staunch opposition of Chávez.  By 2002, the year a coup temporarily removed Chávez from power, Venezuela had become the most heavily funded NED project in Latin America and the Caribbean, totaling $1,099,352 in grants.3 Allegations arose that the United States had indirectly assisted coup leaders through the NED’s funding to opposition parties.  Though the United States government has denied any participation, and State Department investigations have failed to provide any concrete evidence that Washington was involved in the coup, the amount of funding NED programs received leading up to the coup and the constant communication between Washington and coup conspirators has led many in the international community to question the true motives behind U.S. democratization efforts. Read More…

Posted by: isrj | April 10, 2010

Guest Speakers Karim Sadjadpour and Afshin Molavi

By: Roxy Araghi

On Wednesday, January 20, American University hosted guest speakers Karim Sadjadpour and Afshin Molavi, two Iranian scholars who are researchers and analysts of Iranian society and government. The speakers covered several major topics stemming from Iran today – the June 12 elections and the opposition movement that formed in response, Iran’s future political and economic systems, and U.S.-Iranian. relations.

Afshin Molavi, a Fellow at the New America Institute who studies the relation between economic development and democratization, began the discussion by explaining the years leading up to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005, in which he ran against the mullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had previously held the presidential post. The outgoing president at the time was Mohammad Khatami, a reformist. It was noted that studies of Iranian politics must not only focus on the president, however, because he is not the only authority figure in the country; the Leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Guardian Council, a twelve-member group comprised of six Islamic jurists and six jurists specializing in different areas of law, possess the greatest amount influence and control over Iranian government and politics. Read More…

Posted by: isrj | December 13, 2009

J Street: “Pro Peace, Pro Israel”

By: Lonny Moses

For the past several decades, United States political discourse on Israel has been stifled, with a hawkishly pro-Israel agenda being the only option for politicians. That, at least, is the argument of J-street, a new group that defines itself as “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace”. J-street sees itself as an organization that is freeing up space on Capitol Hill,  by giving a voice to what Director Jeremy Ben-Ami has dubbed “the Silent Majority” of American Jews who, while Pro-Israel, recognize that Israel’s security depends on the creation of a neighboring Palestinian State and the dismantling of settlements. J-street is not attempting to be all things to all people, yet its message and policies are intentionally broad enough to encompass a large swath of left-wing Jews, as well as people of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds who support two states. At it’s first annual conference, J-street finally brought together its disparate elements from around the United States (and the world), and began to meet the challenge of bringing its members into line with its core policy principles. At the same time J-street struggled to define itself as a movement that was open to criticism, debate and complex discussion of the issues at hand. Read More…

Posted by: isrj | December 13, 2009

American University Guest Speaker Dr. Haleh Esfandiari

By: Roxy Araghi

Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program and author of My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran, visited American University this past Wednesday, October 21. She spoke about relations between Iran and the United States, the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, and her 105 day stay at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran during the year 2007.

In the last months of the year 2006, Dr. Esfandiari traveled to Iran to visit her 93-year old mother. One late December night, on her way to the airport to return to the United States, Dr. Esfandiari’s taxi was stopped by three masked men who stole her baggage, purse, and American and Iranian passports. Convinced that this episode was nothing but an ordinary robbery, Dr. Esfandiari went to the passport office a few days later to apply for new documents. When she arrived, she was invited to the Intelligence Ministry for interrogation. Read More…

By: Alexander B. Ward

Edited by: Roxy Araghi and Lindsay Crete
December 13, 2008

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was perhaps unaware of the fervor they would create when they named Beijing, China as the host for the 2008 Olympiad.  Instantly, debate arose about the moral implications of such a decision. China is among the most despised states due to its constant amoral policies and complete disregard for human rights.  The abhorrence at the decision was manifest due to the great number of protestors who came from all over the world in an attempt to halt the Olympic torch’s progress in countries such as England, France and the United States.[ii] Although there are many proposed objections of the Chinese government’s actions, one of the biggest issues raised during the rallies was the illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet. Read More…