Anders Bakkethun

Research Associate

Anders is a Research Associate for

U.S.-Iran Relations Rekindled: Insh’Allah

Courtesy of Al Jazeera America

A deal has been reached; Iran's nuclear program will halt for the next 6 months.

That is the outcome of Sunday's negotiations between Iran and six global powers this past week. During this hiatus, Iran will not enrich uranium past 20% which is the threshold that makes the process of accumulating fuel for a weapon much faster. It also will not produce any more centrifuges, its stockpiles of uranium shall not exceed 7,154 kg (its current stockpile), and any uranium enriched to 20% or more must be diluted or converted below 5%. These stipulations are intended to freeze any progress and provide oversight on their nuclear program, ensuring that any attempt to pursue a nuclear weapon would be promptly detected.

The relief offered in return for Iranian concessions are structured around four pillars: They are limited, targeted, temporary, and a reversible. The deal suspends certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto industry, and Iran's petrochemical industry, providing a potential $1.5 billion in revenue. It will also provide $400 million in governmental tuition assistance directed from restricted Iranian funds for recognized institutions in third party countries to assist students. The lifted sanctions are intended to help the moderate middle class who will help us in the long run by leveraging Iranians most receptive to abandoning or limiting the nuclear program, hopefully building a constituency in Iran for further U.S. rapprochement.

Darknet into the Light

Courtesy of

Freedom is a popular rhetorical tool. It's central to the American narrative of democracy, market capitalism, and civil rights. It's often alluded to in our foreign policy when we push for countries to adopt similar polices of open government. In the past decade we have seen this narrative take a more extremist tone with libertarians espousing interpretations of this concept that most people would find unfathomable or unrealistic at the least.

Unabated freedom can also be dangerous. No policy area has seen the effect deregulation has had on our society than technology and more specifically the internet. While the internet has been an invaluable engine for growth, it has also been utilized by the less wholesome. This is especially true for the Darknet, an encrypted internet that exists on the same servers as the "regular internet", can only be accessed by special software and allows its users to remain mostly anonymous. Of course, this can be used to subvert government surveillance and censorship, but it is also the home of illicit arms and drug dealers and pedophiles rings.

The Darknet made international news with the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the proprietor of Silk Road, an online marketplace for illicit drugs. Two years after founding the website, he made 3.6 million dollars and months before he was arrested, was in the process of paying a hit man to assassinate a cofounder of the website.

Syria, what? Syria, Russia, and How It Came To Be

Courtesy of

Syria, what? After weeks of vigorous debate on The Hill and internationally on whether to intervene in Syria following the sarin attacks on August 21st, the joint Syrian-Russian gambit is paying off. Saber-rattling in the White House seems to have rattled President Putin's mettle; He reached out to Bashar al-Assad and arranged a deal to dismantle and destroy the government's chemical weapon stockpiles. It was hailed internationally as a victory, but removing a tool from Assad's repertoire does nothing to resolve the conflict. If all the weapons are abolished, Assad will have diminished capacity to cause mass casualties, but will continue to bitterly fight the opposition and cling to power--leaving 2 million refugees displaced, hungry, and disenfranchised.

Russia was loath to act on Syria for the past two years of the conflict, going as far as to veto UN Security Coucil votes to condemn the conflict. There are a few possible reasons Russia has forestalled any actions in the UNSC and propped up the regime: