Iran's options

Iran's options

The world is watching: How will Iran respond to the US drone strike that killed Major General Qassim Suleimani?

Iran has already said that it will no longer adhere to limitations on its capacity for uranium enrichment set out under the 2015 nuclear deal. While the Islamic Republic would come up short against the US military in a conventional war, it does have options for retaliation. Here are the most important.

The Iranian coastline borders a Gulf oil shipping route, including the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Any action Tehran might take against tanker traffic or vital oil installations could send oil prices surging. This fear is not unfounded: Just after the attack on Suleimani, prices jumped 4 percent in anticipation of a potential response. And back in September, Iran was blamed for attacks on Saudi oil refineries that briefly knocked 5 percent of global crude production offline.


The Strait of Hormuz is a particular worry. Iran has responded to the tightening of US sanctions in recent months by seizing tankers in the area, and in 2016, seized two US navy boats, taking American sailors hostage. If Iran were to engage in such provocations now, President Trump's response could pull the two countries toward full-blown war. That's not likely, but we can't rule it out.

Iran has also demonstrated cyber capabilities and could lash out at the US and its allies. Oil installations around the Persian Gulf are susceptible to cyberattacks that could severely undermine energy security in the region. This might only form part of Iran's response: "They will want real blood," a former US colonel in military intelligence warned this week.

Tehran's vast network of proxy forces – including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, and local militias in Syria and Iraq – could play a key role in escalation between the US and Iran. Some of these groups have affiliates in Europe, Latin America and Africa that could inflict serious damage on US interests in those regions.

Fears that Iraq will become the frontline of US-Iran tensions are well-founded. Baghdad, hoping to placate Iran's rulers – their fellow-Shia patrons – passed a resolution in parliament over the weekend to expel US troops from Iraq. (Shia lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution while many Sunni and Kurdish members, who are more supportive of US troops being in Iraq, sat out the vote.) While it's unclear how this might play out, it is a worrying sign for President Trump, who has already threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq if US troops were required to leave the country.

Iraq is a long-term US partner and a foothold for US troops in the Middle East. A US withdrawal from Iraq would severely undermine America's ability to lead the fight against the Islamic State. Speaking to Axios, a US official explained: "It hasn't escaped ISIS' attention that Iraq is in something of disarray right now."

The bottom line: All-out war between the US and Iran remains unlikely, but there is much short of war that can still go very wrong.

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In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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