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Posts from the ‘Fellows’ Forum’ Category

OPEC Embargo +40: What Have We Learned?

Kathleen Araujo

Kathleen Araujo

By Kathleen Araujo

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Science, Technology, and Public Policy; Project on Managing the Atom: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo. On October 16th, 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised the price of oil by 70%. Production curtailments were set in motion, and an embargo was imposed.  Oil prices quickly quadrupled. This wasn’t the first or last time that major shifts in energy prices would dominate the world news. What is most enlightening, though, is how countries have learned to enhance their energy resilience.

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How Obama Can Win a European Free-Trade Deal

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

The contrast was striking. In his State of the Union address, President Obama buried the start of a U.S.-E.U. free trade negotiations in a single sentence well down in the text: ” Tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

Yet, remarkably, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times led their editions the second day after the speech with the trade talk stories, and under multi-deck headlines (“Obama Bid for Trade Pact with Europe Stirs Hope: Rise of China May Spur Deal Despite Past Failures–Visions of Lower Prices.“)

In trumpeting the story, the newspapers acknowledged the potential significance of such a deal between the first and second largest economies in the world (E.U. $17 trillion; U.S. $15 trillion; China $12 trillion), reflecting the views of politicians and other leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. In downplaying the announcement, the president was hedging his bets: because of parochial interests in both the U.S. and the E.U., it will be hard to get a meaningful deal done on a host of technocratic issues, and he doesn’t want the trade negotiations to detract politically from the host of other issues he wishes to advance during his second term.

Yet the irony is that the president cannot hedge his bets without effectively undermining, or indeed killing, the talks in their infancy. He must be prepared to put the full weight of the administration, and the full weight of the presidency, behind this project for it to have a decent chance of succeeding. Read more

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Egypt’s Economic Winter

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman Jr.

(This article first appeared on, where Ben Heineman writes frequently)

The international media have made a huge story out of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s power-consolidating decrees and the balloting on his proposed constitution. How the fundamental political disputes — between factions of the religious and secular, Islamic and Christian, and civilian and military, and between rich and poor and urban and rural — will be resolved in the Middle East’s most populous nation is seen as a harbinger for the political impact of the Arab Spring.

A companion story has received much less mainstream media attention: Egypt’s escalating economic crisis since the Tahrir Square uprising. Yet the question of whether and how Egypt deals with these economic issues is deeply intertwined with the salient political questions, and has significant implications for the future. Indeed, a lack of economic opportunity was arguably as significant a cause of the Egyptian “revolution” as political repression. Read more

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The IEA’s Poor Performance and the Risks of Oil Abundance

By Leonardo Maugeri

Roy Family Fellow, Geopolitics of Energy Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Although quite late, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has noticed that American crude oil production is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and that it will continue to do so. In a report published only one year ago, the Agency had largely underestimated the phenomenon, as had many others.

In its new World Energy Outlook 2012, the IEA now expects that the US will produce 11.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of petroleum and natural gas liquids (NGLs) by 2020, compared to little more than 8 million bpd in 2011. In a study published by the Harvard Kennedy School in June (Oil, the Next Revolution), I had hypothesized even higher American production, 11.6 million bpd by 2020. This did not include biofuels, which by that year could raise overall American liquids production to more than 13 million bpd. The additional studies that I am carrying out on more than 2,500 tight oil and shale oil wells in the United States lead me to believe that American production could be even higher by 2020 .Other observers have forecast similar growth rates during the same period or sooner (including Citibank).

But the IEA numbers suffer from more than tardiness. Read more

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The Arab Spring and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Kayhan Barzegar

By Kayhan Barzegar

The Arab Spring can be seen as a turning point in the regional balance of power of the Middle East. Previously, the “balance of power” was determined at the level of classic players—the states—and therefore was easier. However, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the roles of states are now combined with the “dynamics of internal politics”—making them much more complicated.

From the outset of the Arab Spring, the domestic socio-political issues of the Arab countries—democratization, political reform, Islamization, elimination of authoritarianism, establishment of a market economy and middle class, and human rights issues have become the priorities in these countries. This development has impacted the objectives of the regional players in the context of balance of power.

In these new circumstances, each of the regional and trans-regional players seeks to restrain threats and enhance its influence. Turkey and the West pursue a greater role in order to extend their political leadership. On the other hand, Iran, Russia, China, and even Saudi Arabia seek greater roles to contain threats and enhance their security. Therefore, factors such as “model,” “ideology,” and “economy” are all employed to enhance the roles of the players. Read more

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WMD Free Zone in Mideast: an opportunity for detente with Iran

Tytti Erästö

By Tytti Erästö

Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom

At different stages of the Iranian nuclear dispute, a window toward resolution has seemed to open up. For example in 2003 Iran proposed comprehensive negotiations with the Bush administration but the window was quickly slammed shut due to  the latter’s unwillingness to break the old tradition of containing Iran. This position also effectively prevented the pursuit of the diplomatic track until most of the UN sanctions resolutions against Iran had been adopted.

Obama’s openness for negotiations created the first opportunity for reaching a compromise deal in 2009. This time, however, the opportunity was lost due to domestic pressures on the Iranian side. The result was an increased determination in the West to continue with the sanctions track—a determination which also prevented the P5+1 from seizing another diplomatic opportunity, offered to them by Turkish and Brazilian mediators in 2010. In spring 2012 a dim light of hope again emerged but soon faded away as discussions between Iran and the P5+1 only seemed to confirm the incompatibility of the two sides’ positions. Particularly since the latest round of discussions, there has been a sense of surrender to the interpretation that there simply is no diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.

Surrendering to cynicism and worst-case scenarios, however, is premature as diplomatic means have by no means been exhausted. The real challenge is that the multilateral nuclear diplomacy with Iran has fallen hostage to the US-Iranian and Iranian-Israeli conflicts, which have reinforced the mutual lack of trust and created formidable obstacles for dialogue on both sides. Read more

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Win the Minds or Lose the Region

Francisco Martin-Rayo

By Francisco Martin-Rayo

The recent attacks against U.S. embassies around the world, the murder of U.S. diplomats, and their associated hateful images, have shocked the American public and confounded policymakers.  Although many Americans and academics have asked the question, “What changed?” these attacks are simply the most recent example of a long-term trend in the region that undermines U.S. values and interests.  Unless U.S. policymakers take concrete steps to counter the influence of extremists in these countries, the United States will find itself more isolated, ineffective, and unable to defend its national interests in the most important region in the world. Read more

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Turncoats and Converts Make a Deadly Terrorist Mix


Simon Saradzhyan

Simon Saradzhyan

By Simon Saradzhyan

This is an extended version of the author’s “Mixing Turncoats and Terrorism” op-ed published in The Moscow Times on September 9, 2012.

Events of one August day in Russia’s volatile republic of Dagestan have once again highlighted how turncoats can enhance terrorists’ capabilities to carry out deadly attacks in the North Caucasus and other regions of Russia.

On Aug. 28, Aminat Kurbanova, an ethnic Russian woman whose original name is Alla Saprykina, visited Said Afandi al-Chirkawi, the spiritual leader of two major Sufi orders in the North Caucasus. The prominent sheikh was initially reluctant to meet Kurbanova, but the 29-year-old woman said she was a Russian who wanted to convert to Islam and he eventually agreed to receiver her in his village home. In reality, this former actress-cum-dancer had not only already converted to Islam, but had also joined the ranks of the believers in Salafiyyah, the so-called pure Islam.  Once in the same room with the sheikh, the woman detonated the bomb concealed under her clothes to kill him and seven others, including herself. Read more

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Chinese Nuclear Modernization: Assuring a limited but reliable counterattack capability

Hui Zhang

Hui Zhang

By Hui Zhang

Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Since the New START Treaty entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011, concerns have grown about Chinese nuclear modernization. Some are concerned that China would reach nuclear parity with the United States as it cuts down its arsenal along with Russia. Such concerns are greatly increased, in particular, as reports are disseminated on China’s testing a new and more capable generation of intercontinental ballistic missile—Dongfeng-41.

However, China’s nuclear arsenal and its modernization are constrained by its inventory of fissile materials, and most importantly by its nuclear policy—a no-first-use pledge and “minimum deterrence.” Read more

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Apple and its Chinese Supplier’s Labor Practices in Spotlight

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman Jr.

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

(This article first appeared on

Once again, Apple is on the front pages because of problems with its suppliers in China. But hard questions still exist about whether the new indictment will make any difference.

The headlines shout that one of Apple’s main suppliers is “Vowing Reforms in China Plants.” This pledge from Foxconn, the huge Chinese electronic supplier, came after the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an independent monitor, issued a report confirming widespread violations of Chinese labor laws and other labor standards at three factories that make iPhones, iPads and other devices. Under pressure from recurring supplier problems, Apple had been forced to hire FLA earlier this year. Read more

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