It is a tragic mistake to reverse Obama’s opening to Iran at the very moment it is bearing fruit.
As long as the Sunni Iraqis do not know what the future has in store for them, they will be unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to battle ISIS only to benefit the Shiite government in Baghdad, which they despise even more than ISIS.
The military landscape in Syria is sharply changing in favor of Bashar al-Assad's regime, the fall of which the Saudis vehemently seek.
The timely implementation of the Iran deal and Tehran's full compliance with its various provisions to date should not be viewed as just an accomplished goal, but as a continuing process that could take several years to determine its viability and the extent to which it impacts Iran's foreign and domestic policy.
The execution of Al-Nimr, whose conviction was largely based on his fiery but peaceful denunciations of Saudi Arabia's systematic discrimination against its Shia minority, smack of a stark and threatening message to the Shia population who protested for their rights during the Arab uprisings that began in 2011: Protest too much and you'll end up dead.
As Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war against Iran in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, it is determined not to allow Iran free regional reign. By creating the crisis, Saudi Arabia also hopes to disrupt the warming relations between Iran and the U.S., which it views as contrary to its interests. In addition, Saudi Arabia hopes to undermine the EU's drive for rapprochement with Iran, as it otherwise has the potential of becoming the largest trading partner with the EU.
Iran is no paragon of democracy. And when its leaders denounce the "criminal workings" of the "vile" Saudi regime and its links to terrorism, the pot is calling the kettle black. Yet what occurred this past weekend in Saudi Arabia is worrisome for several reasons. Executing 47 people in a single day is a strange way to begin the year.
The U.S. words of support notwithstanding, the announcement marked the latest move in Saudi Arabia's increasingly assertive and, from Washington's standpoint, independent foreign policy. It is the latest in a series of Saudi moves that underscore a significant foreign policy shift.
U.S. policymakers need keen understanding of the history and religious tensions between Sunnis (primarily in Saudi Arabia) and Shiites (so dominant in Iran) if they want to formulate an objective policy of any positive consequence for the region and beyond.
Whereas military force is selectively necessary to destroy irredeemably ruthless and bloodthirsty organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to neutralize violent extremism in the long-term, no amount of military muscle will suffice.