Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
Home  |  Bio  |  Mobile Site
Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

Latest Articles

America And The "War of Ideas" Against Islamic Extremism

August 2023  •  AFPC Defense Dossier iss. 36

Does anyone still remember the "Global War on Terror"? For roughly two decades following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the struggle against al-Qaeda and other Islamic militants was a fixture of U.S. foreign and security policy. Of late, though, this focus has receded, replaced by an emphasis on "great power competition" with China, as well as Russia. This attention has only been reinforced by Russia's current war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine—a conflict that has succeeded in galvanizing a unified Western response to Russian neo-imperialism. This shift has had concrete effects. It has altered military budgets, as the U.S. defense bureaucracy has de-emphasized special operations and low intensity conflict in favor of planning for conventional force-on-force competition with near-peer adversaries.[1] Just as profoundly, it has marked the end of counterterrorism as a significant orienting principle in U.S. policy planning. The Biden administration's October 2022 National Security Strategy, for instance, relegates the fight against militant Islam and extremist actors to what is, at best, a second-tier priority.[2] But if the fight against militant Islam has become less urgent for the United States, America's allies in the Muslim World are still very much embroiled in it—as well as the struggle for hearts and minds that serves as its central front.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


Biden's Ill-Considered Ransom-For-Hostages Deal With Iran Imperils Everyone

August 25, 2023  •  The Hill

When the Biden administration announced a breakthrough in its long-running diplomatic dalliance with Iran earlier this month, it predictably touched off a firestorm of controversy. The new White House deal involves the unfreezing of $6 billion of previously-escrowed Iranian oil revenue held in South Korea in exchange for Iran's release from prison of five wrongfully detained American citizens: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz and two unnamed others. Critics have charged that the deal amounts to a ransom payment to the Islamic Republic, and is sure to encourage more bad behavior from Tehran — and from other troublesome regimes, such as Russia and China. The White House and its surrogates maintain that it represents no such thing. Rather, they say, the money would be segregated in specially-created accounts, closely monitored and used only for humanitarian purposes that are permitted under U.S. sanctions anyway. To hear them tell it, the arrangement is benign, even beneficial. "[T]his is a way of actually facilitating their use strictly for humanitarian purposes and in a strictly controlled way," Secretary of State Antony Blinken has argued. "Iran will not have direct access to these funds. There will be significant oversight and visibility from the United States." But Team Biden isn't fooling anyone. Money, after all, is fungible. That means a surge of previously inaccessible funds, however they happen to be earmarked, will represent a net expansion of the Islamic Republic's overall budget.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


Russia Is Settling In For A War Of Attrition

August 15, 2023  •  Newsweek

Ever since it launched its "special military operation" against Kyiv last year, global publics have wondered just how long Moscow can keep up its war of aggression. The answer, it seems, is quite a while. Despite the enormous costs to date of Russia's Ukraine campaign on the country's geopolitical standing, its fiscal health, and the pace of its population, the Kremlin is giving every sign that it is settling in for a protracted war of attrition against its western neighbor.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


The War In Ukraine Is Also A 'Food Fight'

July 21, 2023  •  The Hill

In the 1930s, in a bid to pacify the still-unruly region of Ukraine, the Soviet leadership created a man-made famine on its territory. The consequences were horrific; between 1932 and 1933, an estimated 7 to 10 million Ukrainians died in the tragedy that has come to be known as the Holodomor. Today, as part of its war against Ukraine, the government in Moscow is wielding the food weapon once again. On Monday, the Kremlin announced that it was suspending its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and that it was no longer willing to guarantee the security of food exports transiting the Black Sea. The potential effects of this decision are both profound and profoundly destabilizing.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


The Fallout From Prigozhin's Putsch

July 5, 2023  •  The Messenger

We still don't understand exactly what happened in Russia, or why. On June 23, Yevgeny Prighozin, the ruthless head of Wagner, Russia's most notorious mercenary outfit, launched what appeared to be a coup against the Kremlin. Over the span of about a day, Prighozin and thousands of his soldiers of fortune abandoned their positions in Ukraine, where they had been fighting for Moscow, occupied two separate Russian cities, and subsequently marched on the country's capital — before abruptly turning back and capitulating. Experts continue to quibble about what actually transpired, with some seeing Prighozin's actions as an abortive coup intended to bring down the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others interpreting it as a more tactical mutiny to gain bargaining power in internal politics. But while the motivations of Russia's most notorious mercenary may not be known for some time, the outcome already is. After negotiations facilitated by Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Prighozhin has accepted exile and an apparent amnesty for his men. Moscow's spin-doctors are now working overtime to turn the page on the incident and portray Russia's present regime as both popular and politically stable. Nevertheless, the long-term consequences of Prighozin's power play are liable to be profound. Here are a trio of what could be the most consequential for Russian foreign policy — and for Western nations now marshalling a response to its aggression, both in Europe and beyond.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles

Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

home   |   biography   |   articles   |   blog   |   media coverage   |   spoken   |   books   |   mailing list   |   mobile site