Amir Handjani in the Press

Amir Handjani

Published Work and Citations

2020

Amir Handjani Quoted in the Wall Street Journal: Israel-U.A.E. Diplomatic Deal Ratchets Up Tensions With Iran– 08/16/20

“Iran will still have to deal with the U.A.E.,” said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow with the Truman National Security Project. “Most countries have relations with Israel, and Iran has relations with most of those countries.”

Handjani Quoted in Al Monitor: Covid-19 pandemic intensifies Iran Sanctions Debate – 4/8/20
The global COVID-19 pandemic has added a new sense of urgency to the political debate over whether — and to what extent — the United States should lift sanctions on Iran as it struggles to adequately contain the coronavirus.

Handjani Quoted in Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Coronovirus Strategy favored Economy over Public Health – 3/15/20
When the coronavirus hit Iran in February, it presented its leaders with a choice: Close the country down to contain the outbreak and risk the wrath of a population already fed up with economic hardship, or try to keep the economy ticking over and risk the outbreak spiraling out of control.

Handjani Quoted in France 24: Top Iranian General Killed – 1/4/20
“I don’t think Iran’s calculus and Iran’s forward posture in the region changes” after General Soleimani’s death, says Amir Handjani, Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. “The killing of Soleimani is a blow, but … it’s not as if Iran is going to pack up and go away.”

2019

Handjani Quoted in Wall Street Journal: Iran Takes Hardline to Keep Protests Down – 12/2/19
Days after 32-year-old Hamid Rasouli joined demonstrations over Iran’s troubled economy, he was killed by security forces, according to a friend. They handed over his body to his family with two demands: Pay nearly $8,000 and say your son was a member of a state militia who died at the hands of protesters.

Handjani in Lawfare: The Anatomy of Humanitarian Trade with Iran – 5/14/19
The United States has long promised to ensure trade in humanitarian goods for countries under its economic sanctions. For this reason, each U.S. country-based sanctions program has carved out exceptions that secured food and medicine so as to limit potential catastrophic effects on civilian populations.

Handjani in Foreign Policy: Saudi Arabia Has Big Plans in India – 5/10/19
To understand Riyadh’s new strategy in New Delhi, look no further than the state-run oil company Saudi Aramco’s recent bid to purchase up to 25 percent of India’s largest refinery—in fact, the largest refinery in the world—from Reliance Industries. For the better part of a decade, both India and Saudi Arabia have been trying to turn the page on the issues that divide them, including Saudi Arabia’s historic support for Pakistan in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and forge a new tactical partnership to effectively manage growing bilateral trade and investment between the Gulf Cooperation Council heavyweight and what may soon be the world’s third largest economy.

United States Designates Iran’s IRGC a Foreign Terrorist OrganizationAtlantic Council – 4/8/19
“It’s a provocative escalation. The IRGC has been sanctioned by numerous US authorities over the last decade. Multinationals from Europe and Asia have avoided doing business with them for some time now. This latest round of sanctions does little to move the needle. It just escalates the potential for a showdown between US and Iranian forces in the region which are at times in very close proximity to each other.”

2018

Why Iran Won’t Succumb to Trump’s SanctionsAtlantic Council – 11/18/18

From the start of his administration, President Donald Trump has insisted that he can coerce Iran into reaching a “better deal” than the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that would also address Tehran’s military intervention and support of proxies in the Arab world as well as its ballistic missile program. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone further, issuing a dozen demands that resemble an ultimatum calling for capitulation rather than preconditions for negotiations. This much is clear: The Trump administration has decided to wage economic war on Iran to try to bring it to heel.

Trump Puts America First at the United NationsAtlantic Council – 9/25/18

“The performance was vintage Trump: dystopian and unbalanced. The United States is clearly isolated on Iran. As President Trump is reimposing primary sanctions on Iran, the EU, Russia, and China are looking for ways to strengthen their ties with Tehran on a commercial and a political level.

“‘America First’ doesn’t really fit with the international and multilateral approach taken by prior administrations in working with allies and partners to isolate Iran with the goal of changing its behavior. President Trump on the one hand wants to talk to Iran and cut a grand bargain (covering everything from missiles to Iran’s foreign policy), while on the other hand he continues to demonize its leadership and blaze them for all the instability in the Middle East. That approach may have tentatively worked to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. It won’t work with the Iranian leadership who have made resistance to US policies and pressure their raison d’être for existing.”

Handjani Quoted in the National on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s Support for US Sanctions on Iran  – 8/13/18

“He is not Iran’s candidate of choice, this further isolates him from Tehran. Iran wants Hadi Al Ameri, he is the candidate of choice and this further cements that for Iran,” Mr Handjani said.

“A red line for Iran will always be that they cannot have an Iraqi government in power that is anti-Iranian,” he added.

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg on Iran’s Economy After US Sanctions – 8/9/18

In the runup to the Aug. 7 resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the country’s beleaguered president, Hassan Rouhani, got stern directives from a few corners of the Islamic Republic. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, urged him to deal with corruption. The powerful Revolutionary Guards commander told him to focus on Iran’s slumping currency, the rial, while a sizable chunk of Parliament summoned Rouhani to harangue him about the sinking economy. None of them, however, had any advice on how to ease the growing sense of despair and outrage in the streets.

Handjani Quoted in Al-Monitor on Renewed Economic Sanctions on Iran – 8/6/18

“We negotiated on every word on JCPOA, and Trump with one signature voided it,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a press conference with Iranian reporters. “And now he comes and talks of negotiations? This is just a propaganda play.” 

Iranian American analyst Amir Handjani also questioned whether the Trump administration would actually be willing to make a new deal with the Iranian regime it is trying to destabilize.

Trump’s Angry Iran TweetAtlantic Council – 7/23/18

“Trump is hoping that tweeting a threat of war, similar to his ‘fire and fury’ comment about North Korea, will pressure Tehran to negotiate,” said Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Security Initiative. 

“Instead, Trump’s saber-rattling is pushing Rouhani to match his rhetoric and join the hardline camp, thereby emboldening hardliners—who refuse to negotiate with the United States—and their stances,” said Dagres.

“Any threats toward Iran, regardless of who is in power, stirs nationalist sentiments in the majority of Iranians to rally around the flag and their government,” she added. 

Similarly, Amir Handjani, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, contended that it’s “clear the Trump administration isn’t interested in diplomacy with Iran.”

“Anyone who has studied Iranian politics closely would know that threatening and humiliating them publicly only hardens their positions,” said Handjani.

Concern and Uncertainty After Iran Deal ExitAtlantic Council – 5/14/18

As “the doorstep of the Middle East and West Asia,” Iran and the JCPOA matter a great deal to Europe from “a political and security perspective,” said Handjani. But, at the same time, European banks and multinationals have been unwilling to adopt the heavy risk of doing business with Iran given their “huge exposure to the US market,” particularly since United Nations nuclear sanctions were imposed in 2006. Maloney added, “Europeans have more to lose politically but less to lose economically…The bigger questions are our allies in Asia, and of course China, which is the largest importer of Iranian crude and which has far greater room for maneuver in terms of insulating itself from American sanctions if it chooses to go that way.”

Trump Quits Iran Nuclear DealAtlantic Council – 5/8/18

…Amir Handjani, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, contended that it’s “clear the Trump administration isn’t interested in diplomacy with Iran.”

“Anyone who has studied Iranian politics closely would know that threatening and humiliating them publicly only hardens their positions,” said Handjani. 

“[Trump’s] approach could lead to rapid and unpredictable escalation, which seems to be what those around the president want. It’s clear that the goal of this administration is regime change. It’s still unclear how and to what extent they are committed to bring it to fruition,” he said.

Concern and Uncertainty After Iran Deal ExitAtlantic Council – 5/14/18

On May 9, the Middle East Security Initiative (MSI) in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security convened a panel of experts for a conference call conversation assessing the implications of President Trump’s decision. Rachel Brandenburg, MSI Director, moderated the discussion, which featured senior fellows Amir Handjani and David Mortlock, board director Dov Zakheim, Future of Iran Initiative Director Barbara Slavin, and Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director for Foreign Policy and Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

 The participants expressed a range of views on the policy implications of the United States’ JCPOA withdrawal. They agreed, however, that withdrawing from the JCPOA without an alternative strategy was counterproductive to US interests and leadership. Panelists discussed potential next steps for many stakeholders, including the United States, Iran, European allies, and regional partners.

State of Upheaval: Trump Fires TillersonAtlantic Council – 3/13/18
“CIA Director Pompeo’s views are much closer to the president on many of the issues that Secretary Tillerson and the president could not see eye to eye on. This may mean a much more confrontational approach with issues in the Middle East involving Iran and Syria. 

“It remains to be seen though if President Trump and Director Pompeo see the threat from Russia the same way. Director Pompeo, in the past, has been willing to call Russia out for its interference in the US and European elections, something President Trump has been loath to do. Expect a period of continuous uncertainty and turbulence in American foreign policy.”

Handjani Quoted in The Washington Post on Iran’s Anti-Government Protests – 2/24/18

Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, said Rouhani “has gone further than any Iranian president” in advocating for political and economic changes. “He has pushed back on the notion that all protesters are seditionists, he has given them space to air their grievances, and he has said they have a right to question their leaders,” he said.

Handjani Quoted in New York Times on Climate Change Amplifying Unrest in Iran – 1/23/18

“Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understood that climate change and water mismanagement was ravaging family farms, and his government provided subsidies to families who struggled to put food on the table, said Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center…”

Handjani Quoted in Scientific American on Climate Change Helping Spark Iran Protests – 1/8/18

“You have climate change, shortage of water, they can’t grow their crops, and now they’re getting their cash handouts taken away,” said Handjani. “It’s a panoply of issues coming together at once.”

Among the sparks of activism are corruption, nepotism, rippling effects of low oil prices and sour reactions to the Trump administration’s denunciations of Iran, said Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg on Iran Protests – 1/4/18

As is often the case when people take to the streets in protest, the recent uprising in Iran may have its roots in something as basic as the price of eggs. Toward the end of December, several provinces reported a significant increase in the cost of agricultural goods, including a 50 percent spike in egg prices. Several factors were blamed, such as rising feed prices and an outbreak of avian flu that led to the culling of millions of chickens.

Handjani in Reuters: The Best Way to Respond to Iran Protests – 1/2/18

What started off in the holy city of Mashhad as demonstrations over unpaid wages and inflation quickly spread throughout the country, widening to include grievances about government mismanagement, corruption and Tehran’s involvement in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Unlike the mainly urban demonstrations that followed the contested 2009 election, these protests have spread to Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Rasht and Qazvin – all rural and relatively poorer cities. 

The national groundswell means that the government must take these demonstrations seriously. 

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Protests in IranAtlantic Council – 1/2/18
Q: How has the government responded to the protests so far?

Handjani: They are on their back foot. There have been crackdowns and there have been deaths. In the last couple of days you have seen a much more forceful response.

2017

Handjani in Foreign Affairs: India and the Iranian-Saudi Divide – 11/30/17

Given that the rivalry among those three states could eventually lead to war—endangering India’s interests in the Middle East, where it sources most of its energy and where millions of Indian emigrants live—New Delhi must carefully navigate the growing divide in the Persian Gulf. If it does so successfully, it can avoid getting entangled in regional tensions and consolidate its position as a key player in the Middle East. 

Handjani in Bloomberg: Saudi Shakeup Gives the U.S. an Opening With Iran – 11/11/17

The latest political earthquake in Saudi Arabia has led to much speculation over the future of the kingdom and the Gulf Arab states. But most analyses have ignored the far bigger issue looming over the region’s upheavals: Prospects for a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran are rapidly escalating.  

Trump and the Art of the [Iran Nuclear] DealAtlantic Council – 10/13/17

“What Trump did today is to isolate the United States from the world. The global community wants to address other aspects of Iranian behavior, but they want to deal with that separately, they don’t want to reopen the nuclear deal.”

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg: on Trump and Iran – 10/13/17

The policy shift put pressure on Congress to craft new legislation that would further isolate Iran. It also risks ratcheting up the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran playing out in proxy wars across the Middle East, and it sets up a clash between the U.S. and its allies.

Handjani in Politico: How Trump Can get out of his Iran Jam – 9/25/17

Trump has been coy about his intentions, and his top officials seem divided on what to do. In a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute, U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley laid out the clearest path forward, invoking a 2015 law sponsored by Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that she said, “asks the president to certify that the suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to Iran’s nuclear measures and that it is vital to the national security interests of the United States.” If he won’t certify, she noted, Congress would then have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose tough sanctions.

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg on US Effort to Change Nuclear Deal – 9/20/17

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani rejected any U.S.-led effort to alter the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Donald Trump has labeled “the worst deal ever” and signaled he may walk away from, a move the Islamic Republic’s leader said would only damage U.S. credibility.

Trump’s Debut at the United NationsAtlantic Council – 9/19/17

It was unlike any other speech a US president has given at the United Nations; it was an undignified speech. US presidents generally don’t go to the United Nations General Assembly and threaten annihilation of other countries.

Handjani Quoted in The Washington Post on US Action Towards The Iran Deal – 8/3/17

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Handjani in Reuters: Trump’s Risky Gamble on Iran – 8/1/17

Tensions between Iran and the United States are escalating rapidly. Over the weekend, Iranian and U.S. navy warships engaged in yet another round of shadow boxing in Persian Gulf. Last week Congress slapped additional sanctions on individuals and companies associated with Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. Iran, in response, test-fired a rocket into space. 

Handjani Joins Bloomberg to Discuss Qatar Defense Minister Meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan – 7/2/17

Handjani Quoted in Al Jazeeraon Turkey Denouncing Demands of Qatar – 6/25/17

Handjani said that the demands amounted to a request that Qatar give up its sovereignty. 

“I am sure as temperatures rise, other countries such as the United States, the UK, the French – who have long-standing ties with the GCC countries … will step in and try and play a mediating role,” he said.

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg on Saudi Demands of Qatar – 6/23/17

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted this week that Saudi Arabia spell out exactly what Qatar must do to end the diplomatic and economic isolation its neighbors imposed. Now the Saudis have answered, and the results probably aren’t what the top U.S. diplomat had in mind.

Handjani Quoted by Bloomberg on Tensions Between Saudi Arabia and Qatar – 6/23/17

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted this week that Saudi Arabia spell out exactly what Qatar must do to end the diplomatic and economic isolation its neighbors imposed. Now the Saudis have answered, and the results probably aren’t what the top U.S. diplomat had in mind.

Handjani Quoted in Bloomberg on Iran Missile Attack at Syria – 6/19/17

Iran said it fired missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria in retaliation for the jihadists’ deadly attacks in Tehran last week, a rare strike signaling Iran’s willingness to escalate its use of military power in the region’s conflicts.

A Regional Solution Needed to Heal Rift Within GCCAtlantic Council – 6/15/17

Solutions “lie in the region,” and will only come about “when all… sides are tired of fighting” each other, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. Meanwhile, the United States, navigating between allies on both sides of the conflict, must avoid being “caught in the firefight.”

The United States and Iran: Future TenseAtlantic Council – 6/14/17

Maloney and Handjani joined Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council, for a discussion on the future of the JCPOA and its role in US-Iran relations are part of a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center on June 13. Ladane Nasseri, senior Iran correspondent with Bloomberg, moderated the event.

Handjani Joins Bloomberg to Discuss Terror Attacks in Tehran – 6/11/17

Iran Faces Its Own Populist Test –Atlantic Council – 5/18/17

“This is going to be the next test in that wave,” following the election of US President Donald J. Trump and the defeat of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

Handjani – Iran’s Presidential ElectionAtlantic Council – 5/17/17

Handjani in Bloomberg: Negotiating with Iran Could Pay Off for Trump – 5/10/17

If there has been one consistent theme in Donald Trump’s foreign policy since the early days of his campaign, it has been his insistence that America has not benefited economically from the global order it mostly protects. Yet when it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East, he has been wildly inconsistent. During the presidential race, he talked about ripping up the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers. He walked that pledge back shortly after taking office. Nor has he acted on his rhetoric of ramping up sanctions on Tehran.

Handjani in War on the Rocks: Get Real on Iran’s Missile Program – 3/15/17

First, it is important not to confuse Iran’s missile program with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA, signed by Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, only addressed Iran’s nuclear related activity. It put restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and capped its domestic enrichment for more than a decade. Iran’s missile program – which Iranians view as legitimate means of defense – was a matter neither party could reach consensus on.

Handjani on Iran’s Domestic and International RelationsAtlantic Council – 3/8/17

Handjani Quoted by Bloomberg on Trump’s Stance on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – 2/9/17

President Donald Trump’s administration is weighing whether to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, a decision that would have economic, political and geopolitical implications because of the enormous might it wields. A move against the Guards — the official protector of the Islamic revolution — would fit with Trump’s push to get tough on Iran, whose 2015 nuclear agreement with six world powers, he argues, will “give” the country nuclear weapons. Trump’s administration warned it was putting Iran “on notice” for test-firing a ballistic missile on Jan. 29. The U.S. accuses Iran of violating United Nations restrictions on its ballistic missile program. Iran says the program is a sovereign affair and doesn’t contravene UN resolutions because it isn’t aimed at conveying atomic weapons. The Revolutionary Guards control the ballistic missile program.

Handjani Quoted by Bloomberg on Trump’s Threats on Iran’s Missile Test – 2/2/17

A senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic won’t be deterred by U.S. threats after President Donald Trump said Iran is “on notice” following its latest missile test.

Handjani Joins Bloomberg to Discuss President Trump’s Visa Order – 1/29/17

Handjani Joins Bloomberg to Discuss President Trump’s Visa Ban from the Perspective of the Middle East – 1/28/17

With the stroke of a pen, Donald Trump barred most citizens from seven mainly Muslim Mideast and East African nations from entering the U.S. While the latest executive order of his week-old presidency delivers on a campaign pledge to strengthen America’s borders, it was denounced in advance by human-rights groups as an attack on some of the world’s most vulnerable people, and will alarm many in the Islamic world.

Handjani in the National Interest Can Iran and India Turn the Page – 1/14/17

Iran and India have long had historical, cultural, and commercial ties. Tracing back a millennium, both countries have framed their shared roots as a “civilizational relationship.” Over the past decade, their economic ties, because of nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community, have centered on limited energy and agricultural products. In 2015, this trade amounted to about $16 billion. This number seems small when compared to $52 billion, the amount of bilateral trade Iran conducts with China. And yet for Iran, India is not only geographically closer than China—it also shares a similar geopolitical outlook for West Asia.

 

2016

Handjani in Reuters: Column: The Case for Exxon’s Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State – 12/14/16

Tillerson would not be the first secretary of state to come from the corporate world. George Shultz stepped down as president of construction and engineering giant Bechtel to lead President Ronald Reagan’s State Department, although Shultz had previously served in the Nixon administration. Tillerson has been at the helm of the world’s largest and most profitable publicly traded oil company for more than a decade.

Handjani Quoted by Al-Monitor on Secretary of State Tillerson– 12/13/16

Handjani in Reuters: Commentary: Putin’s Middle East Gamble is Paying Dividends – 10/4/16

Vladimir Putin has made an art of turning weakness into strength.  As Russian and Syrian forces pound Aleppo in the biggest assault of Syria’s five-year civil war, the Russian president clearly has emerged as a dominant force in the Middle East. Two years ago Russia had virtually no presence in the region, aside from a naval base in Syria. Today Moscow’s fighter jets and missiles fly over Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi airspace. 

Handjani in Bloomberg: Iran’s Plan to Lure Big Oil– 9/14/16

Far away from the bloody Syrian conflict and continuing rancor of the Iran nuclear deal, influential policymakers in Tehran are debating the future of the country’s energy resources. They know Iran needs vastly increased foreign investment to revive its ailing economy after years of international sanctions and economic isolation.

Handjani in Reuters: Commentary: A Year After Nuclear Deal, Sanctions Still Hurt Iran – 07/12/16

It has been one year since Iran, the United States and five other world powers reached a landmark deal designed to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. In exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, the United Nations lifted all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, and the EU lifted many bilateral sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sectors.

Handjani in The National Interest: Hillary will undue Kerry’s Progress on Iran – 7/12/16

When Hillary Clinton’s top foreign-policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, recently outlined the candidate’s vision for America’s role in the Middle East, he proposed a twofold approach to the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran: “Raising the costs on Iran for its destabilizing behavior and raising the confidence of our Sunni partners that the United States is going to be there and in so doing try and draw down some of their more dangerous hedging behavior.” Time and again Secretary Clinton has struck a distinctive muscular foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran. Her hawkish policies are part of a “broader strategy to confront Iran’s aggression across the region,” as she discussed during her speech to AIPAC. Far from projecting American strength and advancing American interests, this proposed policy is likely to undermine them.

Handjani in Reuters: Commentary Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Problem– 6/9/16

Clinton’s record as a military hawk is well-known. She voted for the Iraq War as a senator. As secretary of state, she pushed for U.S. intervention in Libya and lobbied President Obama to take military action against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. She was lukewarm about the nuclear deal with Iran. 

Handjani in the National Interest: Trump and Cruz are Killing the GOP on National Security – 4/3/16

The recent attacks in Brussels have put the conflicts in the Middle East front and center in the Republican primaries. On average, Americans tend to believe Republicans are stronger on national security than Democrats and thus more likely to keep them safe. And yet, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the two most likely GOP nominees have grandstanded on vague policy pronouncements from excessive bombing in Iraq and Syria to upending the Iran nuclear deal. Their bluster is aimed at appealing to the base of the Republican Party, which continues to view the region like an old Western movie. That may win primaries, but in the long run, the real-estate mogul and the Texas senator are challenging the conventional wisdom that Republicans are the party to trust on security.

 

2015

Handjani Quoted in Recession, retrenchment, revolution? Impact of low crude prices on oil powersThe Guardian – 2/30/15

“The drop in oil prices hurts all oil producers, not just Iran,” said Amir Handjani, president of PG International commodities trading services and a member of the board directors of RAK Petroleum.

Handjani in The Hill: US Should Forge Economic Ties to Iran – 10/8/15

Despite the resolution of the decade-long nuclear dispute, the Obama administration has declared that the United States will not seek economic ties with Iran, thwarting the hopes of the U.S. commercial sector and Iran’s young population.  Instead of changing the paradigm that has existed in U.S. policy towards Iran – one in which Tehran’s isolation is valued more than its integration – the White House is sticking to a policy that has outlived its usefulness and now defies its justification. Having fenced Iran off from the world, Washington will be left fencing itself off from Iran in the years ahead, as European and Asian business leaders flood into Tehran looking to capture Iran’s market while America sits on the sidelines. 

Handjani Quoted in The Guardian Iran earns more from tax than oil for first time in almost 50 years – 9/27/15

The Iranian government is earning more from tax than oil for the first time in almost half a century as the country shifts its traditional reliance on crude to taxation revenues in the face of plummeting oil prices. 

President Hassan Rouhani’s economic strategy is to significantly reduce the government’s dependency on oil and instead collect tax more systematically, according to Ali Kardor, the deputy managing director of the national Iranian oil company (NIOC). 

Handjani Quoted in Time Magazine U.S. and International Businesses Eye an Iranian ‘Gold Mine’ After Nuclear Deal – 7/15/15

But assuming that all happens, business executives and investors say the potential in Iran is enormous. Among its population of about 77 million, Iran has a large number of well-educated, tech-savvy youth with close ties to relatives in places like Los Angeles and London, and a fervent desire to end their generation’s isolation. Among those Iranians — many of whom will have money to spend — American companies in particular stand to do well, say investment analysts, ironically boosted by the pariah status the U.S. has had since the 1979 revolution. “Iranians love American products,” says Amir Ali Handjani, an Iranian-American energy executive based between New York and Dubai. “They will always prefer to do business with Americans and to buy Americans products than others, because they’ve been told that America is bad for 35 years, and that makes them want them more.”

Handjani in Reuters: Big Loser in Any Nuclear Deal with Iran Maybe Russia – 7/10/15

As Iran and six world powers edge closer to solidifying an accord that puts limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, a unique opportunity presents itself for the West. The United States and its European partners could begin to decouple the unnatural Iranian-Russian alliance to reign in Moscow’s hegemonic ambitions, as well as bring Iran back into the global economic fold. Competition between Moscow and Tehran would reduce Russia’s influence in the Middle East, unlock Iran and may even serve Europe’s future interest as it looks for alternatives to Russian gas.

Handjani in Reuters: What does the nuclear deal mean for Iran and the region – 7/16/15

Handjani in Reuters: To save Iraq, the U.S. military must work with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – 6/5/15

The Iranian power structure is complicated. The elected government of Hassan Rouhani is the face of a layered leviathan where clerics, merchants and security services all jockey for power. The ultimate arbiter of Iran’s foreign policy is the supreme leader – and he is heavily influenced by the Revolutionary Guard.

Handjani in The National Interest: Obama’s Nightmare in Yemen – 5/4/15

The problems in Yemen lie mostly in Yemen, a tribal society with decades of conflict and shifting allegiances. Perhaps the most disturbing trend to this conflict is how it reflects the rise of warfare as the first choice policy preference for interstate relations in the Middle East.

Handjani Quoted in The Guardian Iranians celebrate nuclear deal: ‘This will bring hope to our life’ – 4/2/15

Jubilant Iranians took to the streets on Thursday night to celebrate news of a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with the West, and to express their hopes that the deal will end years of international isolation and economic hardship – and avert the threat of war.

Handjani in Al Jazeera: Breaking Europe’s Putin Addiction – 3/30/15

The benefits of the US-Iranian detente are obvious. Given the multitude of threats that emanate from the Middle East, removing the spectre of an Iran with nuclear weapons may well allow for the two sides to tackle some of them.

 

2014

Handjani in The National Interest: How Iranian Oil Became Irrelevant – 12/11/14

Iran’s fall as a global player in energy markets has been steep and fast. Today, Iran is the 8th largest net exporter of crude in the world, and it has fallen behind many OPEC countries like Iraq, the UAE and Kuwait. To be sure, those countries have structural advantages that Iran doesn’t. Most significant, a smaller population base that consumes less of the oil they produce. Estimates vary, but of the 3.5 million barrels of oil a day that Iran produces, nearly half is refined and used domestically.

Amir Handjani inAl Jazeera: Breaking Europe’s Putin Addiction– 6/20/14

This dramatic move, coupled with Russia’s recent $400bn natural gas deal with China, is meant to deliver a blunt message to Europe, as the United States pressures it to impose more sanctions on Russia. Simply put, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to toothless US and European Union sanctions is that Russia has other options. The message back from Europe should be just as blunt: So do we. What other options does Europe have? Believe it or not – Iran.

Sanctions cause Iranian airplane crashesThe Hill – 10/20/14

In the last 25 years there have been more then 200 accidents involving Iranian planes, resulting in 2000 deaths and many more debilitating injuries. With this abysmal safety record, the odds an Iranian air passenger will die on a flight are 100 times higher than those for passengers on the world’s major carriers. Statistics like this, and the human tragedies they belie, demonstrate how the sanctions levied against Iran serve to collectively punish the Iranian people

Handjani Quoted inThe Guardian Recession in Russia, revolt in Venezuela? The knock-on effects of tumbling oil pricesThe Guardian – 10/16/14

If prices remain weak – and many forecasters suggest they will – then from Moscow to Caracas and from Lagos to Tehran governments will start to feel the impact on macroeconomic policy.

Handjani inThe National Interest the Saudi Dilemma – 1/2/14

Saudi Arabia’s problems are not all of its own making. Riyadh could potentially be the biggest loser as Iran and the United States slowly inch closer to a framework to not only settle their differences on Iran’s nuclear program but to eventually normalize their relationship.