Op-Eds

Published opinions and arguments by CFR fellows and experts.

Iran’s Rafsanjani: A Legacy of Terrorism and Repression Behind a Facade of Moderation

Authors: Reuel Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
Washington Post

Contrary to his image as a “pragmatist,” former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died last week, brandished a moderate image that concealed the reality of his militancy, argues CFR’s Ray Takeyh with Reuel Gerecht. Instead, Rafsanjani was the most consequential architect of the theocracy’s machinery of repression and regional ambitions and a primary sponsor of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations. 

See more in Iran; Presidents and Chiefs of State

Aleppo’s Sobering Lessons

Author: Richard N. Haass
Project Syndicate
After responding to Syria’s war with strong rhetoric but mostly tepid action, the United States must now set limited goals if it is going to accomplish even a limited amount of good, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

See more in Syria; Wars and Warfare

'Responsibility to Protect?' Empty Words After Aleppo

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
cnn.com

"The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty."

The United Nations said that in 2005 about its "responsibility to protect." It's the concept that "if a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations."

And here is what UN officials said this week when describing what is happening in Syria: "A complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo."

See more in Syria; International Organizations and Alliances; Conflict Assessment

Rex Tillerson Could Be a Good Secretary of State— But Not in a Trump Administration

Author: Max Boot
Los Angeles Times

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is by all accounts a shrewd, pragmatic, and successful dealmaker. In another administration, he might have made an excellent secretary of State. Serving a president with a strong moral grounding and certain fixed principles, he might have been successful in sanding off the rough edges and making the compromises necessary to get things done. But under Donald Trump, a man of few if any discernible principles beyond a desire for self-aggrandizement, he would be a dangerous choice because his role will be not just to implement policy but—more than most previous secretaries of State—to shape it.

See more in United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State; Organization of Government

Trump and China: 5 Views From Beijing

Author: Stephen Sestanovich
Wall Street Journal

When the Chinese Foreign Ministry expresses “serious concern” about things Donald Trump has said about Taiwan—and a party-controlled newspaper calls him “as ignorant as a child”—it’s clear that Beijing is alarmed. Yet after spending last week in China, I came away struck by the overall complacency of Chinese attitudes toward the president-elect, writes Stephen Sestanovich. 

See more in China; United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State