Dec 16, 2017 -

Succession in Iran will escalate tensions

Our Expert Voices conversation on what comes next in Iran vs. Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has succession well in hand. Iran, on the other hand, has designated no successor to the Supreme Leader and is riven by deep political divisions united only in the belief that the perpetuity of their rule is contingent on exporting the Islamic Revolution.

Lacking his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini's charisma and stature, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei consolidated his rule by placing loyal supporters of the Islamic Revolution in all branches of government and granting the Revolutionary Guard unprecedented economic and political power. These transformations yielded a sectarian-driven expansionist and interventionist foreign policy, the continuity of which vouchsafes the legitimacy of any Supreme Leader.

The bottom line: Saudi Arabia has already had its succession and is forging ahead with needed reforms. With no clear successor, Iran's factions will vie with one another to escalate sectarian policies abroad in order to build revolutionary credentials for the next Supreme Leader at home.

Other voices in the conversation:

What's next

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Sports

What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.