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Crisis Group's Interactive Iran-U.S. Trigger List
Crisis Group's Interactive Iran-U.S. Trigger List

Crisis Group's Interactive Iran-U.S. Trigger List

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CrisisWatch Iran

Unchanged Situation

U.S. and Iran participated in expert-level negotiations as sabotage attack targeted nuclear facility, prompting Tehran to ramp up enrichment activities.  New diplomatic process commenced as Iran and P4+1 (UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) 2 April held virtual session of nuclear deal’s Joint Commission, which concluded with commitment to continue discussions in person in Austria’s capital Vienna in P4+1/EU format; U.S. same day confirmed it would send diplomats there. Talks 15 April held in Vienna and third round of negotiations 27 April began with parallel working groups discussing nuclear steps, sanctions relief and sequencing. President Rouhani 20 April suggested that “talks have progressed about 60, 70 per cent”. Complicating diplomatic efforts, Iran’s atomic energy organisation 11 April reported “incident” at Natanz nuclear facility that knocked “a number” of centrifuges offline, subsequently describing it as “sabotage”; Iranian FM Javad Zarif next day called attack “nuclear terrorism” and suggested Israel as likely suspect. In response, Tehran 13 April announced expansion of enrichment rates at Natanz from 20% (on par with pre-deal levels) to 60% using IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges. UK, France and Germany next day expressed “grave concern” over decision while U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken called it “provocative”. Meanwhile, IAEA 21 April verified installation of six cascades of IR-2m and two cascades of IR-4 centrifuges; IAEA 19 April confirmed parallel talks with Iran on clarifying safeguards concerns. Regional tensions continued with U.S. and Israel. Foreign ministry 7 April acknowledged reports that Iranian ship Saviz had been hit by explosion in Red Sea; U.S. official, according to New York Times, confirmed Israel carried out operation. Israeli-owned vessel 13 April reportedly struck by missile in Gulf of Oman. U.S. navy reported 2 and 26 April Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvres near U.S. vessels, raising “risk of miscalculation and/or collision”; incidents are first reported cases of U.S.-Iran naval tension since April 2020. EU 12 April sanctioned eight individuals and three entities for “violent response” to Nov 2019 demonstrations. Iranian and Saudi officials 9 April commenced talks in Iraqi capital Baghdad (see Saudi Arabia). 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

27 Mar 2021
I think [the new Iran-China deal] will make Europe and the U.S. a little more nervous because it looks like Iran may have a way out of economic strangulation. The Wall Street Journal

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa
26 Feb 2021
The [recent] U.S. [air strikes in Syria were] aimed at a relatively insignificant target in an area where Iran's hands are somewhat tied. AFP

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
15 Aug 2020
The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this (resolution) is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal. The Asia Times

Richard Gowan

UN Director
12 Aug 2020
[The U.S. has done] a poor job concealing its intention to capitalize on the arms embargo expiration to dismantle [what remains of the nuclear deal]. The Japan Times

Ashish Pradhan

Senior Analyst, UN Advocacy and Research
29 Apr 2020
Depriving Tehran from having access to the arms market will compel Iran to double down on its support for proxies and its ballistic missiles program. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
15 Apr 2020
The Iranians are keen on demonstrating to the U.S. that the COVID crisis has neither debilitated them nor has altered their strategic calculus. Time

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran

Latest Updates

The Nuclear Deal’s Fate Lies in Politics—in the U.S. and Iran

Will the U.S. offer to roll back Trump-era sanctions in exchange for Iran complying with the JCPOA’s nuclear restrictions, and use the existing agreement as a foundation for follow-up negotiations?

Originally published in World Politics Review

Podcast / United States

U.S. Sanctions: An Overused Foreign Policy Tool?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood discuss the “maximum pressure” sanctions that the U.S. has imposed upon Iran and Venezuela. Their guests are Crisis Group’s experts on these two countries, Ali Vaez and Phil Gunson.

The Iran Nuclear Deal at Five: A Revival?

The 2015 nuclear deal enters 2021 clinging to life, having survived the Trump administration’s withdrawal and Iran’s breaches of its commitments. When the Biden administration takes office, Washington and Tehran should move quickly and in parallel to revive the agreement on its original terms.

Also available in العربية, فارسی

The Vital but Delicate Task of Reviving the JCPOA

President-elect Joe Biden says the U.S. will rejoin the Iran nuclear deal if Tehran resumes full compliance. Iran says it will do so if Washington relaxes sanctions. Each side should use the framework that already exists rather than try to squeeze the other for concessions.

Also available in العربية, فارسی

Our People

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran

Naysan Rafati

Senior Analyst, Iran