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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

Resolution Opportunity

Tehran continued to violate 2015 nuclear deal and tensions with outgoing Trump administration ran high; new U.S. administration could take steps to re-enter nuclear deal in Feb. Iran 4 Jan began enriching uranium at 20 per cent – major increase from current 4.5 per cent cap and on par with pre-nuclear deal levels; FM Javad Zarif same day underscored that move and Iran’s other violations “are fully reversible upon full compliance by all”. U.S. 4 Jan called move “nuclear extortion” while UK, France and Germany (E3) 6 Jan said it “carries very significant proliferation-related risks”. International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi 11 Jan underscored that “we have weeks” to salvage nuclear deal. IAEA 13 Jan reported Iran was working on components for production of uranium metal at Isfahan plant, banned by nuclear deal until 2031; E3 16 Jan said move “has potentially grave military implications”. Meanwhile, outgoing Trump administration continued to impose unilateral sanctions, including 13 Jan on two Iranian foundations, and 15 Jan on Iranian shipping and metals with potential military application, as well as on three Iranian organisations. Regional tensions persisted: FM Zarif 2 Jan claimed that “Israeli agent provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans” in Iraq; Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) same day described Lebanon as “front line of confrontation” (see Lebanon) and 4 Jan detained South Korean-flagged tanker along with its crew. U.S. 8, 17 and 27 Jan dispatched B-52 bombers to region. U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo 12 Jan alleged existence of “Iran-al-Qaeda Axis”; FM Zarif same day called accusation “warmongering lies”. Iran launched multiple military drills, including 15 Jan test firing ballistic missiles and drones. As U.S. President Biden’s new administration 20 Jan entered office, hopes rose of U.S. taking steps to re-enter nuclear deal in Feb in case of Iran’s full compliance, as Biden previously pledged; FM Zarif 22 Jan suggested that U.S. had to take initiative, while warning that window of opportunity “will not be open forever”; U.S. 29 Jan appointed Robert Malley, Obama-era official previously involved in negotiations on 2015 nuclear agreement, as special envoy for Iran.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
1 Apr 2020
[The Trump administration] think[s] that the timeline for bringing Iran to its knees has shortened because of the coronavirus. New York Times

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
18 Mar 2020
[The sanctions] are a testament to this administration's doctrinal belief in the effectiveness of sanctions to bring Iran to its knees. Middle East Eye

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 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

Hold Your Fire: Libya's Proxy War

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Crisis Group’s Libya expert Claudia Gazzini explains the militia and foreign proxy rivalries that are tearing the country apart to our President Rob Malley and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict.

Our People

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran

Naysan Rafati

Senior Analyst, Iran