Iran

A decade of diplomacy, sanctions and nuclear brinkmanship involving Iran and the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (plus Germany) led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This accord enshrined a core compromise that Crisis Group had advocated since 2003: acceptance of a limited, tightly monitored uranium enrichment program in Iran in return for that country’s reintegration into the global economy. Despite the JCPOA’s successful first years, the U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018, putting it at risk of collapse while raising the danger of conflict between Tehran, Washington and their respective allies. Through field research and high-level advocacy, Crisis Group focuses on salvaging the JCPOA and preventing regional tensions from boiling over.

CrisisWatch Iran

Unchanged Situation

Hostilities between Iran-backed groups and U.S. forces across region underscored risk of escalation amid Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, while UN’s nuclear watchdog voiced concern over Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed groups and U.S. continued across region. String of attacks since mid-Oct attributed to Iran-linked factions against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria continued during Nov amid Israel’s onslaught in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine), further eroding relative quiet stemming from informal diplomatic understandings between Tehran and Washington; as of 29 Nov, U.S. tallied approximately 74 incidents and around five dozen casualties, though pace of attacks fell as Gaza truce took effect late Nov. Notably, U.S. 8 and 12 Nov launched retaliatory airstrikes in eastern Syria against facilities allegedly linked to Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (see Syria), and 20-21 Nov launched first deadly retaliatory strikes on Iran-backed targets in Iraq (see Iraq). FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian 15 Nov maintained perpetrators were making “own decisions”; attacks seem intended to dissuade Israel from deepening campaign in Gaza and to signal to Washington risks of association with Israel but any attack claiming significant casualties could trigger escalatory spiral. Meanwhile, Iranian officials sought to push for Israel’s diplomatic isolation, including during President Raisi’s attendance at summits 11 Nov (see Saudi Arabia).

Concerns over Iran’s uranium enrichment resurged. International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) quarterly report 15 Nov showed further growth of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles and continued impasse over safeguards concerns and transparency; Iran has amassed total enriched uranium stockpile of almost 4.5 tonnes, including 6.7kg enriched to 60%, closest to weapons grade. IAEA at 22 Nov board meeting reiterated criticism of Iran’s 16 Sept decision to bar top inspectors and reported no progress in investigations into past activities at undeclared sites.

U.S. sanctioned Iran-affiliated militias and military financial networks. Washington and UK 14 Nov blacklisted Gaza- and Lebanon-based entities linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. U.S. 17 Nov sanctioned six individuals linked to Kata’ib Hizbollah militia in Iraq and another group linked to IRGC. U.S. 29 Nov designated more than twenty persons/entities part of “financial facilitation networks” benefitting Iranian military.

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In The News

29 Nov 2023
There is a limit to how far Iran and Saudi Arabia can go in de-escalating tensions between themselves if the entire region is ablaze because of the war in Gaza. Bloomberg

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
1 Nov 2023
For nearly four decades, Iran’s forward defense policy has protected its own soil against foreign attacks. The conflict in Gaza is [now] testing the limits of that policy... The New York Times

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
18 Sep 2023
The Iranians seem reluctant to give away most of their leverage to restore the nuclear deal not knowing who the next U.S. president will be. The Washington Post

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
17 Agu 2023
Saudi-Iran rapprochement is still in its early phases, and it’s still very unclear how the two sides will address their many points of friction. Al Jazeera

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states
3 Jun 2023
[US President Joe] Biden is in an election cycle, and the types of sanctions relief Iran is seeking won’t pass muster with the Congress. Al-Monitor

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
6 Apr 2023
Many experts still assume that whoever is in the White House will guide Saudi policy on Iran, but that simply isn’t true today. New York Times

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states

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Our People

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
Ali Vaez

Naysan Rafati

Senior Analyst, Iran

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