Iran Briefing Notes highlight and provide context for the previous week’s major events featured on International Crisis Group’s Iran-U.S. Trigger List. This infographic resource tracks developments on key flashpoints between Iran, the U.S. and their respective allies in the Middle East.
CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
Today’s standoff between the U.S. and Iran is reminiscent of tensions on the eve of World War I. A small incident could blow up into region-spanning conflict. Third-party mediation is urgently needed to begin de-escalation that could lead to renewing broader talks.
The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement to stop fighting around Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeida is faltering as violence on other front lines and across the Saudi border escalates. The UN and P5 should stabilise the Stockholm Agreement and push conflict parties toward national peace talks.
Two successive U.S. administrations have backed the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen, helping deepen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Congress should continue pressing the White House to end this support, while working to strengthen its war powers role in the future.
Backlash to the 2017 independence referendum bolstered family rule within Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties. Internal democracy has eroded; ties between the parties have frayed. Only strong institutions in Erbil and renewed inter-party cooperation can help Iraqi Kurdistan to reach a sustainable settlement with Baghdad on outstanding issues.
Remarkably, the Iran nuclear deal has survived the Trump administration’s withdrawal. Now it must weather 2019, its year of greatest peril, as mounting U.S. pressure tests Iranian patience. With Europe’s help, Tehran must keep sticking to the agreement in anticipation of sunnier times ahead.
The fallout is settling after the Iraqi army’s seizure of territories disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region. More conflict over these areas, particularly oil-rich Kirkuk, is predictable. The UN should take advantage of today’s quiet to explore negotiations on the contested lands’ status.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have allied with distinct Yemeni partners. Yet to this point in the conflict, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have worked to maintain a relative detente between competing interests in the south.
The problem right now from the perspective of ending the [Yemen] war is that Saudi Arabia and to an extent the Trump administration are unwilling to do so without a tangible ‘win’ for Riyadh.
[Al Qaida in Yemen has] become much more focused on integrating with local spheres and much less focused on the brand-name, big-ticket attacks.
Saudi Arabia may feel that they still need a ‘win’ in Yemen, whatever that looks like to them, in order to pivot more clearly toward talks.
What the Iranians do have are missiles and local allies, proxy groups. It's entirely possible that an escalation [between the U.S. and] Iran would manifest across regional flash points.
There has been a great deal of speculation around the reported UAE drawdown in Yemen. UAE objective has been consistent for 2 years: wind down involvement in the Huthi conflict.
A Houthi missile or drone strike aimed at Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Red Sea shipping lanes could spark a broader conflict involving the United States, its Gulf allies and Iran.
Originally published in The New York Times
The alarming escalation between the U.S. and Iran risks unravelling the nuclear deal, prompting direct military engagement and destabilising the Arabian Peninsula. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to de-escalate tensions and maximise efforts to preserve the nuclear deal.