The one-year-old Iran nuclear deal has succeeded in its goal of blocking nuclear proliferation and opening the door to Iranian economic recovery. But it remains in jeopardy unless both Washington and Tehran defend and extend the spirit as well as the letter of the accord.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
At sixth meeting in Vienna 10 Jan, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission resolved outstanding ambiguities in 2015 nuclear agreement and concluded that U.S. Senate’s ten-year extension of Iran Sanctions Act in Dec does not violate agreement as long as U.S. suspends certain provisions. U.S. navy warship 9 Jan fired warning shots at Iranian boats that came within 800m of it in Strait of Hormuz, south of Iran. Revolutionary Guards 29 Jan reportedly carried out medium-range ballistic missile test about 140 miles east of Tehran; Israel said test violated UNSC Resolution 2231 which bans tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads, at U.S. request UNSC met 31 Jan to discuss test and recommended matter be studied at committee level. Former President Rafsanjani died 8 Jan; over 2mn people attended funeral. Airbus 12 Jan delivered country’s first new aircraft in 37 years. Govt 24 Jan agreed to form trilateral commission to monitor and enforce ceasefire in Syria (see Syria).
New frictions in Iraq and Syria threaten Ankara and Tehran’s usually peaceful management of their Middle East rivalries. To rebuild trust and avert open conflict, they should coordinate de-escalation, exchange intelligence and designate representatives to open a new channel between their leaders.
Some in the West hope the nuclear deal with Iran will empower the country’s moderates. But playing Iranian domestic politics directly could backfire. The West should recognise that any change will be gradual, best supported by implementing the nuclear accord, resuming trade, and diplomacy that balances Iranian and Arab interests in the Middle East.
When twelve months of intense negotiations between Iran and the P5+1/EU3+3 ended with yet another extension, sceptics saw this as confirmation that the talks are doomed. But it would be as grave a mistake to underestimate the real progress as to overstate the chances of ultimate success. A landmark agreement is still within reach if both sides adopt more flexible postures on enrichment capacity and sanctions relief.
November’s deadline could be the last chance to avoid a breakdown in the Iran and the P5+1 nuclear talks. Compromise on Iran’s enrichment capacity is key to ending the impasse, requiring both sides to walk back from maximalist positions and focus on realistic solutions.
A comprehensive nuclear accord may be in reach if both sides – Iran and the Security Council permanent members plus Germany – show determination to settle on a technical agreement and isolate the deal from its complex regional context.
With the [Iran nuclear] deal in jeopardy, the system will be in vital need of Rouhani’s team of smiling diplomats and economic technocrats to shift the blame to the U.S. and keep Iran's economy afloat.
It’s either an empty threat or a clear statement of intent [by the Trump administration] to go to war with Iran. Both are reckless and dangerous.
In an attempt to look strong, the [U.S.] administration could stumble into a war [with Iran] that would make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.
Besides tearing apart many families, this [U.S. travel] ban is ... turning Iranians hostile towards the United States. The top-down enmity towards the U.S. risks becoming bottom-up.
The [Iran nuclear] agreement's collapse appears neither imminent nor inevitable. What seems more likely is its gradual erosion under the new U.S. administration.
[Rafsanjani] was the pillar of pragmatism in Iran, the glue that kept a desperately divided camp together in the face of brutal pressure from the establishment.
Originally published in The New York Times
In this video, Crisis Group's Middle East and North Africa Program Director Joost Hiltermann lays out the dangers that the nuclear accord with Iran may face under a future Trump administration and calls for the international community to unite in support of their deal with Tehran.
Originally published in Berlin Policy Journal
Originally published in The Hill
Iran’s new parliament has many new faces, and, for the first time, more women members than clergymen. But with no clear victor after the 28 April completion of Iran’s parliamentary elections, Senior Iran Analyst Ali Vaez argues in this Q&A that President Hassan Rouhani will face many challenges and that rapid change is unlikely.