Iranian voters have a real choice on 19 May between a president promising engagement with the West or one focused on the ideological purity of the Islamic Revolution. At the same time, both leading candidates are clerical insiders who support the continuation of Iran’s nuclear deal.
Of 1,636 registered candidates for 19 May presidential election, Guardian Council 20 April approved six; most prominent contenders are President Rouhani, head of religious shrine Ebrahim Raisi and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Ghalibaf. Campaigning began 24 April. Nine border guards killed 26 April near Mirjaveh in east in clashes with Balochi insurgent group Army of Justice, which reportedly escaped into Pakistan. U.S. administration 19 April reported to Congress that Iran was in full compliance with its obligations under 2015 nuclear agreement, noting Iran’s “sponsorship of terrorism” and that it was reviewing extension of sanctions relief. U.S. senator 4 April said new sanctions bill, Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, introduced in Senate 23 March with bipartisan support, delayed due to concern over Iran’s May presidential election. U.S. Treasury 13 April said it was placing sanctions on Tehran Prisons Organization and its former leader Sohrab Soleimani over human rights abuses and EU 11 April extended sanctions on Iran for one year for “serious human rights violations”. State media 4 April reported U.S. aircraft maker Boeing had signed tentative deal with Iran’s Aseman Airlines for at least 30 jets.
Four years after plunging into Syria’s civil war, Hizbollah has achieved its core aim of preserving the Assad regime. Yet with no clear exit strategy, the Lebanese “Party of God” faces ever greater costs unless it can lower the sectarian flames, open dialogue with non-jihadist rebel groups and help pave the way for a negotiated settlement.
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.
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.
Rouhani's vote [in the Iranian presidential election], particularly in rural areas, shows that Iranian people no longer believe in economic populism and radical change.
The [Iranian] supreme leader is paving the ground for his succession, while a frustrated Iranian youth is seeking jobs and a move away from crisis to normalcy.
A two-way race [in the Iranian presidential election] between Rouhani and Raisi will polarize society and mobilize the electorate. As such, a second round now appears unlikely.
American officials habitually discuss the issue [of U.S. prisoners] with their Iranian counterparts on the sidelines of nuclear-related meetings, but [their] fate is not in the hands of foreign ministry officials.
Both the administration and Congress have realized that killing a deal [with Iran] would put the United States in a weaker, not stronger, position to reshape Iran’s regional policies.
Ahmadinejad knows full well that his candidacy is an affront to Khamenei who had publicly barred him from running. Disqualifying Ahmadinejad is hard, but not impossible.
Originally published in The New York Review of Books
Donald Trump wants to ramp up Yemen's proxy fight against Iran. One small problem: Tehran doesn't really have a proxy there.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
Tweets about putting Iran "ON NOTICE" are no replacement for appreciating the sources of Iranian conduct in the Middle East.
Why renegotiation is better than repudiation.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Originally published in The New York Times