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Iran

A decade of diplomacy, sanctions and nuclear brinkmanship involving Iran and the P5+1/E3+3 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany), led to the 14 July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This 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 Iran’s reintegration into the global economy. Despite the JCPOA’s successful first years, tensions and risks of accidental confrontation are growing between the U.S. and Iran, as well as between Iran and U.S. regional allies. Through field research and high-level advocacy, Crisis Group focuses on preserving the JCPOA, and preventing regional tensions from boiling over and turning the nuclear accord into collateral damage.

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

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Tensions between Iran and U.S. and its Gulf allies rose to alarming levels, raising risk of more intense political and military confrontation in July. Unidentified assailants 13 June caused explosions on two tankers (one Norwegian-owned, one Japanese-owned) in Gulf of Oman; U.S. blamed Iran, which denied responsibility. U.S. 14 June released video it said showed Iranian vessel removing unexploded ordinance from side of one of tankers after attack. U.S. 16 June said Iranian missile 13 June had tried but failed to hit U.S. drone surveying damaged tankers and that Iranian-backed Huthis in Yemen had downed U.S. drone there 6 June. U.S. 18 June said it would deploy 1,000 additional troops to Middle East. Iran 20 June downed U.S. drone off Iranian coast; Iran claimed drone was in Iranian airspace, U.S. said it was in international airspace. President Trump 20 June approved airstrikes in Iran; next day Trump said he had called off attack because it would have been disproportionate. Foreign leaders including German FM, Japanese FM and high level EU official visited Tehran to ease Iran-U.S. tensions and salvage 2015 nuclear deal. Mechanism created by E3 (France, Germany and UK) to facilitate trade with Iran 13 June held consultations in Tehran; same day E3 ambassadors to Iran said “both sides have agreed a roadmap to expedite progress”. FM Zarif 1 July said Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium had exceeded deal’s limit. E3 28 June said mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran avoiding U.S. sanctions, Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), was operational. U.S. issued more sanctions to squeeze Iran’s economy: 7 June on exporters of Iran’s petrochemicals; 11 June on companies facilitating Iranian oil exports to Syria; and 12 June on company alleged to have trafficked weapons to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. U.S. 15 June extended Iraq’s sanctions waiver, allowing it to continue importing Iranian energy for another 120 days. U.S. 24 June imposed sanctions on Supreme Leader Khamenei.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

3 Jul 2019
It is a pity that despite its goodwill and efforts, Europe fell short of preserving [the nuclear deal] that incarnates European belief in multilateralism. AP

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
25 Jun 2019
The Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign [against Iran] has led to a climate that is ripe for inadvertent conflict. ABC

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
20 Jun 2019
[Trump] says he’s in favor of maximum pressure and he’s against military confrontation when it comes to Iran but both of those things can’t be true because one of those things can lead to the other. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
17 Jun 2019
In practice, maximum pressure has produced maximum peril and minimum strategic results. The New York Times

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
15 Jun 2019
If Iran was behind [the attacks on tankers], it is very clear the maximum pressure policy of the Trump administration is rendering Iran more aggressive, not less. The Washington Post

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
9 Jun 2019
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stands a good chance of trying to mediate or at least...de-escalate tensions [between the U.S. and Iran] at this point. Japan Times

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran

Latest Updates

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2019 – Second Update

Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.

Iran Briefing Note #4

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.

Iran Briefing Note #3

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.

Iran Briefing Note #2

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.

Iran Briefing Note #1

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.

Our People

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
AliVaez

Naysan Rafati

Analyst, Iran