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.
In first Islamic State (ISIS) attack in Iran, five militants 7 June carried out two simultaneous shootings at parliament and mausoleum of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, killing seventeen civilians; Revolutionary Guards immediately accused U.S. and Saudi Arabia of involvement. Security forces 11 June said they had killed plot’s mastermind, while pointing to ISIS-affiliated Iranian Kurds as likely perpetrators. Revolutionary Guards 18 June launched retaliatory ballistic missile strike from Kermanshah city in west on alleged ISIS bomb-making facility in Syria’s Deir al-Zour city. U.S. Sec State Tillerson 14 June accused Iran of seeking hegemony in Middle East and expressed support for “peaceful transition” of govt. U.S. Senate 15 June passed legislation to impose additional sanctions on Iran, increasing restraints on govt’s ballistic missile program. International Atomic Energy Agency 2 June reported govt had fulfilled obligations under 2015 nuclear deal, keeping stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water below 300kg and 130 tonne limits respectively. After Saudi Arabia-led coalition severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar 5 June, Iran sent aeroplanes carrying food to Qatar and sought to expand ties with it (see Qatar). Tensions with Saudi Arabia rose after Iran accused Saudi coast guard of shooting and killing Iranian fisherman 16 June near Saudi coast. Riyadh 20 June said it had arrested three Revolutionary Guards in Saudi waters; Tehran denied Saudi claim and urged Saudi Arabia to release detainees and pay compensation for death of fisherman. Relations with Pakistan deteriorated after Pakistan air force shot Iranian drone reportedly spying inside Pakistan 19 June.
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.
The Iran-Iraq war was the formative experience for all of Iran’s leaders. From [commander of the Iranian Quds Force General Qassim] Suleimani all the way down. It was their ‘never again’ moment.
If we were to witness an incident at sea between an Iranian and a U.S. vessel in the Gulf, [...] how likely is it that the confrontation would be defused rather than exacerbated?
The strike [by Iran against ISIS in Syria] further complicates an already complex situation. If the US takes measures beyond rhetorical condemnation, tensions could escalate too far too quickly.
It’s the first time that ISIS has been able to strike Iran within its border, so without any doubt it’s going to have significant consequences for the country both domestically and regionally.
[The selection of the new supreme leader in Iran is] the most pivotal moment in the history of the Islamic Republic.
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.
Doha has become a casualty of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ fights with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. But don’t expect a war.
Originally published in The New York Times
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.