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.
U.S. President Trump 2 Aug signed bill placing new sanctions on Revolutionary Guards and individuals believed to be facilitating govt’s development of ballistic missiles, prompting Iran’s strong opposition: President Rouhani said U.S. had breached 2015 nuclear agreement and warned govt could restart its nuclear program “within hours” if U.S. imposes more sanctions. Parliament 13 Aug voted to increase Revolutionary Guards’ military budget by $260mn, and allocated another $260mn to advance ballistic missiles program. Rouhani inaugurated for second term as president 5 Aug; parliament 20 Aug approved new all-male ministerial cabinet. Iranian drone 8 Aug approached within 40 metres of U.S. jet preparing to land on U.S. aircraft carrier patrolling in Persian Gulf, forcing evasive action; U.S. officials called encounter “unsafe and unprofessional”. Qatar 23 Aug announced plan to return ambassador to Tehran in attempt to strengthen bilateral relations.
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.
[U.S. President Trump's speech at the UN General Assembly] makes it sound unlikely that the US administration will certify Iran's compliance with the JCPOA [...], setting the world up for a new crisis.
President Trump made clear that, in terms of the fate of the nuclear deal, the administration’s latest certification of Iranian compliance was only a temporary reprieve – a stay of execution.
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.
Originally published in The New York Times
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 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