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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

Unchanged Situation

Tehran maintained focus on strengthening regional ties particularly with Iraq as U.S. stepped up “maximum pressure” campaign toward Iran. International Atomic Energy Agency 5 April reiterated assessment that Iran was complying with terms of 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Nevertheless, U.S. designated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iranian security force primarily responsible for Iran’s regional policies, as Foreign Terrorist Organisation, effective 15 April; Iran promptly blacklisted U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S.’s military command covering Middle East and Central Asia, and President Rouhani 9 April approved for now mostly symbolic installation of more advanced IR-6 centrifuges in Natanz. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 22 April said U.S. would not grant any more sanctions waivers allowing countries to import Iranian oil; current waivers due to expire 2 May. Iraqi PM Mahdi in Tehran 6 April met Supreme Leader Khamenei and Rouhani. Iranian FM Zarif 16 April met Syrian President Assad in Damascus, and visited Ankara 17 April. While in New York 23-28 April Zarif proposed swap of Iranians jailed in U.S. for U.S. detainees in Iran. Iran, Russia and Turkey held new round of talks on Syria in Nursultan, renamed capital of Kazakhstan (formerly Astana) 25-26 April, no significant outcome. In response to flooding that reportedly caused 80 deaths, foreign aid included donations from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates; Pompeo 2 April expressed condolences to victims while blaming Tehran for mismanagement in urban planning and emergency preparedness; govt blamed U.S. sanctions for impeding humanitarian relief.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

19 May 2019
Riyadh may not want war with Iran, but there are risks to this strategy of rhetorical confrontation. The Wall Street Journal

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Arabian Peninsula
6 May 2019
[Iran has] plenty of options. The problem is, given that there are no off-ramps, and no channels of communication between [Iran and the U.S.], the risks of a confrontation quickly spiraling out of control are quite high. The Atlantic

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
5 May 2019
My sense is that [Iran is] going to break out of some of the [JCPOA's] limits on research and development. It’s an escalation, but an incremental and reversible one. Politico

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
9 Apr 2019
The designation of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist group actually has more impact in the countries neighbouring Iran than Iran itself. Financial Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
28 Mar 2019
The problem with this administration in the U.S. is that it is all about money and boots on the ground, but that is not how it works in the [Middle East]. It is all about relationships. New York Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
27 Mar 2019
Washington's approach is systematic as well as binary: allies must be supported, rivals must be curbed. But how effective it is in bringing Iran back to the table on US terms still very much uncertain. Twitter

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran

Latest Updates

Europe Tests the Boundaries on Iran

A New Trade Vehicle Could Preserve the Nuclear Deal’s Core Bargain

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

Trump’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ Won’t Make Iran Yield

The one thing Tehran would find more intolerable than the crushing impact of sanctions is raising the white flag because of them.

Originally published in The Atlantic

Iran Challenges Remaining Partners to Save Nuclear Deal

Responding to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure”, Iran has announced it will no longer respect all the limits placed on its nuclear research activities by its 2015 deal with world powers. With Washington having renounced the deal, the remaining signatories should hasten to save it.

Also available in فارسی

Looking Eastward

The Islamic Republic faces a mix of challenges and opportunities. While its rivalry with the United States and its allies in the Middle East is increasingly harsh, Tehran’s regional influence is unprecedented in recent history

Originally published in World Energy

Our People

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran

Naysan Rafati

Analyst, Iran