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.
The U.S. is threatening to withdraw from the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program if no one “fixes” it by President Donald Trump’s deadline of 12 May. The danger of deeper Middle East turmoil is great. Europe should salvage the deal no matter what Trump decides.
U.S. 7 Aug reinstated on Iran unilateral sanctions lifted by 2015 nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); U.S. to re-impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in Nov. Supreme Leader Khamenei 13 Aug declared “there will be no war, nor will we negotiate with the U.S.”. German, French and UK FMs and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini 6 Aug issued joint statement regretting re-imposition of sanctions and updating Blocking Statute to shield European firms from U.S. penalties; next day, Mogherini encouraged European companies to increase business with Iran. U.S. 16 Aug announced creation of Iran Action Group within State Department and appointed Brian Hook as Special Representative on Iran. Iranian navy held major training exercise in Persian Gulf and army tested Fateh-110 ballistic missile early Aug. Economic situation deteriorated with value of rial falling to 100,000 to the dollar mid-Aug. Parliament 28 Aug questioned President Rouhani on his govt’s handling of economic crisis and removed labour minister 8 Aug and finance minister 26 Aug in no-confidence votes. Insecurity continued in north west near borders with Iraq and Turkey; following clashes near Oshnavieh 11 Aug Kurdish militants Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) claimed to have killed twelve Revolutionary Guards, while govt claimed to have killed eleven militants. Kurdish militants 16 Aug claimed to have killed four Iranian border guards in ambush on border post near city of Baneh. Heads of all five states on Caspian Sea – Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – met 12 Aug in Kazakh city, Aktau and signed convention on Caspian’s legal status with implications for each country’s rights to extract resources from it; contents of convention not disclosed (see Kazakhstan).
Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.
Divergent views of Iran’s ambitions are driving proxy wars from Syria to Yemen. To stop disastrous direct confrontation, it is crucial to close the perception gap and that Iran and its adversaries take mutual steps toward de-escalating tensions.
Facts on the ground in Syria are defining the contours of the country’s political future and also the geography of a looming clash between Israel, Hizbollah and other Iran-allied militias. Russia should broker understandings to prevent a new front from opening.
The 2015 Iran nuclear accord is working, but is at risk from longstanding U.S.-Iran rivalry, Trump administration policies and Tehran’s upsurge of activism in the Middle East. The deal’s other signatories should encourage the U.S. not to withdraw and consider ways to sustain the deal, regardless of U.S. actions and as long as Iran remains committed to it.
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.
Sanctions are effective as they have international support. This time around, the U.S. is basically bullying the rest of the world into compliance. There are many countries who would not comply like China or Russia. As a result of it, the leaky sanctions regime would not be as effective as the previous round.
There is a fine line between politics and economics in a country [Iran] where the government plays such a major role in the economy. But you can’t say that every economic protest is a pre-revolutionary protest.
There’s so much friction between Iran, the U.S. and their respective allies throughout the region. There’s so many flash points that a single miscalculation could result in a confrontation that could easily spiral out of control.
Unlike the case of North Korea, enmity with Iran is quite ideological in [the Trump] administration... The more the U.S. threatens Iran, and the more ordinary Iranians have to deal with economic hardships, the less motivation [Iranians] may have for pursuing any kind of radical change
Trying to appropriate Iranian women’s discontent to advance regime change is a surefire way to undermine their cause. The more the Trump Administration tries to deepen Iran’s domestic fault lines, the more likely it is that the political élite will close ranks and bring down the iron fist.
Europe should [try to save the Iran nuclear deal] not because it has economic interests in Iran, which are quite negligible, but because it is in its own security interest. Without the nuclear deal, Iran will either obtain a nuclear bomb or will be bombed. Both of these outcomes will adversely affect Europe, who will feel the impact through more refugee flows and radicalisation.
Originally published in The Hill
The key question is whether the sum total of what Europe can offer Iran is sufficiently robust – financially and symbolically – to give those in Iran who argue for restraint and continued engagement a chance.
Originally published in euronews
What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the Iran Nuclear Deal? Watch Crisis Group's two-minute explainer video and to find out.
But following the hostilities over the weekend, does Putin want to?
Originally published in The Atlantic