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 Trump administration believes that ratcheting up economic pressure on Iran will compel the Islamic Republic to curtail its disruptive Middle East policies. History suggests otherwise. Both Washington and Tehran should step off their current escalatory path.
Crisis Group's Interactive Iran-U.S. Trigger List
Govt scored legal win against U.S. but latter imposed new sanctions. Govt 3 Oct won case in International Court of Justice (ICJ) against U.S. over humanitarian sanctions; President Rouhani described ruling as “great victory” while U.S. same day accused Iran of abusing ICJ for “political and propaganda purposes” and withdrew from 1955 bilateral treaty upon which Iran built legal case. U.S. 16 Oct announced new sanctions on banking, industrial and other entities reportedly linked to Iranian Basij paramilitary force. Re-imposition of U.S. energy-related sanctions in early Nov could heighten Iran-U.S. tensions. EU late Sept announced that it was setting up Special Purpose Vehicle to support trade with Iran, providing economic benefits for continued Iranian compliance with 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Following militant attack on military parade in Ahvaz late Sept, army 1 Oct carried out ballistic missile and drone strikes against reported Islamic State (ISIS) targets near al-Bukamal in east Syria and, separately, 16 Oct claimed to have killed alleged mastermind of attack in Iraq. Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl 16 Oct kidnapped fourteen Iranian border guards close to Pakistani border and reportedly took them across border; govt 20 Oct called on Pakistan to help rescue abductees. Financial Action Task Force 19 Oct gave Iran until Feb 2019 to carry out outstanding elements of action plan to counter money laundering and terrorism financing; parliament 7 Oct approved Iran’s accession to UN terrorism financing agreement. Denmark 30 Oct accused Iran of plotting assassination attempt of exiled leader of Iranian separatist group Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) in Copenhagen in Sept, recalling ambassador from Tehran and calling for EU sanctions.
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.
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.
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.
The only thing the Iranian leadership deems more dangerous than suffering from sanctions is surrendering to them.
[Under sanctions] women, as organisers of family life, healthcare, education, will often carry the burden of trying to come up with alternatives for their families in all instances.
The notion that Iran is going to be asked to leave [Syria] or be forced out in the foreseeable future is illusory. Iran has been the Assad regime’s longest, most consistent and reliable ally.
By escalating tensions and forfeiting diplomacy [with Iran, the Trump administration] risks putting us on a path toward conflict in the Middle East.
The emphasis on coercion and pressure may find a receptive audience among U.S. regional allies, but is hardly going to lure the Iranians back to the table. Lowering tensions between Tehran and Washington is critical - but insults make any accommodation a less likely proposition.
The [U.S.] president is prepared to bluster and threaten, but he also wants to achieve the deal of the century. With North Korea, it worked because he had a willing partner. The problem he’s going to face with Iran is that the leaders there believe a meeting would validate his strategy
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.
President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on 8 May 2018. This unilateral act deals a serious blow to the accord, but Europe and Iran can still work together to salvage it.