A decade of diplomacy, sanctions and nuclear brinkmanship involving Iran and the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (plus Germany) led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This accord 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 that country’s reintegration into the global economy. Despite the JCPOA’s successful first years, the U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018, putting it at risk of collapse while raising the danger of conflict between Tehran, Washington and their respective allies. Through field research and high-level advocacy, Crisis Group focuses on salvaging the JCPOA and preventing regional tensions from boiling over.
Iran has a new president, consolidating the hardliners’ control over the centres of power. What will he do about the country’s numerous crises? One answer is clear: the 2015 nuclear deal’s fate remains the most pressing issue for Tehran and its foreign interlocutors.
Originally published in The New York Times
Crisis Group's Interactive Iran-U.S. Trigger List
The 2015 nuclear deal enters 2021 clinging to life, having survived the Trump administration’s withdrawal and Iran’s breaches of its commitments. When the Biden administration takes office, Washington and Tehran should move quickly and in parallel to revive the agreement on its original terms.
The Trump administration continues its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, now with an attempt to restore pre-2015 UN sanctions, a right reserved for signatories to the nuclear deal it abandoned. Other UN Security Council members should disregard this gambit and urge Tehran not to overreact.
Naval incidents in the Gulf have spotlighted the danger that a U.S.-Iranian skirmish could blow up into war. The two sides have little ability to communicate at present. They should hasten to design a military-to-military channel to lower the chances of inadvertent conflagration.
COVID-19 is ravaging Iran, due to government mismanagement exacerbated by the effects of U.S. sanctions. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, and again risking heightened military confrontation, Tehran and Washington should pursue humanitarian diplomacy aimed at containing the virus and releasing detainees.
Prospects for the 2015 nuclear deal’s survival are dimming, as Washington tightens its sanctions, Tehran loosens its compliance, U.S.-Iranian clashes pick up in intensity and European powers crack down on agreement breaches. Third-party mediation is likely required to stave off the accord’s demise.
So the majority of the [Iranian] population is either disillusioned with the system or, at this point, completely alienated, and we have huge parts of the society that almost have nothing to lose.
I’m afraid if the deal is not restored by August, [...] a return to the JCPOA might become a moot question. At that point the parties would probably have to negotiate a new nuclear deal.
[Restoring the Iran nuclear deal is] a fragile process. If a single American is killed [by Iran’s rocket attacks in Iraq], the whole process is derailed.
It’s very clear there is an organized onslaught by opponents of the JCPOA in Iran, against reviving the deal under the Rouhani administration.
I think [the new Iran-China deal] will make Europe and the U.S. a little more nervous because it looks like Iran may have a way out of economic strangulation.
The [recent] U.S. [air strikes in Syria were] aimed at a relatively insignificant target in an area where Iran's hands are somewhat tied.
The Taliban’s return to power raises questions not only about how the movement will use its newfound authority but also about what Afghanistan’s neighbours will do in response. Crisis Group experts offer a 360-degree view of these countries’ initial reactions and what is behind them.
Originally published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
As Israeli strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria continue, there is always a risk that occasional spikes of violence could escalate into a broader confrontation.
Originally published in Middle East Eye
Originally published in Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)