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Iran

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

Iran-U.S. tensions remained high over maritime security and Iran’s continued threat to further breach in Sept 2015 nuclear accord if European parties do not mitigate economic impact of U.S. sanctions. Iran 4 Aug said it had detained Iraqi tanker in Persian Gulf 31 July, accusing it of smuggling fuel. UK, Bahrain and Aus-tralia joined U.S.-led maritime security initiative for Middle East; Israel 6 Aug re-portedly indicated it was supporting with intelligence. FM Zarif 12 Aug said naval build-up in Persian Gulf would increase “risk of combustion”. Gibraltar 15 Aug re-leased Iranian tanker it had detained since early July on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria; U.S. 16 Aug issued warrant for tanker’s seizure, which Gibraltar reject-ed 18 Aug. Iran 26 Aug said it had dispatched one destroyer and one aircraft carri-er to Gulf of Aden. Iran continued to threaten that it would further breach 2015 nuclear deal on 6 Sept if agreement’s European parties failed to mitigate econom-ic impact of U.S. sanctions. Former German ambassador to Iran who was due to head mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran bypassing U.S. sanctions (INSTEX) 8 Aug withdrew from post. After Iran breached deal’s cap on low enriched uranium stockpile in July, Iranian nuclear official 13 Aug said its stockpile was “growing rapidly”. Israeli media 5 Aug reported that Iran increased its financial assistance to Hamas to $30mn per month. Delegation of Yemen’s Huthi movement in Teh-ran 11-17 Aug met FM Zarif, Supreme Leader Khamenei and Western ambassa-dors. Huthis 17 Aug announced appointment of ambassador to Iran. FM Zarif held discussions with French officials in Paris 23 Aug and returned to France 25 Aug for further consultations with E3 (France, Germany and UK) on sidelines of G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. President Rouhani 27 Aug said U.S. should lift sanc-tions as condition for talks. Kurdish militants 27 Aug killed member of paramili-tary force in Piranshahr in north west; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) next day said it had killed two militants responsible. U.S. 28-30 Aug imposed several further sanctions on Iran, including on Iranian tanker released from Gi-braltar.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

2 Sep 2019
The French initiative is the last best hope for salvaging the [Iran nuclear] deal. Bloomberg

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
25 Jul 2019
What the Iranians do have are missiles and local allies, proxy groups. It's entirely possible that an escalation [between the U.S. and] Iran would manifest across regional flash points. Vice

Naysan Rafati

Analyst, Iran
3 Jul 2019
It is a pity that despite its goodwill and efforts, Europe fell short of preserving [the nuclear deal] that incarnates European belief in multilateralism. AP

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
25 Jun 2019
The Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign [against Iran] has led to a climate that is ripe for inadvertent conflict. ABC

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
20 Jun 2019
[Trump] says he’s in favor of maximum pressure and he’s against military confrontation when it comes to Iran but both of those things can’t be true because one of those things can lead to the other. The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
17 Jun 2019
In practice, maximum pressure has produced maximum peril and minimum strategic results. The New York Times

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran

Latest Updates

After the Aramco Attack: A Middle East One Step Closer to Its “1914 Moment”

On 14 September, strikes of uncertain provenance hit Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facilities, taking some 50 per cent of the kingdom’s oil production temporarily offline. Crisis Group offers a 360-degree view of the attacks and their implications for Middle Eastern and international peace and security.

Iran Briefing Note #13

Iran Briefing Notes highlight and provide context for the previous week’s major events featured on International Crisis Group’s Iran-U.S. Trigger List. This infographic resource tracks developments on key flashpoints between Iran, the U.S. and their respective allies in the Middle East.

Iran Briefing Note #12

Iran Briefing Notes highlight and provide context for the previous week’s major events featured on International Crisis Group’s Iran-U.S. Trigger List. This infographic resource tracks developments on key flashpoints between Iran, the U.S. and their respective allies in the Middle East.

Iraq: Evading the Gathering Storm

Should U.S.-Iranian tensions escalate to a shooting war, Iraq would likely be the first battleground. Washington and Tehran should stop trying to drag Baghdad into their fight. The Iraqi government should redouble its efforts to remain neutral and safeguard the country’s post-ISIS recovery.

Also available in العربية

Iran Briefing Note #11

Iran Briefing Notes highlight and provide context for the previous week’s major events featured on International Crisis Group’s Iran-U.S. Trigger List. This infographic resource tracks developments on key flashpoints between Iran, the U.S. and their respective allies in the Middle East.

Our People

Ali Vaez

Project Director, Iran
AliVaez

Naysan Rafati

Analyst, Iran