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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.

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

President Raisi took office, Vienna talks remained paused as Tehran continued nuclear activities, and international powers condemned Iran over recent maritime incident. Ebrahim Raisi sworn in 5 Aug as country’s eighth president, completing conservative takeover of centres of powers across Islamic Republic; Raisi same day indicated that “sanctions against Iran must be lifted and we will support any diplomatic plan that achieves this goal”. Indirect U.S.-Iran negotiations in Austrian capital Vienna, however, remained on hold with new administration in capital Tehran yet to set date for resumption. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear activities continued apace. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 16 Aug reported that Iran’s production of enriched uranium metal had yielded 200g enriched to 20% and next day confirmed that number of centrifuge cascades enriching uranium to 60% had doubled to two; IAEA Board of Governors set to produce quarterly report on status of Iran’s nuclear activity in Sept. Amid diplomatic impasse, U.S. Treasury Dept 13 Aug blacklisted “individuals and business involved in an international oil smuggled network” linked to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tensions in maritime theatre continued, fuelling international opprobrium against Tehran. Following late-July deadly attack on tanker off Oman coast, Tehran 4 Aug submitted letter to UN Security Council denying involvement. U.S. military investigation 6 Aug concluded explosive-laden Iranian-made drone caused “extensive damage”; G7 same day condemned Tehran, underscoring “all available evidence clearly points to Iran”, while U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 9 Aug told UN Security Council that “it is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible”. In separate incident, UK Maritime Trade Operations 3 Aug warned of “potential hijacking” of tanker off United Arab Emirates’ coast. As total COVID-19 fatalities rose, surpassing 100,000 deaths since Feb 2020 on 19 Aug, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei 11 Aug described pandemic as “country’s number one problem today”. Raisi 16 Aug said U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan (see Afghanistan) “should become opportunity to restore life, security and lasting peace”; UN during month warned in worst-case scenario as many as 150,000 Afghan refugees could flow to Iran in next six months (see Afghanistan).
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

2 Aug 2021
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. Foreign Policy

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
17 Jun 2021
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. The Hill

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
9 May 2021
[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. The New York Times

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
4 May 2021
It’s very clear there is an organized onslaught by opponents of the JCPOA in Iran, against reviving the deal under the Rouhani administration. The Washington Post

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
27 Mar 2021
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 Wall Street Journal

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa
26 Feb 2021
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. AFP

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria

Latest Updates

Commentary / Asia

With the Taliban Back in Kabul, Regional Powers Watch and Wait

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.

Syria: How to prevent Israel-Iran shadow war spinning out of control

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

Our People

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran

Naysan Rafati

Senior Analyst, Iran