Iran

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.

Read this month’s CrisisWatch Conflict in Focus entry on Iran here.   

CrisisWatch Iran

Deteriorated Situation

Years-long shadow war between Iran and Israel escalated into overt and direct hostilities, with Tehran launching unprecedented retaliatory attack on Israeli territory with massive barrage of drones and missiles. 

Israeli strike on Iran’s Syrian consulate triggered unprecedented confrontation. Airstrike on Iranian consular facility in Syrian capital Damascus, widely attributed to Israel, 1 April killed two senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders and five officers, marking most significant in string of Israeli operations against Iranian military personnel since late 2023. After Iran’s leadership loudly vowed revenge, IRGC 13 April seized MSC Aries, container ship linked to Israeli ownership, in Gulf of Oman. In first ever direct attack, Iran later same day unleased massive barrage of 300 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles at Israel, which according to Israeli and U.S. officials were intercepted with near-total success with exception of minor damage at Israeli airbase and reported wounded civilian. Tehran signalled action was limited and concluded, warning any Israeli response would be met by more substantial counter-response; hinting of weaponising nuclear program, senior IRGC official 18 April warned that “reconsidering nuclear doctrine and policies of [Iran] is probable and imaginable” were Israel to target nuclear facilities. Israel 18-19 April conducted drone/missile attack in Isfahan city, impact of which Tehran largely dismissed. Both sides late April refrained from further hostilities, but risk of direct confrontation remains as pair seek to establish new red lines (see Conflict in Focus). Meanwhile, U.S. 25 April sanctioned more than two dozen additional persons and entities linked to development or transfer of Iranian UAVs.

Separatist militants in south east launched deadly attacks. In Sistan and Baluchestan province (south east), separatist Baluch militant group Jaish al-Adl 3 April launched coordinated assault on military and police targets in Rask and Chabahar cities, which IRGC next day said killed ten security forces personnel and eighteen militants. Jaish al-Adl ambush 9 April reportedly killed six policemen. 

Authorities renewed imposition of cultural conservative mandates. Govt 13 April launched renewed campaign to enforce mandatory hijab wearing on women, which could reignite social and political discontent that led to widespread anti-regime protests following death of Mahsa Amini in 2022.

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In The News

22 Maj 2024
The Islamic Republic has really focused on ideological conformity at the top rather than legitimacy from below. New York Times

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
7 Maj 2024
Iran is more aggressive in the region, more repressive at home, and closer to the verge of nuclear weapons than ever before. Voice of America

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
14 Apr 2024
Iran’s government appears to have concluded that the Damascus strike [by Israel] was a strategic inflection point, where failure to retaliate would carry more downsides t... New York Times

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
13 Apr 2024
I don't think Iran wants to sacrifice Hezbollah or bring it into the fray [with Israel]. It is the top of its spear, and Iran wants to preserve it. BBC

Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran

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Ali Vaez

Senior Adviser to the President & Project Director, Iran
Ali Vaez

Naysan Rafati

Senior Analyst, Iran

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