Flashpoint / Global

Tehran

I. Why it Matters

Iran is at a critical moment in its post-revolutionary history. Internally, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s succession looms large against the backdrop of persistent social, political and economic challenges facing the Islamic Republic. Externally, tensions abound with the U.S., Israel and their allies on two key issues. First, Iran’s regional position has been ascendant since 2003, and even more so since 2011, with a string of successes for its allies and proxies. But what Tehran views as safeguarding its strategic depth, the U.S. and its allies see as evidence of a malign Iranian ambition, supported by the “Axis of Resistance” network for regional dominance. The second flashpoint is Iran’s nuclear program. In 2015, Iran and world powers inked a deal that curbed Iran's nuclear advancements in exchange for sanctions relief. However, despite Iran’s compliance, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, leading to a cycle of U.S. economic pressure and Iranian “maximum resistance” that brought both sides to the brink of military confrontation. Diplomatic efforts to revive the deal under the Biden administration collapsed in mid-2022, deepening the rift over longstanding issues – the nuclear program, regional influence and domestic repression – and more recent developments such as Iran’s military support for Russia and the activity of Iran-backed groups against the backdrop of the Gaza war.

II. Recent Developments

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