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An Iranian man looks at exchange rates in Tehran on June 15. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

The Iran nuclear deal recently marked its seventh anniversary—but it may well turn out to be its last. Despite a year of negotiations in Vienna, which nearly delivered an agreement on how the United States and Iran would return to full compliance with the nuclear deal, the process is now on the verge of collapse.

All parties to the deal share blame, and they all stand to lose. For the West, there will be a dramatic setback for nonproliferation efforts in the Middle East. The failure of the nuclear deal also risks military escalation in a region playing a crucial role during the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Tehran, Iran on August 26, 2020. Iran's Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency via AFP

The Biden administration is facing formidable challenges in delivering on one of its campaign promises: returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Domestic politics are a significant obstacle. The agreement remains highly contentious among members of Congress. Many Republicans but also key Senate Democrats, who could hold up confirming senior administration officials, are opposed to lifting Trump-era sanctions on Iran. The Biden administration’s lagging pace now threatens to undo an agreement that was already faltering as a result of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign.

et Iran’s nuclear program is growing by the day, as the time it would take to enrich enough uranium for a single nuclear weapon shrinks.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the four decades since Iran’s Islamic Revolution, relations between Tehran and Washington have seen deep enmity offset by brief periods of rapprochement and tactical cooperation. As a new U.S. administration settles into office and asserts its intent to, in President Joe Biden’s words, “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy,” one of those periods may be on the horizon again.

The Obama administration pursued diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic, holding direct as well as multilateral talks that culminated in the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Under the Trump administration, the strategic pendulum swung toward an adversarial approach, largely defined by a “maximum pressure” policy of applying sweeping unilateral U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

A heavy water secondary circuit at a nuclear plant near Arak, Iran, last month. Credit Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, via Associated Press

The costs of the United States’ targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are mounting beyond the already significant risks of Iranian retaliation and subsequent military confrontation.

On Sunday, Tehran announced that it will cease to honor all “operational restrictions” imposed by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which aimed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

While Iran has not announced what, if any, specific nuclear activities it intends to resume, its decision to remove the restrictions on its uranium enrichment, production and research could soon pose a challenge for the Trump administration at least as great as retaliation against the assassination.…  Seguir leyendo »

The alarming escalation between the U.S. and Iran risks unravelling the nuclear deal, prompting direct military engagement and destabilising the Arabian Peninsula. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to de-escalate tensions and maximise efforts to preserve the nuclear deal.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have grown at an alarming pace in recent months. The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, has inflicted significant harm on Iran’s economy – an estimated 80 per cent of which is now under unilateral sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

The New Age of Nuclear Confrontation Will Not End Well

The globe’s nuclear safety net is fraying badly. Dangers of nuclear confrontations are growing not only in Europe, with decisions by the presidents of both nuclear superpowers, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, to withdraw from a treaty banning intermediate-range missiles; they are suddenly rising, too, in Asia, where India and Pakistan — both nuclear powers — have carried out conventional airstrikes across the Kashmir divide. Elsewhere in Asia, negotiations between Mr. Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to begin a denuclearization process have abruptly ended.

The thickest, weight-bearing strands of this safety net are treaties that have been cast aside without being replaced.…  Seguir leyendo »

A second U.S.-North Korea summit

There are reasons for concern about a second U.S.-North Korea summit. If there is no tangible movement on denuclearization, public support for dialogue with North Korea will erode quickly, with the potential for a return to a policy of “maximum pressure.” If this were to happen, it would be a major diplomatic failure with far reaching consequences.

In 2017, when North Korea had 18 ballistic missile launches, to include two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) launches capable of reaching the United States, and a test of a thermonuclear warhead, the prospect of military conflict with North Korea was real.

Fortunately, Kim Jong-un quickly pivoted, in his January 2018 New Year’s address, to an appeal for better relations with South Korea and the United States, stating that a nuclear North Korea could now focus exclusively on economic development.…  Seguir leyendo »

By pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), the Trump administration has brought the U.S. relationship with Iran back to an earlier, more confrontational, era. The two states have been locked in an adversarial logic ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution (though popular grievances that fuelled the Shah’s removal date back to 1953, when the CIA helped depose Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh). The fall of the U.S.-backed guardian in the Gulf, followed by the embassy hostage crisis, launched almost four decades of unremitting enmity, which only the JCPOA began to thaw.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks through binoculars during the test firing of short- and medium-range missiles, on 18 September 2004. AFP PHOTO/Str

The re-imposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s banking and energy sectors on 5 November is a key element of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May presaged a more ambitious strategic objective: to substantially recast not only Tehran’s nuclear activities, but its domestic and regional policies as well. The result arguably is one of the most audacious U.S. policy plays toward Iran since the 1979 revolution, playing out across a fractured and fragile region.

President Trump’s hostility to the JCPOA was evident on the campaign trail, and his administration adopted a hard stance against Iran from its early days: National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” in February 2017, and Trump himself castigated Iran during his May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Trump, el antiestadounidense

El encuentro entre Donald Trump y Kim Jong-un pasará a la historia como una de las páginas más siniestras del Imperio Americano. Singapur 2018, Múnich 1938: ¿cómo no comparar estas dos infamias? En Múnich, el Gobierno británico y el francés entregaron los Sudetes checos a Adolf Hitler con la esperanza, debido a su cobardía y a su incomprensión del adversario, de comprar la paz. Winston Churchill declaró entonces: «Entre la guerra y el deshonor, habéis elegido el deshonor, y tendréis la guerra». De la misma manera, Trump, aunque no lo sabe, ha sacrificado en Singapur el honor de EE.UU. y la vida del pueblo norcoreano, esclavizado por uno de los regímenes más demenciales del mundo.…  Seguir leyendo »

The document signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un after their meeting in Singapore. Photo: Getty Images.

If success is to be defined in terms of starting a high-level negotiation process, then the summit meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un was a success. But if success is defined in terms of content, then the summit has failed because it did not deliver any substance that went beyond what has been agreed previously.

President Trump did mention that North Korea will destroy a missile engine test site as a practical step – and they have already destroyed the warhead test site. But this is not necessarily an indication of long-term policy change. Neither leader made a public commitment that North Korea will halt its nuclear weapons programme – a promising indicator would have been Kim Jong-un agreeing to provide an inventory of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the E.U. and the rest of the international community would preserve the Iran nuclear deal. Credit Borislav Troshev/EPA, via Shutterstock

After months of swaggering hesitation, President Trump finally announced the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, to which Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union are also parties. This action tramples on European leaders, who urged Mr. Trump to exercise restraint in the interest of international security and multilateralism.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, reacted to Mr. Trump’s announcement with a sharp statement. The European Union and the rest of the international community, she said, would “preserve this nuclear deal.” The question is how. Notwithstanding an abundance of kvetching, European powers have not yet shown Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian woman walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy in Tehran. Photo: Getty Images.

For Iranians, Donald Trump’s announcement that he is withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the deal, is deeply disappointing.

This is a manufactured crisis, and in making it, Washington and its allies in Tel Aviv and Riyadh have set their sights on a zero sum option of containing and even forcing political change in the Islamic Republic.

This naive thinking reflects Washington’s limited understanding of Iran and its internal politics as well as the deep regional divide between Iran and its Arab neighbours. So rather than address the principal challenge of Iran’s regional meddling and the wider tensions in the Middle East in an initiative separate from the already functioning nuclear deal, Trump has unleashed a genie that will not so easily go back in its bottle.…  Seguir leyendo »

John Bolton at the White House last month. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image

John Bolton will assume office Monday with his first controversy as President Trump’s national security adviser awaiting him. Six weeks ago, he outlined his advocacy of an attack on North Korea in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”

“Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea,” he wrote, “we should not wait until the very last minute” to stage what he called a pre-emptive attack.

Mr. Bolton’s legal analysis is flawed and his strategic logic is dangerous. As he did before the 2003 Iraq war, he is obscuring the important distinction between preventive and pre-emptive attacks.…  Seguir leyendo »

A TM-61C Matador being assembled at Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in 1958. Matadors could be armed with nuclear warheads. Credit Associated Press

As President Trump prepares for a possible meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, many American are raising warnings that North Korea has walked away from previous arms agreements. But those skeptics should remember that it was the United States, in 1958, that broke the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, when the Eisenhower administration sent the first atomic weapons into South Korea.

By the mid-1960s, the United States had more than 900 nuclear artillery shells, tactical bombs, surface-to-surface rockets and missiles, antiaircraft missiles and nuclear land mines in South Korea. Even nuclear projectiles for Davy Crockett recoilless rifles were for several years based in South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Donald Trump is about to come face-to-face with his next quarterly brush with Armageddon. Should he, or shouldn't he, scrap the Iran nuclear accord?

Any decision by him to "decertify" Iran's compliance, will have only a cataclysmic impact on the key issues he has cited for ending the pact and snapping back a range of tough sanctions that would accompany any such action.

The President would not be helping American or Western security. He certainly would not be helping hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets across Iran.

What such a decision will do is seriously compromise American relations with all its major European allies, as foreign ministers of most European countries suggested on Thursday morning in a tense Brussels meeting.…  Seguir leyendo »

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, antes de abordar el Air Force One en diciembre Credit Tom Brenner/ The New York Times

Para comenzar el año, el presidente de Estados Unidos presumió que tiene un botón nuclear “mucho más grande” que el de ese líder en Corea del Norte.

La próxima semana: Donald Trump y Kim Jong-un compararán la longitud de sus dedos, el número que calzan y el tamaño de su cabeza. Este último es complicado por el hecho de que ambos tienen los peores cortes de cabello en la historia de los líderes políticos. Honestamente, podríamos creer que Kim ha ejecutado a cada peluquero de su país.

Si no fuera porque el planeta corre peligro de estallar, podría ser hasta divertido.…  Seguir leyendo »

View of North Korea from the Unification Observatory in Paju, South Korea. In his New Year’s Day speech, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, made conciliatory remarks toward South Korea, while warning the United States of its nuclear threat. Credit Lee Jin-Man/Associated Press

President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, have sharply escalated their nuclear saber rattling in recent days. Mr. Kim’s mention in his annual New Year’s Day speech of a “nuclear button” on his desk prompted Mr. Trump to respond Tuesday on Twitter: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

In addition to his predictable bombast, Mr. Kim unexpectedly proposed opening bilateral negotiations between his country and South Korea. The offer was immediately accepted by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, whose administration fears that the North might disrupt the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South.…  Seguir leyendo »

China’s immediate priorities would be evacuating its citizens from affected areas, defending its border, preventing an inflow of refugees, and safeguarding North Korea’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons stockpiles.

Locating and securing weapons of mass destruction would likely be a shared objective for China and all other governments involved, and could offer scope for cooperation, eventually under U.N. auspices. China has consistently maintained that it wants denuclearization for the entire peninsula and it would likely seek to ensure that Seoul did not end up with control of nuclear weapons. China’s domestic security apparatus also would have concerns about smuggling that could lead to proliferation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Collection of the New-York Historical Society/Gift of Chesley Bonestell/Bridgeman Images. An illustration by Chesley Bonestell for “Hiroshima, U.S.A.” in Collier’s, August 5, 1950

Seventy-two years ago, the United States launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike against a hated faraway Asian nation. The bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which killed some 146,000 men, women, and children—and the subsequent devastation of Nagasaki, a few days later—opened a new era for humanity. Not one of hope or progress, but of the very real possibility of annihilation of most life on Earth.

That such an immeasurable catastrophe has not befallen us, despite so many nations being armed with weapons of mass destruction, was because deterrence worked. Every actor in this dance of death understood that mutually assured destruction made the use of nuclear weapons unconscionable and, yes, MAD.…  Seguir leyendo »