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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (centre) speaks to reporters following a meeting on Iran at the UN Security Council, 20 August 2020 in New York (Mike Segar/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the institution’s authority.

They are not alone in this analysis. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, a vocal critic of the US sanctions drive, has accused Washington of risking “a very serious scandal and rift” at the UN.

But these dire predictions may prove to be exaggerated.

The argument pivots on the US claim that, acting on the UN resolution that endorsed the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), it can demand the reactivation of UN sanctions resolutions on Iran that were terminated as part of the bargain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Azadi Square in Tehran on Sunday. Iran can’t afford to impose a lockdown, and American sanctions prevent it from getting medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

The toll of the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, which killed as many as one million people in the 1980s, is feared to pale in comparison to that of the coronavirus epidemic: Iranian researchers have estimated that the outbreak, which has already killed more than 1,500 people in the country, will peak around late May and could result in 3.5 million deaths.

Iranians are yet again caught between their government’s mismanagement and financial strangulation by American sanctions. Tehran failed to respond to the crisis quickly. As the virus spread, Iranians, already angry with the government for shooting down a passenger airliner in January and trying to cover it up, were incensed by the slow response and political games.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Stores across the country still heave with goods; this self-sufficiency, borne of years of isolation, now works to Iran’s advantage.’ Grand bazar, Tehran Photograph: Wana News Agency/Reuters

On Monday evening, just five days ahead of Nowruz, the Persian new year holiday, police descended upon a small local market in west Tehran. They ordered local vendors to pack up their wares, their socks, colanders, and plastic flowers, telling them that by selling goods in public they were helping spread the coronavirus. On Tuesday evening, they returned, and found one tenacious seller hawking in the same place. “You, here again!” barked a security officer. “If I don’t sell, how am I going to pay my rent?” the woman asked plaintively.

As Iran celebrates its new year, black death banner announcements hang from Tehran’s eerily deserted squares.…  Seguir leyendo »

The old bazaar in Tehran, Iran. Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

To get around Tehran, nothing beats a motorcycle. It is cheap and fast, and you can break the laws of the gridlocked traffic at will. The motorcycle is the pulse of this city of 15 million. It is a nuisance and necessary. I try to cultivate a special relationship with motorcycle mechanics; without them, Tehran does not move. And when they talk, I listen.

Farzad, my motorcycle mechanic who works from a hole-in-the-wall garage in my neighborhood, complained that the price of engine oil had tripled in late May. “The customers think I’m ripping them off,” he said. “I tell them to go the bazaar and buy the oil themselves if they want, and I’ll change it for them.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A magnificent fresco adorns the main pavilion of the royal palace in the Iranian city of Isfahan, depicting the 16th-century Battle of Chaldiran, fought between the Turkish-Ottoman and Persian-Safavid empires. The fresco appears to show the Persian army victorious, having crushed its Turkish adversary. The truth is that Chaldiran marked a decisive victory for the Ottomans, who went on to annex eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq. But what the self-serving historical distortion suggests is not shame of defeat but pride in the heroic valor with which the Iranians resisted a foe that outnumbered them and, unlike them, possessed heavy artillery. Donald Trump’s administration, which has made bringing Iranians to their knees the cornerstone of its Mideast policy half a millennium later, should draw a lesson from the battle and the way the Persians digested defeat.…  Seguir leyendo »

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, 25 July 2005. OPEC-OIL/ REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

The U.S. decision on 22 April to end sanctions exemptions for Iran’s remaining oil customers, following on an earlier designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), significantly escalates the Trump administration’s coercive campaign against Tehran. The intent is clear: bankrupt Iran into acceding to unilateral U.S. demands or, even better, imploding its regime. But while there is little doubt that the policy of "maximum pressure" has inflicted considerable economic duress – and stands to push Iran’s economy into further decline by starving it of a key source of external revenue – it is far less certain that it will achieve its strategic objectives.…  Seguir leyendo »

The EU's sanctions ploy

The Chinese government isn’t concerned about the short-term economic effects of President Trump’s tariffs. The European Union is concerned with nothing else. For a fistful of dollars they are siding with the world’s foremost terrorist regime against the nation that has protected them since 1945.

As we will see in a moment, the EU is desperately trying to maintain its economic ties with Iran despite that fact and the events of July and August.

In early July, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — regarded by some as a moderate, as if there were such a leader in Iran — threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

La retirada de Donald Trump del Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC) con Irán y la reimposición de las sanciones estadounidenses a aquel país son una amenaza a la paz mundial. La seguridad de Europa depende de defender el acuerdo con Irán contra la retirada estadounidense. Para eso es necesario que Europa (junto con Rusia, China y otros estados miembros de Naciones Unidas) garantice un normal desarrollo de las relaciones económicas con Irán, lo cual sólo será posible en la medida en que confronte, y en definitiva revierta, las sanciones extraterritoriales de Estados Unidos, que pretenden disuadir a otros países de mantener actividades comerciales y financieras con Irán.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las sanciones contra Irán reinstauradas por el presidente norteamericano, Donald Trump, plantean dos interrogantes sumamente importantes que no tienen respuestas convincentes. Primero, ¿esta acción hará del mundo un lugar más seguro, como dice Trump, o desestabilizará aún más a Oriente Medio y minará los futuros esfuerzos por limitar las armas nucleares, como sostienen la mayoría de los expertos geopolíticos que no están directamente empleados por los gobiernos de Estados Unidos, Israel o Arabia Saudita? Y, segundo, ¿los esfuerzos de Estados Unidos por obligar a las empresas extranjeras a observar sus sanciones contra Irán resultarán en la práctica tan duros como la retórica beligerante de Trump?…  Seguir leyendo »

An anti-American protest on Wednesday in front of the former United States Embassy in Tehran after President Trump said he was abrogating the Iran nuclear agreement.CreditEuropean Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

The July 2015 nuclear deal officially ended Iran’s isolation and economic punishment, but the comprehensive sanctions that the country had endured for nearly a decade continued to take a toll.

Those sanctions have profoundly damaged the Iranian economy. The government — hemmed in by domestic opposition and its own corruption — has done little to repair it. There have been encouraging signs of life since the nuclear deal, but they turned out to be short-lived.

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he would withdraw from the nuclear agreement and reinstate sanctions that had been lifted as part of it. This is not just a potentially fatal blow to the accord between Iran and five world powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran and the international community are approaching the finish line in negotiations to roll back Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Even at this late hour, however, American officials are far from unified on Iran policy, with members of Congress communicating deep concern that President Obama’s negotiators will settle for an inadequate deal. Many members of Congress and others are therefore pushing for tough new sanctions that they believe could compel Iran’s capitulation in the next several weeks.

Such a move, however, would be self-defeating. Tougher United States sanctions at this juncture would nearly eliminate Iran’s remaining commerce with Asia and Europe, exacting a significant financial toll on America’s allies in those regions.…  Seguir leyendo »

There are only two ways to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon: negotiations or military action.

Amazingly, after 34 years of mostly diplomatic silence between Iran and the United States, we are in the midst of just such negotiations, with the potential to eliminate the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Instead of cautiously welcoming this development and letting these talks play out over the next six months, however, proposals are circulating in Congress that seek to impose additional sanctions in the middle of the negotiations. This step, we fear, risks scuttling the process and could have damaging ramifications for the United States as well as our regional allies and partners, especially Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

As I write this in Jerusalem, there is great angst among Israelis about the possible deal now being negotiated on the Iranian nuclear programme in Geneva.

Why the unease? The Israelis fear that an agreement could let the Iranians off the hook without altering their programme. They believe that once there is a limited easing of sanctions, perhaps including Iranian access to some of their assets in foreign banks, the entire sanctions regime will inevitably erode.

Some countries would see the easing as a sign they can go back into business with oil-rich Iran — and the Iranians will know they can simply play for time, and need not make further concessions as the economic and political squeeze on them dissipates.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the surface, the Islamic Republic of Iran is an unsavory authoritarian state unworthy of support, much less acclaim. A regime that is deeply embedded in Syria’s civil war and has embraced terrorism as an instrument of statecraft would seemingly be at a disadvantage in presenting its case to the international community. Yet Iran has had some success imposing its narrative on the negotiations Iranian officials and Western nations are conducting about its nuclear program. The theocratic state demands that its “right to enrich” be recognized upfront and that its past nuclear infractions be forgiven. The great powers’ diplomacy will be judged not by clever formulations they devise to accommodate Iran’s “red lines” but by their ability to veer Tehran away from its maximalist positions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Talks with Iran over its nuclear program resume Thursday. Make no mistake: The deal the Obama administration is pursuing with Iran over its nuclear program is a good deal. It will leave Iran with neither a nuclear weapon nor an undetectable breakout capability. And by ensuring that the deal also is a win for Iran, Tehran won't have incentives to cheat and violate the agreement.

Based on conversations with diplomats on both sides of the table, I believe it is a durable deal that enhances America's security and nonproliferation goals while making Iran much less hostile and U.S. allies in the region much more safe.…  Seguir leyendo »

A primera vista, se diría que todo Oriente Próximo —entendido en su más amplio sentido geográfico— se dirige hacia el caos. Mientras la guerra civil sigue causando estragos en Siria, sus vecinos —especialmente Jordania y el siempre frágil Líbano— se ven lastrados por más de dos millones de refugiados. En Libia, la anarquía tribal amenaza la mayor parte de su territorio, y el débil régimen afgano se prepara con aprehensión para la retirada de la OTAN en 2014. El Gobierno egipcio respaldado por los militares ha prorrogado el estado de emergencia, mientras Irak padece un aumento de la violencia sectaria, con cerca de 5.000 civiles muertos y aproximadamente 12.000 heridos en lo que va de año.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is lying when he says the Islamic Republic has never had any intention of building an atomic weapon. Defecting Iranian nuclear engineers told U.S. officials in the late 1980s that the mullahs’ program, then hidden, was designed exclusively for such arms. Everything Western intelligence services have tracked since then matches those early revelations.

U.S. participation in the upcoming negotiations doesn’t appear to be premised on an expectation of Iranian veracity. If it were, President Obama wouldn’t send his secretary of state until Tehran had come clean about its past deceits. The exemplary behavior of South Africa’s often-mendacious apartheid government when it decided to go non-nuclear — total transparency about the militarization of its atomic program — isn’t expected from Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can Iran be trusted? The next opportunity to gauge the regime’s nuclear intentions will come on Oct. 15, when representatives of the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) will meet with Iranian diplomats in Geneva.

What happens there should give some indication of whether Iranian President Rouhani’s conciliatory speech at the U.N. General Assembly augers a sincere willingness to negotiate an end to his country’s push for nuclear weaponry, or whether — as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu cautioned — it is a ruse to lull the world while Tehran continues its pursuit of nuclear capability.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Iran’s economy reels and President Hassan Rouhani shows interest in reaching an agreement with the West on its nuclear program, it seems high time to reach an agreement with Iran. Such an agreement would eliminate one of the most troubling hot spots in the Middle East and serve as an example of how to deal with explosive situations worldwide.

Iran’s main exports are oil and gas, and they account for most of the government revenues. However, as a result of the stringent sanctions imposed by the international community, oil exports have fallen by half. Iraqi oil exports overtook Iran’s for the first time since the 1980s and, in September 2012, the Iranian rial fell to a record low against the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The new face of Iran we anticipated seeing at the United Nations last week sounded and looked quite similar to the old face of Iran we have come to know.

We expected a charm offensive. We readied ourselves for a possible diplomatic breakthrough. But we were left underwhelmed.

For weeks now, we have followed the rhetoric originating from Iran. We had been cautiously hopeful.

As proponents of a series of bipartisan bills legislating sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and banking industries and lawmakers who have worked with our European allies to isolate Iran from international financial markets, we understand full well the result of crippling sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »