If Iran’s leaders thought things couldn’t get worse, they were wrong. The country faces three simultaneous crises: a public health emergency that is worsening by the hour, tensions with the United States that have once again grown in the past few days, and an economic picture that could go from troubled to dire in a matter of months.
The confluence of a coronavirus pandemic, security threats, and financial troubles has deepened the political system’s legitimacy crisis in the wake of last month’s parliamentary elections that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Washington might view this as a validation of its so-called maximum pressure strategy against Tehran, but if it fails to capitalize on this moment to de-escalate tensions and lay the groundwork for a mutually beneficial diplomatic settlement, the leadership in Tehran is likely to become more aggressive in the region, increasing the risk of a conflict that neither side appears to want.… Seguir leyendo »
On 21 May 2018, less than two weeks after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched Washington’s “New Iran Strategy” before an audience at the Heritage Foundation. In his remarks, he insisted that Iranian women’s long struggle for inclusion and equality matters dearly to Washington. As if to prove the point, the U.S. State Department’s social media feeds since that day have interspersed announcements of new choking sanctions with twinkling reminders of Iranian women’s potential (“Congratulations to Iranian-American and new #NASA Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli!”). In January 2020, the State Department released a two-minute video on the history of Iranian women’s rights.… Seguir leyendo »
The momentous protests in Iran this autumn came at a delicate time in a tense standoff between the United States and Iran. Despite the recent prisoner swap, officials in Washington may see the prospects for diplomacy dimming. But that would be wrong. Iranian elections are coming, and without any American agreement to relent on sanctions, the current relatively conciliatory government might well lose all its influence in favor of far more confrontational hard-liners.
That calculus makes this exactly the time to take diplomacy seriously. While the opportunity for success may be slim, failing to reverse rising tensions now risks a serious escalation in frictions that would be more impervious to diplomacy down the road.… Seguir leyendo »
Iran announced on 5 November that it is moving ahead with incremental breaches of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to President Hassan Rouhani, as of 6 November, Tehran will start “injecting [uranium hexafluoride] gas into the centrifuges in Fordow”, a bunkered enrichment facility that under the deal is meant to be converted “into a nuclear, physics and technology centre”.
This move is the latest in a series of staggered steps toward downgrading Tehran’s adherence to the nuclear agreement. The process began in May 2019, when the Rouhani administration set a 60-day rolling ultimatum for the agreement’s remaining parties (France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China) to deliver the deal’s expected economic dividends in the face of unilateral U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
For much of 2019, Crisis Group has warned that a trigger event could spark direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran on the other, precipitating a regional conflagration. The combination of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Iranian pushback, the spiralling civil war in Yemen and the paucity of de-escalation channels available to the rival actors has primed the region for such an outcome, even if neither side wants it. Now more than ever, cooler heads are needed to lower the temperature, break the escalatory cycle and chart a diplomatic off-ramp.
The exact nature and provenance of the attacks remains disputed.… Seguir leyendo »
Plus d’un siècle après l’assassinat de l’archiduc François-Ferdinand qui a plongé l’Europe dans la première guerre mondiale, le Proche-Orient fait face à son propre « 1914 ». Une roquette, un drone abattu ou une mine marine peuvent suffire à déclencher une escalade militaire incontrôlable entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran. Ce scénario cauchemardesque peut encore être évité et la diplomatie européenne a un rôle crucial à jouer.
Le compte à rebours de la crise actuelle a commencé en mai 2018 quand les Etats-Unis se sont retirés de l’accord nucléaire de 2015 (Plan d’action global commun, PAGC). Téhéran et Washington sont depuis lors enfermés dans une dangereuse escalade.… Seguir leyendo »
On January 31, 2019, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom announced their most substantive move yet to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, to which they are signatories, from collapse. With the European Union’s blessing, the three states established a special channel that shields trade with Iran from U.S. sanctions. The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, or INSTEX, as the channel is called, holds out the possibility that Europe can yet salvage the nuclear agreement’s core bargain: that Iran was to limit its nuclear activities in return for the normalization of economic relations. The preservation of this arrangement will depend not only on the modicum of European-Iranian trade that INSTEX might help preserve but on whether Europe can navigate a narrow path between what Iran expects and what the United States can tolerate.… 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 »
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 »
If champagne were halal, the hard men of the Islamic Republic of Iran would still be raising glasses to toast President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. They had long scorned the agreement as a futile parley with perfidious Washington; now they can claim to be prescient.
But their festive mood stems mostly from self-interest: The U.S. president has arguably lifted their political and economic fortunes for years to come.
Since 2013, the more hardline forces of Iranian politics, known as the Principlists (for their professed deep belief in the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution), have lost every election: local, parliamentary and presidential.… Seguir leyendo »
President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear agreement with Iran earlier this month has set off a scramble to save the deal. But while European diplomats hope to scrape by through preserving as much of the deal’s dividends for Iran as possible, business leaders are planning for the worst. The fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) may lie in the balance between these two outcomes.
The JCPOA is, at its core, a straightforward trade: Iran pledged to cap its nuclear program and allow for international inspections in return for much-needed relief from a web of international sanctions that largely froze Tehran out of the global financial system.… Seguir leyendo »
On 12 January, the administration of Donald Trump bought the United States four additional months to decide whether it would remain in the nuclear deal with Iran. In reissuing the sanctions waivers, the White House held to the agreement’s terms, but used the opportunity to impose new sanctions and to threaten withdrawal from the accord if Congress and Europe failed to amend it by 12 May. This approach has injected a high degree of uncertainty over whether the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will survive, meanwhile placing the burden of action on the deal’s other signatories, particularly Europe.… Seguir leyendo »
The protests in Iran seem to have died down, but if Iranian leaders fail to recognize that the status quo has become untenable and major reforms are unavoidable, they are only buying time until the next uprising, which could lead to greater instability.
It is easy for the leadership in Tehran to dismiss the outpouring of popular ire over economic and political stagnation. The latest protests were leaderless, too amorphous, too scattered, too provincial, and too shallow. Above all, they lacked a unifying objective. Protesters knew what they did not want, but differed on what they wanted. Slogans ranged from “death to inflation” to “death to embezzlers” to “death to the dictator” and “give up on Syria!… Seguir leyendo »
Manifold reasons lie behind Iran’s ongoing protests, but the immediate trigger appears to be widespread disgruntlement over the country’s economic performance, especially cuts in President Hassan Rouhani’s new budget. Neither a revolution nor a political movement, the crisis is an explosion of the Iranian people’s pent-up frustrations over economic and political stagnation.
Beyond a struggle between state and society – or a standoff between security forces and political figures on the one hand, and young, working-class, unemployed citizens on the other – the demonstrations are putting on full display the fault lines that also divide Iran’s political establishment.
That the protests originated on 28 December in Mashhad, a bastion of Rouhani’s opponents and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s hometown, is highly significant.… Seguir leyendo »
On 4 November 2017, Huthi/Saleh forces in Yemen fired a Burkan 2-H long-range ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It was intercepted and destroyed before reaching its target. The attack occurred during a profound political shakeup in Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to consolidate power, and amid dramatic Saudi political manoeuvrings in the region which led to the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri. Adding to the volatility, Israel has been making veiled – and not so veiled – threats about its intent to prevent Hizbollah from developing an indigenous capacity to build sophisticated precision missiles.… Seguir leyendo »
The inauguration of Hassan Rouhani on Saturday as president of Iran for a second term may be a bittersweet moment for him.
He appears at once stronger and weaker: His 19-point margin of victory in May after a bruising campaign against hard-line opponents surely increased his confidence. Yet, perhaps for that very reason, the conservative establishment, led by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is trying to stymie his efforts to translate his electoral mandate into policies aimed at opening Iran economically and politically. This augurs trying times, made more difficult by the belligerent stance of President Trump toward Iran.
History suggests that Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
How unusual are these attacks for Iran?
If this indeed was, as it claimed, an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it would constitute the first time the organisation has been able to strike Iran inside its borders. But terrorist attacks are not new to Iran. In the early years of revolutionary turmoil, the leftist-Islamist Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) resorted to violence. In the 1980s, up to 120 terrorist attacks occurred in Tehran perpetrated by MEK and other violent groups, killing hundreds of Iranian officials, including the president and prime minister in August 1981. Even the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was targeted.… Seguir leyendo »
Who are the leading candidates in the 19 May election and what should we know about the top two?
The May 2017 election is essentially a two-way race between the incumbent Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of Iran’s holiest shrine in Mashhad. Their shadow candidates, incumbent Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, withdrew their candidacy in support of Rouhani and Raisi, respectively. The other two contenders would play a marginal role or could drop out at the last minute.
Never before has an incumbent Iranian president faced such a serious challenge to his re-election. The closest a challenger came to unseat a first-term president was in 2009 when then-President Mahmood Ahmadinejad faced Mir Hossein Mousavi – an election that ended in a highly-disputed outcome and a subsequent popular uprising against what many viewed as rigged results.… Seguir leyendo »
It took only 12 days in office for U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to put Iran “on notice” that the era of compromise had been replaced by an era of confrontation. In a stern message on Feb. 1, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn accused Iran of a “provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants.” Two days later, Washington slapped sanctions on 25 individuals and entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, even though U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 had only called on, not enjoined, Iran to refrain from such tests.
In response, Iran threatened its own sanctions and held a military drill, including rocket launches.… Seguir leyendo »
Today’s competition between Turkey and Iran is the latest iteration of an old power game: a struggle their progenitors, the Byzantine and Persian empires, started over the control of Mesopotamia — today’s Iraq and Syria. While the rivalry outlived their transformation from empires to nation-states, they have managed to keep the peace between themselves for nearly 200 years.
Yet Turkey and Iran are now on a collision course, mostly because of their involvement as the region’s major Sunni and Shiite powers in the deepening sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Their inability to accommodate each other has the potential to undermine or even undo the strong ties they have developed over the past two decades, as their economies became increasingly intertwined.… Seguir leyendo »