President Hassan Rouhani visits the exhibition of nuclear technology on April 9, 2019. Office of the Iranian President.

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 »

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Khamenei said his country has outmaneuvered the United States in the four decades since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s rulers should be watching the chaos breaking out in Iraq carefully because they could be next. Unlike previous outbreaks of violence in Iraq, the current troubles are unrelated to Sunni-Shia problems. The riots include youths and working-class people of all religious confessions. The root cause of the discontent is poor governance by the Shiite ruling elites and the ayatollahs who abate and fund them.

When the United States and its coalition allies toppled the primarily Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, it was assumed that the majority Shiite population would opt for a democratic form of government, and that is what most Iraqis probably did desire no matter what their religious persuasion might be.…  Seguir leyendo »

En la madrugada del 14 de septiembre, un enjambre de drones atacó dos importantes plantas petroleras en Arabia Saudita, lo que afectó a cerca de la mitad de la producción del principal exportador mundial de petróleo (un 5% del suministro global). Los ataques (de los que se responsabilizaron los rebeldes hutíes de Yemen, pero que casi todos atribuyen a Irán) marcan un antes y un después para la política de Medio Oriente y los mercados internacionales de energía, ya que cuestionan directamente el dominio estadounidense en el Golfo Pérsico y el papel de Arabia Saudita como garante de la provisión mundial de petróleo.…  Seguir leyendo »

El 2 de octubre se cumple un año del brutal asesinato del periodista saudí Jamal Khashoggi en Estambul. Según concluyó un informe de la ONU, Arabia Saudí es responsable de la ejecución y existen “pruebas creíbles” que apuntan a la implicación del príncipe heredero y líder de facto del país, Mohámed bin Salmán. No es de extrañar, pues, que la imagen internacional de Arabia Saudí se haya resentido durante este año. Pero tampoco es de extrañar que, una vez remitido el temporal, ciertas dinámicas hayan retornado a sus cauces habituales.

Entre los elementos que sí que se han visto alterados, los más significativos guardan relación con la guerra de Yemen, uno de los principales escenarios del conflicto regional entre Arabia Saudí e Irán.…  Seguir leyendo »

Début septembre, une jeune femme s’est immolée devant le Tribunal de la révolution islamique de Téhéran. Elle venait d’apprendre sa condamnation à une peine de prison pour avoir osé entrer, en 2018, dans un stade et assister à un match de football. Elle s’appelait Sahar, « l’aube » en persan. Dans la poésie et la chanson iraniennes, ce mot évoque la fin des ténèbres, l’espoir de la délivrance. L’acte suicidaire de Sahar Khodayari, qui entraîna sa mort peu après, ne dit-il pas, au contraire, un profond désespoir ?

En réponse aux indignations massives provoquées par sa mort tragique et aux appels à lever l’interdiction faite aux femmes d’entrer dans les stades, les médias liés au pouvoir diffusèrent les propos du père de Sahar disant que sa fille souffrait de perturbations mentales.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view outside the storage site on the outskirts of Tehran which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel described as a “secret atomic warehouse.”CreditCreditThe Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency don’t usually make for riveting reading, so you may have missed last Friday’s latest, soporifically headlined “Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).”

Don’t be fooled. Buried in the report are two oblique sentences hinting at a mystery about which you may soon hear a great deal.

“Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran relating to Iran’s implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol require full and timely cooperation by Iran,” the report says. “The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran.”

That’s an exquisite way of saying that Iran is stonewalling the agency.…  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 »

Iranian Revolutionary Guards patrol around the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, anchored off the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Photo by HASAN SHIRVANI/AFP/Getty Images.

It was like something out of a movie. To shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar!’, masked soldiers drop down ropes from a military helicopter on to a British oil tanker while Iranian navy speedboats surround the vessel. By radio, a voice warns the ship’s captain in English: ‘If you obey you will be safe’.

There is no doubt that the Friday seizure by Iranian Revolutionary Guards of a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, was in part a piece of theatre intended to appease domestic clamour for Tehran to assert itself.

It came in response to the UK military’s 4 July detention of an Iranian tanker, the Grace 1, in Gibraltar, allegedly for shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran, Britain and the United States are engaged in a struggle for control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf. A fifth of the world’s daily oil supply moves through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, offshore of Iran. Given the history of oil and war in hot spots from Iraq to Libya to Sudan, many wonder whether the situation can be defused.

Yet the relationship between oil and war is actually quite complicated — and much of the time, oil disputes are resolved peacefully. The more dangerous disputes are those where tensions over oil exacerbate other factors on the road to war.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Trump says he wants to make sure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. His policy, however, is having the opposite effect: It is giving Tehran a powerful incentive to go nuclear, while at the same time making it increasingly difficult for the United States to prevent that. On Monday the official Iranian news agency announced that the country had breached the limits for enriched uranium imposed on it by the 2015 international agreements.

Indeed, American policy toward Iran over the past year makes it clear that Iranian leaders were foolish not to develop a nuclear deterrent in the early 2000s.

Although there has not yet been a significant military clash, the United States has effectively declared war on Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »

This Isn’t About Iran. It’s About China

In a world of global financial markets, 5G networks and cyberwar, geography still rules. The two shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, each two miles wide, hold the key to the Persian Gulf and roughly half of the world’s proven oil reserves and production capacity. That is why the recent attacks, widely assumed to have been ordered by Iran, on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway just outside the Strait, have frayed geopolitical nerves the world over.

The Iranians understand that because geography is so precious in the Gulf region, small actions have magnified effects. Likewise, the Americans know that in the constricted waters of the Gulf, their large warships are prone to attacks by Iranian swarm boats, even as Iran’s proximity to Saudi Arabia threatens that fragile kingdom and American ally.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un recuerdo personal: hace unos cuantos años, Jacques Chirac, entonces presidente de la República Francesa, declaraba ante algunos diplomáticos: «¿La bomba iraní? ¿Y qué?». El presidente francés y muchos otros dirigentes europeos nunca han compartido la histeria estadounidense respecto a los proyectos nucleares de Irán. En el fondo, otros gobiernos menos racionales que el de Teherán, en concreto el de Pakistán, poseen armas nucleares, igual que Israel, India y China. ¿Deberíamos temer a Irán más que a China o Pakistán?

Recordemos que, aparte del uso que le dieron los estadounidenses en 1945, las bombas nucleares solo se han empleado como elemento disuasorio.…  Seguir leyendo »

The old main bazaar in Tehran. After the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.CreditCreditEbrahim 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.”

On a visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan I had bought him a pair of used hiking shoes for about $10.…  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.”

On a visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan I had bought him a pair of used hiking shoes for about $10.…  Seguir leyendo »

There has been considerable cynicism worldwide about American claims that the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday were conducted by Iran.

Iran has denied the accusation, and on Twitter, the term “Gulf of Tonkin” trended alongside the “Gulf of Oman.”

That historical reference is telling. It was in citing the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” — the North Vietnamese were accused of attacking American destroyers in that gulf in 1964 — that President Lyndon B. Johnson persuaded the Congress to authorize greater American military involvement in Vietnam. Historians have concluded that the attack never happened and Johnson’s ploy is now seen as the quintessential false flag operation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Photo: Getty Images.

Tensions have again flared between the US and Iran. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, followed by Tehran’s warnings of resuming its nuclear programme, have revived a crisis that spans several decades.

Within the Trump administration, influential leaders – including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – seem to be steering the US into conflict with Iran.

This conflict has never been a direct confrontation, instead mainly featuring in countries across the Middle East. Iraq has been the most cherished prize for both sides. Recently citing an increased threat, the US evacuated all non-essential staff from Iraq.…  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 »

A child outside her shelter at Al-Ihsan refugee camp in Idlib, Syria, in January. The human cost of proxy wars has grown far too high.CreditCreditMuhammed Abdullah/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

We write as citizens and foreign policy veterans of two countries that most Americans presume are locked in mortal combat: Iran and Saudi Arabia. In fact, after decades of proxy conflict and frozen ties between our countries, we believe now is the time to explore a new foundation for a lasting peace in our region.

Neither of us is a starry-eyed idealist. We are both hardened realists with distrust for one another, and that mistrust is shared at the top levels of our respective governments. At the same time, we have seen the destructive consequences of crises in which our countries side with one or another government or movement involved in a competition for power — for example in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain or Iraq.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, in 2010.CreditCreditMajid Asgaripour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the year since the United States withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran, that country has practiced what its president, Hassan Rouhani, has described as “strategic patience.” But now Iran seems to be giving up on that.

On Wednesday, Mr. Rouhani announced that Iran would stop adhering to some of the deal’s provisions. Iran’s goal, though, is not to find a quick exit — or any exit at all — from the deal, but to signal to the European countries that also signed it that they can no longer sit by as the United States imposes sanctions and more generally piles pressure on Tehran.…  Seguir leyendo »