IranInsight|Showcasing a Multifaceted Iran

Since the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal, member states of the European Union have unanimously affirmed their commitments to the agreement and accelerated their rapprochement with Tehran. This process has continued despite calls from President Trump for all nations of conscience to isolate Iran.

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Many observers of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including both supporters and opponents, believe that new US sanctions on Iran will fatally endanger the deal and that the United States will be the one to blame.

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The Trump administration arrived at a time of serious threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, particularly in East Asia and in the Middle East. The nuclear deal struck with Iran by the previous administration and its partners provides a way forward.

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The nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was one of the more significant international achievements of the past few years.  It was a victory for diplomacy that prevented conflict and produced a politically acceptable outcome for each signatory related to Iran’s nuclear activities.  It was also a milestone for the global nonproliferation community, and may create opportunities for expanding and extending its provisions to other countries.  But friction between Iran and the United States, particularly since the election of President Trump, creates some lingering uncertainties about the chances of the main elements of the agreement lasting for 15 years.

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While implementation of the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is critical for restoring international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran can do far more to provide additional assurances that its activities meet international nuclear security standards.

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In agreeing to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran accepted extensive and intrusive verification measures that go beyond those made by other countries in either Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or in the Additional Protocol (AP) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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Since the 1979 hostage crisis and the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, US-Iran relations have been largely hostile and stagnant. The exception is the period during the negotiations that led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Sanctions played a role in convincing Iran to accept stringent curbs on its nuclear program. But nearly 40 years of US sanctions and confrontational policies have not brought the United States and Iran closer into alignment on many other key issues. 

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An alliance of Persian Gulf Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, announced on June 5 that it severed ties and closed borders with Qatar, a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar has a population of 2.6 million and is the world’s richest country per capita -- $138,480, according to the 2015 World Bank rankings. As Bloomberg put it, the move was “unprecedented … [and] designed to punish one of the region’s financial superpowers for its ties with Iran and Islamist groups in the region.”

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By any measure, President Hassan Rouhani reelection with 57 percent of the vote compared to the 37 percent for his opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, was a major triumph. More to the point, the ballot represented a clear choice between two visions of Iran. Rouhani and his moderate followers want Iran to normalize relations with the United States and its Western allies. Raisi and the hardline Principalists want to keep the regime’s engagement with the world to an absolute minimum while pursuing the mandate of exporting the Islamic revolution in the region.

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Washington has doubled down on fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) offshoot in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. Experts have warned that the Islamic State threat remains secondary to a Taliban resurgence. Washington is repeating the mistake of obsessively routing al-Qaeda while ignoring the overall conditions that allowed al-Qaeda to thrive, this time with ISIS.

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