• China: Iran’s Lifeline to Overcome Oil Sanctions

    The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May has thrown a previously established, delicate geopolitical balance into disarray. The remaining signatories of the JCPOA—Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—are exploring options to circumvent the resumption of US sanctions on Tehran primarily by establishing a channel to allow financial transactions to cover exports from Iran.

    But for all parties of the JCPOA, the key Iranian commodity of interest is crude oil, particularly for Beijing. In 2017, one-third of Iran’s oil exports were sold to China—more than any other country. This relationship between the two countries softens the blow of US sanctions on Iran by giving Tehran a lifeline when facing economic hardship, to an extent.

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  • Europe Unlikely to Avoid Trump's Iran Sanctions

    Prompted by the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA), the remaining signatories are urgently seeking ways to maintain the agreement—both for strategic reasons and to preserve its trade benefits. A British, French, and German proposal to launch an independent channel for maintaining trade with Tehran, however, is unlikely to succeed and risks undermining the effectiveness of European economic sanctions. 

    The three European countries (also known as the E3) are reportedly pursuing the establishment of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to evade US sanctions and ostensibly maintain legitimate trade with Iran. The proposed SPV would essentially act as an accounting firm, tracking credits against imports and exports without the involvement of European...

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  • Declassified Documents Reveal Weakness of Unilateral Iran Sanctions

    The Trump Administration’s May 2018 decision to pull the US out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) made headlines with its promise of unprecedented sanctions against Iran. Strong rhetoric aside, President Trump’s stated policy outcomes are consistent with those of his predecessors: preventing Iran from advancing its nuclear and missile capabilities, discouraging support for terrorism and other unsavory regional activities, and curbing human rights abuses.

    In light of these similarities, and on the heels of the re-imposition of post-JCPOA sanctions on August 7, the National Security Archive’s recent release of declassified cables from President Bill Clinton’s State Department is extremely timely. The documents are particularly useful when compared to President Barack...

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  • European Failure to Safeguard Iran Deal Shows EU is Still a Paper Tiger

    Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that the Iran nuclear deal could be saved. Now, it is highly likely that, even if the agreement is not formally cancelled, it will soon become a façade without any real meaning.

    President Donald Trump’s recent threats to block any companies still engaging with Iran from business in the US are a clear and serious incentive for foreign firms to leave Iran as soon as possible. Despite European Union (EU) efforts to protect companies and neutralize US threats, major European businesses have already announced their departures.

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  • Why Iran and the United States Should Negotiate

    The telephone conversation between Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama in 2013, the numerous talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during two years of nuclear negotiations, and a multilateral meeting last year that included Zarif and then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, demolished many taboos in regard to direct contact between Iran and the US.

    The US and Iran should negotiate, but meaningful steps need to be taken in advance and the objective must be to solve all major bilateral issues.

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  • Renewed Iran Sanctions Will Bolster the Regime and Undermine the Private Sector

    The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and pursue a policy of “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic has been coupled with a public diplomacy campaign in alleged support of the Iranian people. But the result is likely to be a stronger central government, as sanctions crush private enterprise and force beleaguered Iranians to turn to the regime for relief.

    Sanctions are economic and diplomatic instruments that are designed to put pressure on the targeted state to convince it to comply with the demands from those imposing the sanctions. However, the degree of their effectiveness has long been subject to debate. In the case of Iran’s nuclear program, proponents argue that it was “crippling” sanctions that forced Iran to seriously...

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  • Iran Postpones Key Bank Reforms Over Fate of the Iran Deal

    A priority for those in Iran seeking re-integration into the international economy has been banking reforms that conform to globally accepted standards.

    But hardline factions oppose the reforms as surrender to US-led financial institutions and their views have been reinforced by the US decision to unilaterally leave the Iran nuclear deal.

    On June 10, the parliament postponed for at least two months approval of key legislation establishing safeguards against financing terrorism and money laundering required for Iran to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based international financial watchdog institution. This decision could have a negative impact at the next FATF plenary June 24-29 where members will decide whether to keep Iran on a “gray list” of transgressors or put it back on a “black list” with North Korea.

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  • Trump’s Iran Policy: From the Art of the Deal to the Mirage of Regime Change

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his first speech in his new position on May 21, 2018, to send a message to the Iranian leadership and people.

    Pompeo laid out twelve demands including ending Iran’s ballistic missiles development, halting support for Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian groups including Hamas, allowing nuclear inspectors "unqualified access to all sites throughout the country,” shutting down Iran’s uranium enrichment program, ending involvement in Syria and Iraq and disarming Shi’ite militias.

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  • US Withdrawal from Iran Deal Hits Young Iranians Hard

    When Iran reached a landmark nuclear agreement with the international community in 2015, Iranian youth were especially happy.

    After struggling with sanctions and isolation for many years, young people hoped their country was entering a new chapter in which it would be seen as a constructive actor on the international stage. They were proud of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a seasoned diplomat and negotiator, and believed that economic growth would return and that their society would become more politically open.

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  • Great Power Competition in Iran as the US Exits the Arena

    US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, and thus re-impose broad sanctions against the Islamic Republic, sends a clear signal that Washington has reverted to a full containment policy against Tehran. But, lacking a clear overarching Middle East strategy, US policymakers do not appear to be weighing the merits of this pursuit in the context of the United States’ long-term rivalries with China and Russia. While Tehran’s contentious relations with its neighbors to the west are the subject of intense focus, inadequate attention is being paid to the geostrategic implications of transformations to Iran’s east. A new “Great Game” for political and economic dominance is being waged in Eurasia that will impact the lives of almost...
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