• 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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  • Trump’s Plan B for Iran

    Several years ago, Henry Kissinger famously stated that Iran must decide if it wants to be a country or a cause. On May 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo re-articulated this question, offering Iran a sharp choice: to be welcomed back into the community of nations if it abandons its destabilizing security policies or be subjected to an unrelenting US-led pressure campaign if not.

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  • Can the European Union’s Sanctions Blocking Regulation Save the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    The European Union (EU) on May 18 announced that it was beginning the process to activate its proposed blocking regulation, initially proposed in 1996 to try to counteract what the EU saw as the extraterritorial reach under the United States’ Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and Cuba sanctions program. Those disagreements were settled politically with the Clinton administration, but there has been renewed interest in the draft regulation in the wake of US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reimpose US secondary sanctions on Iran.  

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  • Pompeo’s ‘Plan B’ on Iran: Accurate Diagnosis, Inadequate Cure

    In an audacious speech before the Heritage Foundation on May 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined a litany of complaints about the nuclear deal with Iran that accurately reflected some of its gaps, but offered no realistic remedies.

    Pompeo’s prescription to achieve his “Plan B”—“unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”—is unlikely to achieve his stated goals. It could well backfire by encouraging more defiance in Tehran—and in Brussels, Moscow, and Beijing.

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  • Dropping the Hammer

    The Trump administration, acting through Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has wasted no time in setting a harried pace of Iran-related designations to up the pressure after the president announced the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on May 8. In the seven business days following that fateful announcement, OFAC has issued four sets of Iran-related designations targeting Iran’s support for terrorism in what seems to be an attempt to replicate the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea that helped spur a leadership summit to negotiate denuclearization (albeit one that seems less certain than a week ago). These actions have come alongside a concerted effort by the administration to pressure foreign companies, especially in Europe, to cease business with Iran prior to the expiration of secondary sanctions waivers in August and November. 

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  • The Regional Consequences of Trump’s Decision to Ditch the Iran Nuclear Deal

    Though Iran has thus far remained in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could be the first domino to fall, setting off a chain of escalatory events throughout the region. 

    “This change is US policy is happening at a time when the region is really combustible,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, president of Gryphon Partners and an Atlantic Council board director. Ultimately, the regional impact of US President Donald J. Trump’s May 8 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA will depend on Tehran, and what it decides to do next: play nice on the world stage, or retaliate in its own backyard.  

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  • The Iran Nuclear Deal’s Accidental Achievement

    US President Donald J. Trump delivered on his campaign promise and finally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal; a giant question mark looms.

    When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed in July 2015, the priority for the P5+1 was to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The United States also hoped to eventually see reforms in Iran. For Iran, the priority was the lifting of sanctions.

    How far back the deal set Iran’s nuclear weapons program is up for debate. Critics of the deal argue that, not only did the JCPOA fail to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, but it freed up more cash for nefarious activities in the region vis-à-vis Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Iran defends its activities in these states as ...

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