The volatile and mostly hostile relationship between the United States and Iran is heading into new and unpredictable waters as the Trump administration and the US Congress increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.

That was the conclusion of Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, Amir Handjani, an Atlantic Council board member and senior fellow with the Council’s South Asia Center, and Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council. The three spoke at an event at the Atlantic Council on June 13 on the current status of US-Iran relations and ways to bolster the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark nuclear deal reached with Iran in 2015. The panel was moderated by Ladane Nasseri, senior Iran correspondent for Bloomberg News.

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On Monday, January 30, 2017, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative co-hosted a half-day symposium with The Iran Project. The event focused on the record of the Iran nuclear deal and its likely fate under the Trump administration. The intent was to help forge a bipartisan path forward that will preserve the non-proliferation gains of the accord while finding a resolution for other Iranian activities that are of concern and contributing to conflict resolution.

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On Wednesday, January 25, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative co-hosted a panel discussion entitled Iranian Attitudes on Iran-US Relations in the Trump Era with the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies, featuring Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni, Research Scholar, Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland, Ms. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, Co-Founder and Executive Director, International Civil Society Action Network, and Dr. Paul Pillar, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University. Acting Director of the Future of Iran Initiative, Barbara Slavin welcomed attendees, introduced the panelists, and moderated the discussion.

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On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, and the Global Energy Center hosted a panel discussion on what to do about Russia’s rising profile in the Middle East. Panelist included Anna Borshchevskaya, Ira Weiner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Thomas Cunningham, Deputy Director of Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, Alireza Nader, Senior International Policy Analyst at RAND, and Aaron Stein, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The event was moderated by Barbara Slavin, the Acting Director of South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative. Panelists discussed Russia’s regional and international policy challenges including the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, expanded military cooperation between Russia and Iran, and Russia’s near future energy strategy, as well as policy options for President-Elect Trump towards Russia.

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On November 29, 2016, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center hosted the event “A New Saudi Arabian Regional Policy” featuring panelists Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, chairman of Shamal Investments and Mohammed Alyahya, nonresident fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The discussion was moderated by Hariri Center Director Ambassador Frederic Hof.

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On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a panel discussion moderated by the Future of Iran Initiative's Acting Director Barbara Slavin featuring Mehdi Ghadyanloo, Iranian artist and muralist, and David Furchgott, Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of International Arts and Artists, to discuss Iran’s public art scene. The panelists discussed the effects of sanctions on Iranian artists as well as the problems faced by Iranian artists who seek entry into international art circles and collaboration with other artists. Despite these obstacles, the panelists agreed, Iran’s growing art scene presents enormous potential for non-political exchanges between Iran and the international community.

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On Wednesday, October 19, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative released Atlantic Council distinguished fellow Ellen Laipson’s A New Strategy for US-Iran Relations in Transition, the sixth installment in the Atlantic Council Strategy Paper series. The report advocates for a balanced approach towards American relations with Iran that builds incrementally on the progress made by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The discussion was hosted by New York Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger, and included Michael Connell, director of the Iran Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), and Atlantic Council board director Amir Handjani. The panel discussed recent developments between Iran, the United States, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, as well as potential strategies that could bring about a safer and more peaceful Gulf region.

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On Monday, September 26, 2016, the South Asia Center’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a panel discussion moderated by the Future of Iran Initiative's Acting Director Barbara Slavin featuring John Limbert, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, US Naval Academy, Farzaneh Milani, Professor and Chair, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia, Thomas M. Ricks, Director, International Studies and Overseas Programs​,Villanova University, and Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council. Over the course of the discussion, the panelists addressed the legacy of the Peace Corps in Iran pre-1979 revolution and its role in the broader conversation on US-Iran engagement following the historic nuclear accord. The discussion was initiated by Thomas Huf, Senior Program Manager for Facilities Planning and Programming,University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who introduced the panelists and a short video presentation from the Peace Corps Iran Association.

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Our panelists, Chris Bakemeyer, David Mortlock, and Barbara Slavin discussed the outlook for investment in Iran, the ongoing status of existing sanctions, and the broader context of US policy towards Iran. They delved into the implications of these trends both for policymakers and private sector leaders considering investment opportunities in Iran. Richard Morningstar, Founding Director and Chairman of the Global Energy Center, delivered welcoming remarks and Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters moderated the discussion.  

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The next US president would precipitate a crisis in the Middle East and alienate America’s allies if he or she decides to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran, a senior White House official said at the Atlantic Council on June 16.

“The way in which the Iran deal was structured creates enormous disincentives for an incoming president to tear it up,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

Written in the New Atlanticist Blog. To read more, click here.

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