IranSource | Understanding and Analyzing a Multifaceted Iran

The US Senate on April 26 confirmed former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo as the new US Secretary of State. 

US President Donald J. Trump picked Pompeo, a known foreign policy hawk on issues from Russia to Iran to North Korea, to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department on March 13.

Atlantic Council analysts and experts weighed in on the confirmation, including its implications for US-Iranian relations.

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As the May 12 deadline approaches for President Donald Trump to renew sanctions waivers in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), multiple European leaders, as well as the Chinese and Russians, are working to keep the agreement in place. President Emanuel Macron’s three-day State visit to Washington on April 23 was for the same reason.

Macron presented a four-point plan to Trump during their meeting at the White House, to address Iran’s nuclear program in the short and long term, the development of ballistic missiles, and the Islamic Republic’s regional presence.

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French President Macron is performing a delicate balancing act addressing US President Trump’s dissatisfaction with the Iran nuclear deal while seeking to keep the multilateral agreement intact. Trump has been crystal clear since his presidential campaign that he views the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - the Iran nuclear agreement - as a “bad deal.” He has criticized it as insufficient and unable to deny Iran’s nuclear ambitions, address Iran’s regional activities, or curb its ballistic missile program. Middle East Security Initiative Director Rachel Brandenburg describes what appear to be the four pillars of President Macron's strategy for convincing President Trump to remain in the JCPOA at the New Atlanticist.

Read the entire piece at the New Atlanticist.

The future of the Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—hangs in the balance as the May 12 deadline set by US President Donald J. Trump to “fix” the deal or to walk away from it approaches.

In an interview with Rachel Brandenburg, director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig, deputy director for strategy in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and Aaron Stein, senior fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, offer different perspectives on whether the deal has worked and the possible consequences should Trump decide to pull out of the multilateral agreement.

Read the entire interview at the New Atlanticist.


In her issue brief for the Atlantic Council, “Iran’s Sunnis Resist Extremism, but for How Long?” Scheherezade Faramarzi discusses the current situation of Sunnis in Iran. While Faramarzi’s work is valuable given her fieldwork in Iran, in the view of this author, her piece contains errors and misleading information.

I agree with Faramazi that the Islamic Republic of Iran has failed to properly integrate its Sunni population into the political system by depriving them of higher political positions such as cabinet ministries. However, I disagree with her presentation about the number of Sunnis in Iran, where they are concentrated and their socio-economic status in comparison to the majority Shia population.

According to Faramazi, “Some fifteen million of Iran’s eighty million people are Sunni Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.” She suggests that according to Sunni leaders and observers, Iran’s Sunni population is somewhere between “12 to 25 percent” of the total population. My research suggests that the percentage is ten percent or about eight million people.

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As French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Washington, a top priority will be convincing his American counterpart to stay within the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran.

But judging from this analyst’s conversations with Iranian diplomats in Europe and New York over the past week, Macron and his colleagues in Germany and Britain may have an equally crucial task persuading Iran to remain within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if US President Donald J. Trump fails to reissue waivers of US sanctions on the next deadline, May 12.

Despite all the attention paid to the US-Iran aspect of the nuclear issue, Iran’s main expectation upon signing the JCPOA was that it would be able to restore and increase economic relations with Europe, traditionally Iran’s major trading partner.

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In January I wrote a piece for this blog after widespread protests in Iran and outlined actions that should be taken by the government to enhance the lives of Iranians. In that piece I talked about the water crisis in Iran very briefly and was told by a reader on Twitter that the water section needed more attention. This piece is my response.

Iran has been facing a crisis regarding water for many years and it’s far more existential than the nuclear program or the fate of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Almost every day in Iran, there are protests by farmers regarding water shortages and the diversion of this precious resource from one area to the other. The effects of a warming climate and lower precipitation over the years have exacerabated the problem but it cannot be fully blamed on meager or inconsistent rainfall. The human factor – especially mismanagement -- is the strongest cause for what Iran is facing now.

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It’s evident that President Donald Trump cares a great deal about himself. He’s sensitive to how the world views him and is quick to lash out or “counter-punch” against anyone who criticizes him. Out of this comes a desire for respect. Those who make historic achievements, his thinking goes, are respected. This motivates the US president to make some unconventional decisions.

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As a May 12 deadline for the US to renew sanctions waivers on Iran approaches, there are a number of possible scenarios for the nuclear deal’s survival or demise.

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In his article published February 12, 2018, “Iran’s Uncertain Future,” Alireza Nader, an Iran expert who spent nearly 10 years working as a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation, raises serious questions about the stability of the Islamic Republic of Iran and offers a set of likely future political scenarios for the country.

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