• Saudi Arabia and Iran Are Adapting to Perpetual Conflict

    When rogue intelligence officers at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, an official of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) voiced concern over the surge of US media onslaught on Saudi Arabia. Echoing Iran’s conspiratorial views of the United States, the IRGC official questioned if Washington was planning to undermine Riyadh. He then insisted that Tehran would denounce such moves. 

    Iran is charged with interfering in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs, but Tehran appears to want Riyadh to keep a firm hold on power. The rapid deterioration of regional security has muted Iran’s desire to watch rival Arab states collapse. There is a realization that the potential rise of jihadists in Saudi Arabia, if the kingdom were to fall, could also destabilize Iran. In a similar vein, in Riyadh—per conversations this author has had—there is concern that the kingdom would have to pay a heavy price if a war erupted with...

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  • On Iran, Europeans Caught Between Multilateral and Transatlantic Realities

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on May 8 that Iran may reduce its compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if the non-US parties to the deal don’t find a way to provide Tehran with promised economic benefits.

    In response, the European Union and foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany expressed their continued support for the JCPOA but warned Iran not to carry out its ultimatum to disregard selected limitations to its nuclear program.

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  • Former State Broadcaster Head Does Tell-All Interview About the IRGC

    While growing US-led pressure on Iran is helping unify the Iranian polity around the flag of nationalism, it is also exposing fault lines among the ruling elite as they search for the key causes of the Islamic Republic’s failures forty years after its birth. 

    In a rare hour-long interview on May 1, the former head of Iran’s state broadcaster Mohammad Sarafraz spoke publicly about his time at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). He was appointed director general of IRIB by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2014, after serving as the head of its 24-hour English-language network PressTV for several years, until he was prematurely replaced in 2016. Sarafraz’s short-lived tenure at IRIB contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor who directed the state broadcaster for a decade.

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  • Iran Withdraws From Certain Aspects of the Nuclear Agreement

    A year after the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and six months after it re-imposed sanctions, Iran has said it would reduce its compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement in sixty days unless the remaining parties take concrete steps to continue trade with Iran. The decision was announced by President Hassan Rouhani in a televised speech on May 8. Rouhani said, “We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective … This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

    The Iranian president warned that Europe has sixty days to prevent US sanctions from impacting Iran’s banking and oil sectors. The news was formally relayed to the remaining signatories of JCPOA: Britain,...

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  • Are Iranians Turning Away From the ‘Resistance Front’?

    In Iran, public opinion about foreign policy has become extremely divided. Even recent flooding provided ground for opposing parties to promote their stances, especially in regard to Iran’s backing of foreign militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. 

    A video went viral of a local man approaching the governor of Iran’s southern Khuzestan province amid the flooding and asking him why the government spends lavishly on the Syrian and Lebanese people but not on its own. US and Israeli officials—as well as the Iranian opposition in exile—also saw an opportunity to ride the waves of Iranians discontented with their current dire economic situation. 

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  • Mixed Reactions in Iran to Trump’s Maximum Pressure Policy

    Harsh measures by the Trump administration against Iran have largely united Iranian political factions against the United States but have triggered a variety of reactions from ordinary Iranians.

    Some have expressed hope for a more open environment as the government seeks to shore up popularity despite rising prices and diminished economic opportunity. Others believe Iran should stand up to US “bullying” despite the costs.

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  • Can Pakistan Be the Friend Iran Needs?

    With pressure mounting on Iran from US sanctions, Iran is placing heavy emphasis on its neighbors for trade and political support.

    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Iran has raised the question of whether Pakistan can be the friend Tehran needs to survive the Trump administration’s growing hostility.

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  • IRGC Designation: A Lost Opportunity to Weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon

    Designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) stirred panic in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s allies in the Lebanese government—such as the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Amal—worried they too would soon bear the brunt of American sanctions. But US officials reassured a hastily dispatched delegation of the group’s allies last week that despite the more aggressive stance on Iran, they would suffer no consequences for empowering its primary proxy. In doing so, the United States lost an opportunity to weaken Hezbollah through deterring its allies. 

    Because Hezbollah has enmeshed itself in almost every level of Lebanese government and society, countering its growing strength without harming the integrity of the Lebanese state remains a challenge. Differing but insufficient solutions to this dilemma exist. ...

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  • Trump Policy, Not Sanctions, to Blame for Poor US Response to Iran Floods

    The recent record flooding in Iran has killed dozens, inundated nearly 2,000 villages and cities across Iran, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the country’s infrastructure. 

    The Trump administration’s response through the State Department, predictably, has been to offer unspecified support to the Iranian people while at the same time sharply criticizing Tehran for environmental mismanagement that exacerbates the severity of the flooding. Setting aside the accuracy of any such criticism, the ham-handed US response to this natural disaster has again exposed the Trump administration’s inability to execute a nuanced policy. It is clear that the “maximum pressure” campaign and policy mindset are harming the ordinary Iranians that President Donald Trump and his surrogates proclaim to want to help. 

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  • Saudi Arabia’s Plan to Lure Iraq From Iran

    A Saudi economic delegation visited Iraq on April 3, seeking to promote the expansion of diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries—and to give Iraq an alternative to growing Iranian ties. 

    This was the second meeting of the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council, which held an initial meeting in 2017. The Saudis offered a $1 billion loan for the creation of a sports complex to be known as Sport City. The council also announced the establishment of consular centers for visa services in Baghdad and two other Iraqi cities.

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