• Iran’s Crude Oil Exports: What Minimum Is Enough to Stay Afloat?

    With the US aiming to bring Iran’s petroleum exports to a complete stop through imposed sanctions, and Iran’s dependence on petroleum revenues, the Iranian government will do its utmost to secure the minimum required oil exports. But, what is that minimum? In order to perhaps find an answer, one needs to understand current Iranian macroeconomics.

    Crude oil exports is one of the main revenue sources of the Iranian government, as well as a major contributing engine for developing the country’s infrastructure and economy. Yet, only 17 percent of the Iranian GDP in 2018 and 30 percent of the government’s fiscal budget for the Iranian year 2019-2020 depend on petroleum exports.

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  • Iran’s Strategy to Tackle Sanctions: Pre-selling Oil

    Iran’s vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, announced July 8 that any powerful country that is willing to work with Iran can pre-purchase Iranian oil. Iran is actively trying to convince its traditional costumers to purchase its oil for future deliveries in return for investment, goods or services in advance. Pre-selling oil is designed to get around US sanctions while building leverage for Iran in the short and long-term.

    This method can help Iran access the credit it needs for investment, goods and services. It could also be used as a floating credit in INSTEX, the trading vehicle set up by the European Union (EU) to keep Iran in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). EU countries have all halted their oil


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  • Hezbollah Won’t Stand Down in a US-Iran Conflict

    On January 28, 2015, a colleague and I were driving north in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to report on the latest developments involving the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), which was then occupying a desolate mountain range straddling the Lebanon-Syria border. Shortly before midday, we received news that Hezbollah had just launched an ambush against an Israeli military convoy on Lebanon’s southeast border. We immediately did a U-turn and began heading south.

    Attacks by Hezbollah in south Lebanon against Israeli forces had been rare since the end of the month-long 2006 war. But this one did not come as a surprise. Ten...

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  • The Challenge of Iran Is an Opportunity for the US and Europe

    The level of instability present in the Gulf today is unsustainable, dangerous, and undoubtedly the creation of an increasingly desperate Iranian regime. Tehran has long favored asymmetric attacks that are difficult to factually tie to them or assaults conducted through proxies. 

    Until the most recent shoot down of an unmanned US aircraft on June 20, Iran had achieved a certain level of success in creating some doubt as to who was behind the recent attacks on six oil tankers in the Gulf and an oil pipeline and civilian airport in Saudi Arabia. The attacks, conducted either by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen, continue to destabilize the region and pressurize oil prices.

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  • GCC Dispute Pushes Iran and Qatar Closer but With Caveats

    Despite the recent rise in tensions between the United States and Iran, Qatar is moving closer to its controversial neighbor as a blockade of Qatar by prominent Arab countries appears to have become a permanent feature of the regional geopolitical landscape.

    It has now been two years since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt, collectively known as the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), cut all diplomatic ties with the State of Qatar, and imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on the gas-rich emirate. The four states accused Doha of supporting terrorism, maintaining excessively close relations with Iran, and interfering in neighboring states’ domestic affairs. 

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  • No One Wins a War in the Gulf, but Iran Would Be the Biggest Loser

    Despite repeated assertions by regime officials in Tehran and key members of the Trump administration regarding a mutual desire to avoid war, tensions in the region continue to rise.

    With each side seemingly determined to push the other up to, but not beyond poorly defined red lines, an increasingly volatile situation is developing. Given the poor state of diplomatic relations between the US and Iran and an inability of the two nations to communicate at the military to military level beyond the most basic tactical contacts, the opportunity for even a minor miscalculation to develop into a much more serious strategic incident remains disturbingly high.

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  • Iranian Society Shaken by Former Mayor’s Murder of His Wife

    In Iran, as in other societies, citizens wish to see those in high political office as exemplars of positive values and ideals such as virtue, decency and morality. 

    If an official of the Islamic Republic is caught in a scandal, he or she is likely to be removed or forced to resign. Still, Iranians have become used to financial corruption. But the case of former Tehran mayor and education minister Mohammad Ali Najafi—who has confessed to shooting to death his second wife—has profoundly shocked the nation, touched off a debate about polygamy and domestic violence and become enmeshed in Iran’s bitter factional politics.

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  • Japan’s Historic Opportunity to Play Peacemaker Between the US and Iran

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will finally make a trip to Iran on June 12. Since becoming prime minister at the end of 2012, every time Abe attempted to visit Tehran, the idea was eventually withdrawn mainly due to US disapproval, according to rumors. 

    However, Prime Minister Abe has met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seven times already, not only in New York on the sideline of the UN General Assembly every year since 2013, but also at the sixtieth annual Asia-Africa Conference in Indonesia during 2015. The Tehran visit will be the eighth meeting between Abe and Rouhani. It will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since 1978. (However, it will be Abe’s second visit to Iran since he accompanied his father, then...

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  • A Non-Subversion Pact for the Persian Gulf?

    A major complaint of those who rejected the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is that it did nothing to curb Iran’s regional interventions and actually may have spurred them. 

    Iran, these opponents argue, remains a theologically driven hegemon out to subvert Arab states and turn them into states too weak to threaten Tehran. Thus they reject recent proposals by Iran for a “non-aggression pact” as unrealistic and propagandistic. 

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  • Three Decades After Khomeini’s Death, His Clan Rules From the Sidelines

    “Your smile smells of someone who stays, so stay! Make me a poet again, make me fall in endless love.” These cheesy lines are from a Persian language Instagram post on May 25 by Fatemeh Daneshpajooh dedicated to the 21st birthday of her husband, Ahmad. 

    They could be any ordinary couple, but the husband’s last name gives it away. Ahmad Khomeini is a great-grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. 

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