US-Iran Relations

  • 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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  • Is Trump Just an Excuse for Khamenei’s Rejectionism?

    Iran shot down a US military drone near the Persian Gulf, increasing fears of an armed conflict between Tehran and Washington. Against this backdrop, the path to talks between the two governments appears blocked. 

    President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign ostensibly aims to force Iran to come to the negotiating table and strike a new deal, including bigger and more long-lasting restrictions on its nuclear and missile programs and an end to support for proxy groups. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has so far vehemently opposed new direct talks with the Americans.

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  • Building on Past Experience, Iran Leads the Waltz With the US

    During 2013, Iran seized on a rare opportunity to talk directly with the United States for a new round of nuclear negotiations. European countries speaking at the time to Iran to cap its nuclear program asked the US, which had been part of the nuclear talks since 2006, to join in fresh discussions with Iran. The P5+1 talks that followed between Iran and the US—along with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—came with a promise that the countries would not tighten the multilateral sanctions regime against Tehran if an agreement was reached. The arrangement led to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

    Iran was enticing the US to talk once again this past month, by withdrawing some of its obligations under the nuclear deal in May. The two countries had a falling out after US President Donald Trump pulled...

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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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  • The Warsaw Summit and Effective Multilateralism

    The Trump administration has sought to break out of its international isolation on Iran by pressuring nations to go to Warsaw for a summit on peace and security in the Middle East. But the administration has failed to craft an effective multilateral approach towards Iran based on common concerns and a realistic understanding of what is achievable.

    Despite White House backtracking from an initial expressed aim to focus on Iran, US officials and regional leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the occasion to unleash rhetorical barbs against Iran—which was not invited. 

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  • Trump’s Iran Policy: Much Ado About Nothing

    The Trump administration’s policy of containing and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran may appear to be going well to causal observers of Iranian affairs, and there is some evidence to support such a view.

    The United States has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that solely addressed the regime’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons but failed to address its menacing actions towards neighboring countries, continued support of international terrorism, and ongoing efforts to develop ballistic missile technology. The JCPOA also completely failed to address the horrible human rights situation inside Iran itself.

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  • Moral Courage Needed for US to Engage Iran

    In his January 10 speech in Cairo, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described America as a “force for good in the Middle East.”

    “We need to acknowledge that truth, because if we don't, we make bad choices [that will] have consequences for nations, for millions of people,” he said. “In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times—and our partners—demanded it.”

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  • A Pro-Active New US Policy Toward Iran

    With the advent of another presidential election cycle in the United States, many US and foreign politicians and policy advocates have already begun thinking about recommendations for the next occupant of the White House.

    In both domestic and foreign affairs, it will not be sufficient to simply revisit decisions made by President Donald Trump but to come up with a proactive agenda for a new president—or a second Trump administration.

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  • The Iron and Depressing Laws of US-Iran Relations

    Among the unalterable “laws of the Medes and the Persians” that have ruled US-Iran relations for decades are the following:

    • Everything takes longer than you think.
    • Everything is harder than you think.
    • Whenever you begin to make progress, some bad fortune or stupidity will screw up everything.

    The first two are obvious. In the last two years, with a new American administration, we have seen the third operating at full force.  

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