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Russia’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is just the beginning of Moscow’s designs on the wider Middle East, Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, warned on May 30.

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Iran forty years after its Islamic revolution is facing a grave economic crisis and growing popular discontent. It continues to commit acts that deepen its isolation even as it benefits from the mistakes of its adversaries. US sanctions are more punishing than anticipated but will probably not cause Iran to alter policies of greatest concern to Washington, such as regional interventions and ballistic missile development, and are instead strengthening hardline elements as Iran approaches a key political transition. Meanwhile, society has already undergone a cultural counter-revolution that aging ayatollahs cannot reverse.

These were among the insights gleaned from a day-long conference at the Atlantic Council on February 12. Organized in conjunction with the Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida, it brought together veteran scholars and up and coming experts with recent field experience in Iran. Many of the speakers also wrote blog posts, which were collected on our IranSource site.

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Iran’s environmental challenges are reaching a crisis point. Severe water and air pollution, deforestation, land degradation, desertification, climate change, and biodiversity loss are only a few of the increasing number of major environmental issues faced by Iran. These calamities have become a source of social and economic hardship, a threat to public health and a factor in mounting political protests.

On June 26, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative launched a new issue brief, Environmental and Wildlife Degradation in Iran, by ecologist David Laylin. The report details the breadth of these challenges and outlines steps the Islamic Republic and international partners might take to begin to remedy them.

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On Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Atlantic Council's Economic Sanctions Initiative hosted a private breakfast on US sanctions against Iran and the fate of the JCPOA.

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Iran’s political elite is “graying” and the average age of its members exceeds 55 in the cabinet and 65 in clerical-led institutions, according to Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a professor of political science at Syracuse University and co-author of an upcoming new book, Post-Revolutionary Iran: A Handbook.

Boroujerdi, who spoke March 12 at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran initiative, said the median age in the cabinet of President Hassan Rouhani is 57 – compared to 38 in cabinets just following the 1979 Islamic revolution. The average age of members of the Guardian Council, a cleric-led body that vets all candidates for elected office, is 66 and the figure for the Assembly of Experts – clerics who nominally supervise Iran’s Supreme Leader – is 68. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 78.

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Iran’s missile program has long been a subject of controversy and the Trump administration has in recent weeks tied its continued implementation of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord to European support for more stringent curbs on Iran’s missile development.

At a Feb. 20 panel on the issue organized by the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, noted that according to the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a missile capable of carrying a 500 kilogram warhead 300 kilometers is considered “nuclear capable.” By that definition, Elleman said, eight of 13 Iranian missiles could be considered nuclear capable. United Nations Resolution 2231, which codified the Iran nuclear deal, calls upon Iran not to test missiles “designed to be capable” of delivering nuclear weapons for eight years.

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In the aftermath of widespread protests in more than 100 cities in Iran, a new public opinion poll conducted by the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, in conjunction with IranPoll.com, suggests that the overwhelming majorities of Iranians agree with protestors’ critiques of government economic performance.

On Friday, February 2, the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative hosted a panel discussion on the results of the new survey to examine key issues including climate change, unemployment, economic mismanagement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the broader set of regional and international issues faced by the nation.

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European ambassadors to the United States on September 25 defended the nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is working, while warning that reopening negotiations would be a nonstarter and walking away from the deal would have serious consequences.

This joint defense comes as US President Donald J. Trump, who has to certify to the US Congress by October 15 that Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement, has reiterated his displeasure with the deal.

Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig, said the onus is on those who seek to renegotiate the deal to prove that first, renegotiation is possible, and second, it will deliver better results. “We don’t think it will be possible to renegotiate it and we believe there is no practical, peaceful alternative to this deal,” Wittig said.

Read full article here.

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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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