Stories by Ali Vaez

Expert Voices

Iran's nuclear escalation raises stakes for U.S. and Europe

Behrouz Kamalvandi and Ali Rabiei seated while giving a press conference
Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi and government spokesman Ali Rabiei at a press conference in Tehran on July 7. Photo: Iranian Presidency/AFP/Getty Images

Iran's announcement that it's stepping up uranium enrichment levels to 5% follows its breach of the 2015 nuclear deal's stockpile limits and marks its latest escalatory gambit to secure economic relief from Europe, sanctions reductions from the U.S., or both.

Why it matters: For a year after the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran stuck to the agreement, hoping its compliance would be reciprocated by other signatories' initiatives. With Europe's special trade mechanism slow to come together, Tehran is stepping up enrichment to raise the costs of European delay and American escalation. Yet each new measure increases the possibility of a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran.

Expert Voices

Trump's Iran policy could prop up regime in spite of economic harms

Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran. Photo: Iranian presidency handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday that Iran will partially cease to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal was a foreseeable outgrowth of draconian sanctions imposed by the U.S. after its withdrawal from the agreement last year.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign has increased the threat of a nuclear escalation across the Middle East. Even short of that nightmare scenario, it could be self-defeating in the long term, hurting Iran’s pro-Western middle class at the expense of hardliners who control both the black market and a repressive state apparatus to stifle dissent.