Stories by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Expert Voices

As Iran’s missile program expands, so do challenges of confrontation

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif speaking from a lectern
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the Munich Security Conference. Photo: Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images

At the Munich Security Conference last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed the Islamic Republic’s right to “sophisticated means of defense,” alluding to the ballistic missiles whose flight tests and transfers the Trump administration has sought to curb.

Why it matters: Multiple U.S. intelligence community assessments have judged Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal to be large and diverse. Some have even assessed that ballistic missiles would be Tehran’s “preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them.”

Expert Voices

New U.S. sanctions a limited move against Iran proxy groups in Syria

Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei attends the funeral ceremony of a member of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who died during a clash in Syria
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at the Tehran funeral of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps member who died in Syria in 2017. Photo: Iranian Leader's Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Trump administration on Thursday took its first significant move against 2 of Iran’s non-Arab Shiite militias in Syria with two different executive orders — one related to human rights and the other to terrorism. Both groups, the Fatemiyoun and Zeynabiyoun, support Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF), which was sanctioned over a decade ago but remains active across the Middle East.

Why it matters: The U.S. Congress has attempted several times to get the administration to designate Iran-backed militias, whether in Iraq or Syria, as terrorists, given their ties to the IRGC-QF. The administration’s voluntary designation of the Fatemiyoun and Zeynabiyoun therefore represents a paradigm shift, adding Iran’s agents of influence to the U.S. Treasury's financial blacklist and subjecting them to sanctions.

Expert Voices

With new EU sanctions, Europe takes a stricter approach to Iran

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen gives a press conference in Copenhagen, on October 30, 2018.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen. Photo by Martin Sylvest/AFP via Getty Images

The EU added two Iranian nationals and one branch of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence on Tuesday to its terror sanctions list in response to foiled terror plots, stigmatizing the targets as well as freezing their assets. EU officials recently met their Iranian counterparts to convey that their obligations under the nuclear deal do not inhibit them “from addressing other hostile and destabilizing activities.”

The big picture: The new penalties are the first sanctions not related to human rights the EU has collectively levied against Iran since agreeing to the nuclear deal in 2015. For this reason alone, no matter how marginal their economic impact, the asset freezes are a symbolic victory for the Trump administration, which has been trying to get Europe to join its pressure campaign.

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