Stories by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Expert Voices

Iranian government meets growing protests with harsher crackdown

protestors surround a burning motorcycle in a street intersection
Protesters in Isfahan, Iran, on Nov. 16, 2019. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has likened the recent wave of protests to a “vast, very dangerous and planned conspiracy,” but, in fact, the demonstrations reflect growing shifts among the people of Iran and in neighboring countries.

The big picture: Khamenei and the rest of the regime have long pointed a finger abroad when under strain at home. But they're now facing greater pressure and responding with firmer tactics, including the use of lethal force under the cover of an internet blackout.

Expert Voices

Expanding U.S. pressure campaign on Iran could reach a tipping point

Rouhani and Khamanei on stage together
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) on stage with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: Iranian Religious Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, which escalated further last week with new State Department findings that link the country's construction sector to its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Why it matters: The maximum pressure policy has undoubtedly hurt Iran's economy, but it risks becoming a victim of its own success if dried-up revenues spark Iran to lash out further. While Washington has mostly avoided open conflict thus far, following that path may be harder as Iran grows more defiant.

Expert Voices

Rouhani's UN address reflects Iran's growing intransigence

Hassan Rouhani speaking to the United Nations General Assembly from a lectern
Rouhani addressing the 2019 UN General Assembly. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at world leaders in a strident address from the floor of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday, underscoring the Islamic Republic's increasing isolation on the international stage.

The big picture: Since May 2019, the world has seen Iran violate nuclear commitments and attack oil installations and commercial shipping critical to the international economy. France, Germany, and the U.K. have joined Washington in pointing a finger at Iran after the recent strikes on Saudi oil facilities, a sign that the trans-Atlantic community may be uniting against Tehran.