Nuclear weapons

Expert Voices

Without new talks, U.S.–Iran tensions continue to escalate

spokesman for Iran's atomic energy agency in front of microphones at a press conference
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, at a press conference in July 2018. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

With its announcement Monday that it will exceed limits on the amount of low-enriched uranium allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is signaling the death of the landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers in 2015.

Why it matters: Even if initial infringements are modest, the combination of rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, a near-total U.S. embargo on Iranian energy exports and Europe’s failure to operationalize a reliable means of trading with Iran is increasingly unstable.

Global hotspots: North Korea and Iran

Soldiers from Russia, Iran, and China and North Korea pose for a photo before a display during a 'Kimjongilia' flower exhibition celebrating late leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang
Soldiers from Russia, Iran, China and North Korea in Pyongyang in Feb. 2019. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Two of the countries where the threat of direct military conflict with the U.S. is greatest are Iran and North Korea.

Threat level: Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who until last April was involved in the most sensitive discussions on those countries with President Trump, warns it’s “difficult to overstate the threat from a nuclear North Korea.”