All in Policy

Iraq's Top Cleric Joins Game of Thrones

◢ Ostensibly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq was meant to deepen economic ties between the two neighbors, historically divided by political and sectarian enmities as much as they are connected by geography. Only one Iraqi leader could have kept Rouhani at arm’s length: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, But he didn’t. The audience he gave the Iranian president says as much about Sistani’s own political adventurism as it does about Iraq’s subservience to Iran.

The United States and Iran are in a Quantum War

◢ It took just under an hour for staff at Israel’s Government Press Office to delete a tweet that suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had finally decided to wage war on Iran. The conflict Iran faces today is neither a hot war nor a cold war. It is a quantum war—a superimposition of two states of conflict. Put another way, depending on when you observe the facts, Iran is both at war and it is not.

Poll Shows Iranian Attitudes Towards Europe Becoming More Negative

◢ A new survey conducted by research firm IranPoll offers the first insights into Iranian public sentiment following the reimposition of US secondary sanctions on Iran. The new wave of polling helps confirm recent reporting from Iran that support for the JCPOA has fallen, with just 51 percent of respondents approving of the deal down from 55 percent in January 2018. For European policymakers, the new polling should offer a stark warning it must refocus its political and economic efforts to save the nuclear deal.

Trading With Iran Via the Special Purpose Vehicle: How It Can Work

◢ Following weeks of speculation, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany (the E3) have formally registered a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to help facilitate trade with Iran – trade that the return of US sanctions has significantly hampered. Companies in Europe and Iran are eager to know if the system can be of practical use. The assessment below lays out INSTEX’s likely structure.

Why The Iran Nuclear Deal Still Matters for Europe

◢ The JCPOA continues to hang together—but only just. There are growing indications of signatory states’ fatigue and frustration in attempting to prevent the collapse of the JCPOA, following the US withdrawal from it last May. In this climate, it is important for the deal’s stakeholders to remember why it remains valuable

The Economic War Iran Faces is Bigger Than it Thinks

◢ On the third anniversary of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Republic, the era of hope ushered in by the election of Hassan Rouhani and the implementation of the nuclear deal seems a lifetime ago. Iran remains in compliance with the agreement, but begrudgingly. Europe looks impotent in the face of U.S. sanctions. But Iran’s economic war isn't just a fight against sanctions. Iran is the frontline of an intensifying economic war between the US, Europe, China, and Russia.

For Iranian Passengers, Old Planes and Few Parts Make Air Travel 5.5 More Times Deadly

◢ Statistically speaking, air travel in Iran is still safe. This is in large part due to the efforts of Iranian pilots and maintenance crews to keep aircraft operable despite limited resources. But even if the overall risk of an accident remains statistically low, the risk still far exceeds expected levels. Looking to an “exposure based” measure, flying in Iran is on average 5.5 times more deadly than flying in the rest of the world.

America’s Latest Wave of Iran Sanctions: An Explainer

◢ On 5 November, the Trump administration’s latest and most significant wave of sanctions against Iran came into effect. The US Treasury has issued a list of more than 700 Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and Blocked Persons, which includes roughly 300 entities that did not feature in Obama-era sanctions. The new sanctions impact Iran’s oil and transportation industries and banking sector in important ways.

Iran: The Case for Protecting Humanitarian Trade

◢ A crisis is looming in Iran’s healthcare sector: patients are reporting shortages in life-saving medicine. The situation is expected to worsen once US sanctions on Iran are reimposed in November. European and US companies that can provide the advanced medicine and equipment needed to treat chronic diseases inside Iran are grappling with how to sustain their operations. New US sanctions will put the health of ordinary Iranians at risk. Europe can take concrete steps to minimize this—steps which also support its ongoing commitment to the nuclear deal.

Here's How the European Commission Will Allocate EUR 18 Million in Iran

◢ This month, the European Commission approved an initial tranche of EUR 18 million in development funding from an larger package of EUR 50 million that has been allocated to support projects in Iran. This represents a highly significant, “first-of-its-kind,” intervention to support Europe-Iran trade and investment. However, the funding is not primarily intended as an attempt to mitigate the effect of returning U.S. secondary sanctions. As made clear in the “action document” which details how the development funding will be distributed, the European Commission has allocated the funding “in line with the European Consensus on Development” to provide “targeted support in the areas of Prosperity, Planet and People.”

Can Europe Defend Itself And Iran From U.S. Sanctions?

◢ In an op-ed published in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared that the “the US and Europe have been drifting apart for years.” In order to defend the JCPOA and protect European companies active in Iran from U.S. sanctions, Maas has outlined three initiatives: “establishing payment channels independent of the US, a European monetary fund, and an independent SWIFT [payments] system.” This has given many in Iran hope that Europe might still be able to create an “economic package” to save the JCPOA. But Maas’s vision is not an economic package. It is an economic process, which may prove transformative, but only in the long term.

Brexit Britain Must Match EU Efforts to Save Iran Nuclear Deal

◢ With the UK poised to leave the European Union, Brexit Britain can no longer rely on EU economic measures to protect the Iran nuclear deal. The UK government needs to parallelize its efforts with those of the EU, following the example of EU member states such as France and Austria in order to explore the use of state-owned financing entities to open sanctions-compliant investment channels. The Iranian government should insist that the UK shows greater initiative as a party to the JCPOA.

Negotiations On Legal Status of Caspian Sea Approach Finish Line

◢ Negotiations on the international legal status of the Caspian Sea, which started in 1996, appear to have at last reached the finish line. After 22 years, the five countries around the sea have come close to signing a convention on its legal status. If they do, it seems that the agreement will allow to pave the way for the construction of the underwater the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline and other projects and will also close the access to the sea for the armed force of third countries.  

Three Years Later: Europe’s Last Push on the Iran Nuclear Deal

◢ The Iran nuclear agreement marked its third anniversary in a gloomy state. Many hoped that the resolution of the nuclear dispute would result in a new understanding between the West and Iran, opening a pathway for detente rather than confrontation. Relations between Europe and Iran have certainly made gains in this direction, but the Trump administration’s maximalist stance on Tehran has created an extremely hazardous environment for all remaining stakeholders in the nuclear deal.

Iran Shows New Savvy in Defining Outcome of Key Nuclear Deal Meeting

◢ Iran has finally learned how to use the Joint Commission of the nuclear deal to tackle its economic challenges. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif got what he needed from the ministerial meeting. Two months following Trump’s abrogation of the nuclear deal, the remaining parties to the agreement proved able to present a consensus position on the need to protect Iran’s economic interests in direct contravention of the declared US policy. On practical implementation, bilateral exchanges are the preferred route forward.