247 Items

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran on June 24.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Deescalation Wanted: How Trump Can Steer Clear of a War

| June 26, 2019

The United States and Iran have engaged in a constant raising of the stakes as a means of securing leverage ahead of possible nuclear negotiations. This is a classic bargaining pattern but in the current context, such an approach is particularly risky due to the potential for misperceptions. The complexities of domestic and regional dynamics are also a factor. In such a situation, absent clear understanding of the other’s motivations and tactics, raising the stakes—rather than securing leverage for effective negotiations—could steer the United States and Iran towards a path toward war.

A water desalination plant near an Abu Dhabi beach in 1980.

AP Photo/Randy Taylor

Analysis & Opinions - LobeLog

Gulf Escalation Threatens Drinking Water

| June 26, 2019

The Persian Gulf is one of the most populous and environmentally-sensitive regions in the world. Consequently, it is no surprise that Gulf states are increasingly dependent on desalination for their drinking water. But that dependence carries severe risks in a region as volatile as the Gulf has been, especially in light of recent tensions between the United States and Iran. Any accident or military conflict in the Gulf could cause massive spills of long-lasting contaminants such as crude oil or radioactive material into its waters, which could seriously threaten the lives and well-being of millions of people in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, walks with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steve Bondy, left, and United Arab Emirates Minister of State Ahmed al-Sayegh, right, upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on June 24.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press, Pool

Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

How to Defuse Gulf Tensions and Avoid War with Iran

| June 24, 2019

The Trump administration has spent over a year attempting to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table to get a “better deal” than the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That strategy has failed. Iran has demonstrated that it is willing to risk war rather than endure the humiliation of negotiating “withsomebodywho hasaknife inhishand.” And PresidentTrump has indicated he doesn’t want to go to war in the Middle East.

The nuclear archive warehouse outside Tehran (Satellite image via Google).

Satellite image via Google

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

In mid-January, a team of scholars from the Belfer Center’s Intelligence and Managing the Atom Projects traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to examine samples of, and receive briefings on, an archive of documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The large cache includes some 55,000 pages of documents and a further 55,000 files on CDs that included photos and videos. A clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited the materials out of Iran in early 2018.

The documents that the Belfer group were shown confirm that senior Iranian officials had decided in the late 1990s to actually manufacture nuclear weapons and carry out an underground nuclear test; that Iran’s program to do so made more technical progress than had previously been understood; and that Iran had help from quite a number of foreign scientists, and access to several foreign nuclear weapon designs. The archive also leaves open a wide range of questions, including what plan, if any, Iran has had with respect to nuclear weapons in the nearly 16 years since Iran’s government ordered a halt to most of the program in late 2003. 

This brief report summarizes the group’s conclusions about what the archive reveals about Iran’s program and questions that remain open.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin provide an update on the Trump administration's Iran policy at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2018 (State Department via Flickr).

State Department via Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Not very SWIFT

| Nov. 06, 2018

Not only would sanctioning SWIFT be a major escalation in U.S. sanctions policy, but an entirely reckless decision. Realistically, enforcing sanctions against SWIFT would have significant consequences for both the U.S. and global financial system—upending decades of international norms.

A stack of Iranian rials and a stack of Euros (Ivar Husevåg Døskeland via Flickr/Creative Commons).

Ivar Husevåg Døskeland via Flickr/Creative Commons

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

International Anti-Money Laundering Reforms and Iran

| Nov. 06, 2018

Although it remains to be seen whether or not the Iran nuclear deal is salvageable, there are few incentives left for Iran to implement anti-money laundering reforms. For better or worse, the Financial Action Task Force and the future of the JCPOA have become politically intertwined as a consequence of US unilateral sanctions.

Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Solving the Jurisdictional Conundrum: How U.S. Enforcement Agencies Target Overseas Illicit Procurement Networks Using Civil Courts

| September 2018

Over the past two decades, the United States has increasingly turned to targeted sanctions and export restrictions, such as those imposed against Iran and North Korea, in order to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction. One vexing problem, however, is how to contend with jurisdictional hurdles when the violations occur overseas, in countries that are unable or unwilling to assist US enforcement efforts. To solve this problem, US prosecutors are turning to strategies with significant extraterritorial implications—that is, exercising legal authority beyond national borders. One such tool is to use civil legal procedures to seize assets linked to sanctions or export-control violations in jurisdictions that lack cooperative arrangements with US enforcement agencies. While this may be an attractive strategy to bolster enforcement efforts against overseas illicit procurement, using such tools is not without consequence. This article explores the political, legal, and technical implications of enforcing extraterritorial controls against overseas non-state actors by exploring the recent uses of civil-asset forfeiture against Iranian and North Korean procurement networks.