Ali Vaez


Tehran is likely to retaliate against U.S. efforts to undermine the nuclear deal inside the region, where it has a stronger hand. With tensions rising and no high-level political channel between Tehran and Washington, an incident at sea, escalation by proxy in Yemen or a clash between the two sides or their respective allies in the race for territory formerly occupied by ISIS could rapidly take a turn for the worse. Iran is also likely to double down on policies it presents as essential to its national security: the missile program as conventional deterrence and its “forward defense policy” of bolstering regional partners and proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, which ostensibly aims at deterring an attack on its own soil. Thus, by destabilizing the JCPOA, the Trump administration could usher in what it purportedly seeks to prevent: greater Iranian assertiveness, more regional instability and lower odds of resolving the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen—places where Iran is part of the problem and thus, inescapably, must be part of the solution.

Bio: Ali Vaez is Crisis Group’s Senior Iran analyst based in Istanbul. Consulting closely with all sides in the nuclear negotiations for the past few years, he led Crisis Group’s efforts in helping to bridge the gaps between Iran and the P5+1 and is renowned as one of the foremost experts on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

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