Calming the Persian Gulf: The experts on resolving the US-Iran standoff

By , July 31, 2019

From left, President of the United States Donald Trump and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani

The US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal (known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) has created an increasingly tense situation throughout the Middle East. After withdrawing from the JCPOA, the United States has embarked on a “maximum pressure” campaign that includes economic sanctions aimed at restricting trade with Iran by US firms and by companies of other signatories to the JCPOA. This campaign has negatively affected the Iranian economy and been met by Iranian countermeasures, including moves to increase uranium enrichment above levels dictated by the JCPOA, the downing of an American drone, and the seizure of a British oil tanker, apparently in response to the seizure of an Iranian tanker suspected of violating European Union sanctions.

As the situation now stands, the United States is demanding that Iran enter new negotiations on its nuclear program, its ballistic missile program, and a host of activities that US officials contend undermine peace across the Middle East. Iran has declined to negotiate, claiming that the United States violated the nuclear agreement, even though Iran was in compliance with its terms. Representatives of Iran and the five other remaining parties to the JCPOA—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—met in Vienna on Sunday in an attempt to keep the deal alive.

I have asked top experts from a variety of countries and with a variety of points of view to offer their best and most realistic advice on how the US-Iran impasse might be broken, so a war that neither the United States nor Iran seems eager to begin can be averted. That advice follows.

Never waste a good crisis

Coercive diplomacy is a legitimate part of national security decision-making, and even Trump critics must acknowledge that the policy of “maximal pressure” has placed Iran under extreme duress. If managed correctly, Trump’s approach may have opened new possibilities to address the shortcomings of the Iran nuclear deal.

Three steps toward resolving Iran’s nuclear crisis

It been more than two and half years since Trump’s election, but none of the objectives of the ill-advised “maximum pressure” policy has been achieved.

Restarting negotiations with Iran

Because it has done so much to create the impasse with Iran, the Trump administration should lead the process toward actual negotiations, relaxing some of the sanctions now in place, reinstating the waivers that allowed European allies to buy Iranian oil, and withdrawing some of its military forces.

US-Iran: avoiding military confrontation

The source of tension is not Trump leaving the JCPOA, but rather the dangerously flawed nuclear deal itself and Iran’s ongoing nuclear weapons ambitions.

Steps back from the brink at the Strait of Hormuz

The United States and Iran may be heading to a showdown at the Strait of Hormuz that could potentially lead to war. The result could be many deaths, serious damage to the world economy, and an Iran hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Is there any way out?

Making the best of Europe’s dwindling options

As two parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the United States and Iran—are now openly and willfully violating the nuclear accord, it is becoming more difficult by the day for Europeans to pursue their policy of preserving the JCPOA.

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William Schmidt
William Schmidt
4 years ago

Thank you very much for this concise and penetrating discussion, which I think represents the full range of views on this complex subject. A complicating factor, I believe, is that Iran’s leaders can plainly see how a rogue nuclear power (North Korea) has been treated by the current US administration. That, I think, is a clear inducement to them to proceed to build and test their own device.

Dr. Roger Kotila
4 years ago

Where is Israel in this conflict with Iran? Can we expect Iran to remain without nuclear weapons when Israel has refused to even discuss giving up its nuclear weapons? Israel is the elephant in the room going largely unnoticed while the U.S. acts as Israel’s proxy pressuring Iran with sanctions which could be interpreted as acts of war. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the U.S. demands that Israel quits its (illegal) provocations against Iran, within Syria, and its shameful treatment of the Palestinians.