Best Analysis

The Iran Deal's Problematic Construct of Sanctions Relief And What To Do About It

Sahand MoarefySahand Moarefy describes how the American structure of sanctions against Iran creates challenges for lifting nuclear-related sanctions while maintaining non-nuclear sanctions. He notes that because of years of placing sanctions on Iran for both nuclear and non-nuclear activities, it is tremendously difficult to untangle them and lift only a discrete set of sanctions, creating complex problems in the process of providing Iran with sanctions relief as described in the JCPOA. He suggests this problem can be addressed and the JCPOA preserved by emphasizing the unstable nature of the Iranian financial sector as a reason for foreign concern about investment, and offering Iranian banks a structure where they can engage in international business after an inspection process determines that they are not violating standing US sanctions. In the long term, he suggests policymakers shift how they apply sanctions in order to disentangle nuclear related sanctions from non-nuclear actions. To read an extended version of the report, please click here.

The Real Threat to the Iran Deal: Tehran's Banking System

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate of the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes in The Diplomat that a key threat to the ongoing implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is the risky nature of the Iranian financial sector. While Iran is banking on receiving greater foreign investment, continued problems with the Iranian financial sector, including lack of sufficient regulatory controls and the potential ties to terrorist financing, have made companies cautious about investing in Iran. He suggests that the United States work with Iran to bring its banking system up to the same standard as the global economy, and to consider closer integration of Iran into the world economy in order to preserve the effects of the nuclear agreement.

Translation: Six “Historical Acts of Sabotage” between Iran and US

One year ago today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress with the goal of derailing late-stage nuclear negotiations with Iran. His campaign failed, but the anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on how efforts to sabotage rapprochement between Iran and the US have succeeded in the past.

The Iran-Saudi Conflict

The heightening of tensions between Riyadh and Tehran has become a significant factor in the regional politics of the Middle East.  While the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is certainly not a new phenomenon, the recent execution of Sheikh Nimr by the Kingdom, the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Iran, and the end to formal diplomatic ties between the two countries signals a more dangerous chapter in the regional conflict. What are the perspectives from Iran and Saudi Arabia on the rising tensions? How do they view each other’s regional intentions and foreign policies? And, what steps can be taken to mitigate the conflict? To answer these questions, the Iran Project, led by Payam Mohseni, has solicited two pieces to provide us with vantage points representing how Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively view each other. Below, we are delighted to highlight HRH Abdulmajeed AlSaud’s article on behalf of the Saudi perspective, and Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Mehrdad Saberi’s article on the Iranian perspective.

53 National Security Leaders Welcome Implementation of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Graham AllisonJoseph NyeJim WalshGraham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Joseph Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professorand James Walsh, Research Associate with the Security Studies Program at MIT were among a group of 53 national security leaders and analysts who signed a statement supporting the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement. The statement highlights the progress made by the agreement in limiting Iran's nuclear program and reaffirms, despite continued differences between the United States and Iran, the value of diplomacy in resolving international disputes.

Iran Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: A Belfer Center Expert Round-Up

The Iran nuclear deal was officially implemented on Saturday, as Iran successfully fulfilled its initial key nuclear commitments and the international community relieved major sanctions, including unfreezing about $100 billion of Iranian money. Implementation Day was met with applause from deal supporters in the U.S. and Iran, while critics have raised questions about whether Iran will adhere to its requirements and how it will flex its newfound economic power. Also in recent days, the U.S. and Iran agreed to a prisoner swap that led to the freedom of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and others, and negotiated the release of American sailors detained in Iran. What does the arrival of Implementation Day mean for Iran’s nuclear program and nuclear nonproliferation, and how does it bode for the future of U.S.-Iran relations? We asked Belfer Center experts to weigh in on these and related questions.

What about the integrity of Iran’s financial system?

Aaron ArnoldAaron Arnold, Associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center, writes in The Hill that while Iran will soon be getting sanctions relief as the nuclear accord with the P5+1 is enacted, it has not yet taken steps to update its banking system and bring it up to international money laundering and counter-terror financing. He also suggests that in order to balance the competing political and financial concerns at play with sanctions, the international community led by the United States should make clear conditions for both exclusion and rejoining of the international financial system.

Reading the IAEA’s Report on Possible Military Dimensions in Iran’s Nuclear Program

Olli HeinonenOlli Heinonen, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes that despite the general lack of cooperation from Iran, the IAEA has produced a successful comprehensive report detailing Iran's nuclear activities. However he notes that Iran's noncompliance has hampered the final determinations, and so further investigation and intelligence operations should be conducted to determine the extent of Iranian nuclear activity.