Increasing U.S. Sanctions Pressure Raises the Risks of Iranian Retaliation

May 16, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

Protesters pretend to hit a man wearing a mask of U.S. President Donald Trump during an April 12, 2019, rally in the Iranian capital of Tehran.

Iranians pretend to hit a man wearing a mask of US President Donald Trump during an anti-US rally following Friday prayers in Tehran on April 12, 2019. - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week accused the United States of being the real "leader of world terrorism", hitting back after Washington blacklisted Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation. Tehran was quick to retaliate on Monday by declaring US troops "terrorists" following Washington's move, which was welcomed by Iran's regional arch-rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia.

(AFP/Getty Images)


  • Iranian retaliation against sanctions pressure would most like consist of cyberattacks.
  • While a direct military response by Iran is less likely, U.S. companies and civilians in the region must still take the possibility into account.
  • Iran's embassies, intelligence networks and proxies give it a global reach, though retaliation is more likely in the Middle East.

Turning up sanctions pressure on Iran means the United States is increasing the risk that Tehran will respond aggressively against the U.S. government and military, and against the private sector. Already-fraught relations between the two countries worsened May 8, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would suspend some commitments under the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rouhani said that Iran could begin enriching uranium above levels mandated by the JCPOA within 60 days, an action that represents the latest of many escalations between the two countries....

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