Why 2020 Could Be a Year of Escalation With Iran

Dec 27, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

This stylized image with elements from NASA shows the Middle East from space.

This stylized image with elements from NASA shows the Middle East from space. A lull in Mideast tensions could soon be coming to an end.



  • Dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran could help de-escalate some of the physical risks that Iran poses to Saudi Arabia.
  • However, the likelihood that Iran will soon announce additional departures from compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal could inflame regional tensions.
  • In the most extreme scenario, Iran's development of its nuclear program and its activities through its proxies in Iraq and elsewhere could incite a military confrontation in the year to come.

After the dramatic cruise missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais on Sept. 14, the provocations by Iran and its proxies against Saudi Arabia and regional shipping have ebbed. And with the Trump administration choosing to avoid direct military retaliation against Iran -- even after pointing the finger of blame squarely at Tehran for the September attacks -- the Saudis have backed away from their sharply confrontational stance toward Iran in favor of seeking dialogue to reduce tensions. In the larger contest, however, Iran and the United States remain on a collision course. For one, Iran has said it will take additional steps to abandon some of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. What's more, Iran's installation of ballistic missiles in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to target Israel, as well as the increasing frequency of attacks by Iran-backed Iraqi militias against...

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