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AssessmentsApr 27, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An Iranian warship takes part in celebrations for “National Persian Gulf Day” in the Strait of Hormuz on April 30, 2019.
Trump Ups the Ante With Iran in the Persian Gulf
Iran and the United States may be heading toward another round of confrontation, even as both countries deal with significant COVID-19 outbreaks at home. Following a recent incident where 11 Iranian ships harassed U.S. vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted April 22 that he had "instructed" the U.S. Navy to destroy any Iranian vessels harassing U.S. ships. It remains unclear the extent to which, if at all, the United States will adjust its rules of engagement in response to Iran's latest maritime provocations. But the exchange highlights how Washington and Tehran’s current hawkish streak and inclination toward public threats could lead to another round of miscalculation and/or escalation between the two rivals. 
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SnapshotsApr 16, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
A Naval Incident Brings Iran-U.S. Tensions Back to the Fore
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, Iran’s recent acts of aggression in the Persian Gulf have brought the persistent threat of U.S.-Iran tensions back to the forefront. For Tehran, such provocations help remind the United States that it will not cave to U.S. pressure to change its behavior, and can also spark distractions that end up being politically useful at home.
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AssessmentsMar 5, 2020 | 18:06 GMT
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran on Feb. 23, 2020.
What Conservative Control of Iran's Parliament Foretells
Iran's parliamentary elections on Feb. 21 produced a conservative parliament that will support more hard-line policies against the United States. The new parliament will clash with the more moderate administration of President Hassan Rouhani over how tactically to manage the country's economy through the next and final year of Rouhani's term. But on a strategic level, regardless of the election results, Iran's government across the political spectrum is still aligned on the need to implement austere economic policies to help weather sanctions and to continue an aggressive foreign policy against the United States. The sanctions-burdened economy is negatively affecting the lives of Iranians; how it fares over the next year will determine the kind of conservative candidate -- pragmatist, traditional, hard-line or populist -- likely to win Iran's 2021 presidential election.
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GuidanceFeb 19, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presents the budget for the fiscal year that starts in late March 2020 on Dec. 8, 2019. Rouhani described it as a "budget of resistance" against crippling U.S. sanctions.
What Iran's Next Vote Means for Policy and the Presidency
On Feb. 21, Iran will hold the first round of parliamentary elections that could usher in the return of a more conservative legislature. With moderates and reformists taking a back seat, such an outcome would nudge Tehran toward more hard-line and hawkish foreign policies, leaving less room for negotiation with the West amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. Regardless of its next ideological make-up, however, Iran's incoming parliament will struggle more than ever to answer the economic and social demands of an increasingly desperate and cash-strapped electorate -- a reality that could have dire consequences for Tehran's political stability ahead of the country's crucial 2021 presidential election.
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AssessmentsFeb 18, 2020 | 20:15 GMT
This photo shows Iran's successful test launch of its Qiam-1 ballistic missile
What’s Driving Iran to Build a Better Missile
Greater attention will be given to Iran's missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs from now on. The September drone attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the January missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that left 109 U.S. military members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries highlighted Iran's increased willingness to use its missile and UAV arsenal for tactical and strategic objectives.
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AssessmentsJan 24, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses parliament in the capital of Tehran on Sept. 3, 2019.
U.S. Pressure Tilts the Political Balance Toward Iran's Hard-liners
As the first parliamentary contest since the United States began ramping up its pressure campaign, Iran's Feb. 21 election will provide a key glimpse into Iranians' mixed feelings about the recent uptick in tensions between Washington and Tehran. On one hand, many Iranians criticize hard-line elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for incidents like the Jan. 8 strike on a Ukrainian passenger jet, which risked further alienating Iran from its allies and, in turn, the global economy. But by highlighting just how hostile U.S.-Iran relations have gotten, the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has also made it clear that President Hassan Rouhani's more moderate approach to Washington's provocations isn't working either. Against the backdrop of renewed U.S. threats, conservative candidates' promises of revenge will likely win out against reformists candidates' promises of negotiation. But even if next month's election results in a more decisively hard-line parliament, Tehran's leaders will still have to reckon with an increasingly
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Contributor PerspectivesJan 20, 2020 | 09:45 GMT
A picture taken on Jan. 11, 2020, shows portraits of Iraq's slain Popular Mobilization Unit deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the late founder of Kataib Hezbollah, on the southern exit of the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Reflections on the Life and Death of an Iraqi Militant
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis fought Saddam Hussein, engineered attacks on Western embassies and took on the Islamic State. His death in the same strike that killed Iran's Qassem Soleimani increased local hostility to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
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AssessmentsJan 17, 2020 | 09:30 GMT
OPEC's logo is seen at the organization's headquarters on Sept. 26, 2019.
It Will Take More Than the Soleimani Crisis to Cause Lasting Oil Price Spikes
The recent flare-up in the Middle East between the United States and Iran highlights a structural shift in how the oil market reacts to political risks. The market has shifted to a baseline with a modestly bearish outlook and a reluctance to price in risk in the manner it previously has. But even so, the potential exists for a massive price move in the less probable (but still very plausible) event of a major and lasting disruption.
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AssessmentsJan 8, 2020 | 20:54 GMT
Mourners in Tehran carry a banner featuring Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the military leader's funeral procession on Jan. 6.
Iran Is Still Playing the Long Game
If the Islamic Republic of Iran has had one consistent goal since 1979, it's been survival; since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has essentially existed in crisis management mode, whether it's been fighting Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War or weathering the latest U.S. sanctions. Today, there are two interlinked issues that Iran views as essential to its long-term survival: Its economic health and its regional strategy in Iraq and the Levant. Protecting both of these priorities has put Tehran in a bind, however: Iran could ameliorate its dire economic situation by caving in to U.S. demands and disengaging from the wider Middle East. But this would entail reducing support for its regional proxies and Bashar al Assad's government in Syria, thereby crippling Iran's strategy to project power across the region -- the very thing that so irked U.S. President Donald Trump in the first place. Still, bind or not, Iran's limited
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SITUATION REPORTJan 8, 2020 | 14:45 GMT
Middle East: Companies Take Measures to Reduce Security Risk Amid U.S.-Iran Tensions
Several international oil companies have taken precautions to limit their exposure to U.S.-Iran tensions in the Middle East by either evacuating staff from sensitive areas, such as Iraq, or aborting oil tanker crossings through the Strait of Hormuz, Reuters reported Jan. 7.
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SnapshotsJan 8, 2020 | 00:27 GMT
Iran Fires Missiles at U.S. Targets in Iraq
Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles against multiple U.S. targets in Iraq, including military facilities in Arbil in northern Iraq and the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, ABC News reported Jan. 7. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed credit for launching the missiles in Iranian state media, and said that any retaliation from the United States would be met with a “bigger and more comprehensive response." There are no immediate reports of casualties.
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AssessmentsJan 7, 2020 | 20:13 GMT
Relatives of the five Israeli victims of a suicide blast that targeted a bus of tourists in Bulgaria mourn in Sofia on Aug. 28, 2012.
Iran Will Find Retaliating Against the U.S. Easier in the Middle East
Outside the Middle East, Iran is still a threat, as demonstrated by its repeated attempts to attack its rivals in Europe, East Africa, Eastern Europe and even Southeast Asia. Iran's intelligence assets and its operatives with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are constantly at work conducting surveillance on targets around the globe -- especially in places not typically associated with the Iranian threat -- in preparation for future attacks. But they have struggled with operations in hostile environments, showing that they need to improve their clandestine terrorist tradecraft. Because of these difficulties, their track record outside the Middle East in the 21st century isn't nearly as impressive as their record within the region. Nonetheless, they are trying, and occasionally landing blows successfully, especially against soft targets in places where their attack cycle activities aren't being watched for and detected. 
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On SecurityJan 7, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
The funeral procession for IRGC-Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 6, 2020, in Tehran, Iran, after his Jan. 3 death in a U.S. airstrike.
Evaluating the State of Iranian Terrorism Capabilities
Iran's leadership unsurprisingly has issued broad threats of retaliation in response to the Jan. 3 killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatening to exact "severe revenge." One of the most influential individuals in Iran, Soleimani was seen as the key to Iran's aggressive military initiatives across the Middle East. There is little doubt that Iran will indeed seek revenge. The real question is when, where and how it will attempt to seek it. But while terrorist attacks by Iranian operatives or proxy groups working at the behest of Iran are a valid cause for concern, they are no reason to panic: Their activities can be detected and defended against through solid intelligence work and careful vigilance.
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