Sanctions beckon as Trump cannot resist pulling down the Iran nuclear deal

Unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA leaves the US looking more isolated on the world stage, but with strong support from Israel and some Gulf allies. Life is certain to get tougher for Iran and its trading partners once US sanctions are reimposed, even though Trump and his supporters, plans for what to do next remain unclear

Factional tensions, popular anxieties drive Iran towards the edge

The war of words between the conservative principalists that surround Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani’s more pragmatic allies shows no sign of dying down, with the issues of public referendums and the wearing of the hijab among the latest bones of contention. At the same time, there is still clear potential for public demonstrations to destabilise the political scene. A substantial Gonabadi Dervish protest turned violent on 19 February, outside a police station in northern Tehran, where a member of the Sufi group was being held. More than 300 people were subsequently arrested and six people lost their lives, including three policemen, two Basij militiamen and one protestor. Coming so soon after a widespread and diverse series of demonstrations during December and January – including protests against corruption and the enforced wearing of the hijab (GSN 1,051/1) – the impression is building that the regime is struggling to balance its own needs with those of its people.

Tehran confronts antagonists at home and abroad

When French oil major Total warned in November 2016 that it might be forced to pull out of a deal to develop phase 11 of the South Pars gas field, it threw into stark relief one of the biggest challenges Iran faces in the year ahead: how best to respond to the belligerent rhetoric from Washington and the pressure it is exerting on Iranian economic activity.