Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Escalation Strategy

Iran is back in the nuclear game.

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In May 2019, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would no longer be bound by the nuclear limits under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known simply as the Iran nuclear deal. Rouhani’s remarks marked the end of a year-long period in which Iran continued implementing the agreement after Washington withdrew from it in May 2018. Throughout the rest of 2019, Iran gradually reduced its compliance with the deal. Meanwhile, the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign starved Iran’s economy, helping fuel nationwide protests in November, which left hundreds dead following a crackdown by security forces.

While ramping up its nuclear activities in contravention of the nuclear deal may seem like an attempt to get a bomb, we don’t think that’s the case. The fact that it is gradually and so publicly violating the deal suggests Iran is, instead, trying to put pressure on the international community to relieve sanctions. Nevertheless, its actions beg the question — what are Iran’s goals? Why has it adopted this strategy? And perhaps most importantly — how far does it intend to go?

Read the full analysis on War on the Rocks.

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