Insider news & Analysis in Iran

On Monday, US President Donald Trump announced that his office would respond within 48 hours to the previous day’s chemical attack by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against civilians in one of the last rebel-held areas of the country. The New York Daily News reported upon the announcement and added that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had laid the blame for the attack squarely on the leadership of both Russia and Iran, who were widely credited with turning the tide of the Syrian Civil War back in Assad’s favor after his government had lost ground throughout the first four years of the now seven-year conflict.

On Thursday, The Hill reported that White House aides were preparing a strategic plan for American withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is not yet clear whether President Donald Trump will in fact initiate that pull-out, but the US and its European allies are quickly moving toward a May 12 deadline for fixing the “terrible flaws” that Trump sees in a deal he has called the worst ever negotiated.

Throughout the end of March and the beginning of April, the war of words between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia has been continuing against the backdrop of the prospective Saudi king’s tour of the United States. That visit has provided Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with numerous opportunities to reach Western media with his particularly confrontational views on the Iranian government.

On Friday, the New York Times published an editorial that sought to bring renewed attention to a phenomenon that has been observed by a number of Middle East experts in recent years. The article discussed Iran’s ongoing project to dominate Iraq and Syria in the context of the Iranian regime’s longstanding sponsorship of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since its founding in 1985, that Shiite paramilitary organization and renowned adversary of Israel has also established itself as a major force in Lebanese politics and as a sort of state-within-a-state.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported upon the growing pressure facing the European Union with regard to the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the prospect for a more assertive set of policies on the Islamic Republic. EU member states Britain, France, and Germany, each of which participated in the seven-party negotiations that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in July 2015, continued to hold talks with American officials this week in hopes of arriving at a threat that will keep the US in the deal.

A recent analysis by Janes 360 noted that earlier in March, Iran’s Assembly of Experts held a vote on the makeup of its executive board for the next two years. The 88-member clerical body is tasked with overseeing the office of the supreme leader and selecting his replacement in the event of death or resignation. The current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is 78 years old and has reportedly been suffering from prostate cancer, leading to speculation that the current Assembly could be the one that determines the future course of the Islamic Republic.

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