On December 28, 2017, demonstrators took to the streets of Mashhad, Iran to protest rising prices and economic stagnation. Protests have since spread rapidly throughout the country, including Tehran, and the rhetoric of demonstrators has turned sharply critical of the Islamic Republic and its leadership. As the government cracks down and reports of arrests and violence grow, Iran appears to be facing one of its most serious crises since the 1979 revolution. The unrest comes on the eve of a crucial deadline in Washington for extending sanctions relief as required by the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
On January 5, the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted a discussion on the upheaval in Iran, what it means for the future of the country, and how the United States and the international community can respond. The conversation featured journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, the author of “Then They Came for Me”, which was later turned into the 2014 film “Rosewater,“ and the founder of IranWire, which has been a vital conduit for Iranian citizen journalists. Bahari was joined by Suzanne Maloney, the deputy director of Brookings’s Foreign Policy program and a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy. Susan Glasser, chief international affairs columnist at Politico, moderated the discussion. Following the conversation, the panelists took questions from the audience.
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The question with this administration is, what will Trump see as an acceptable return for this waiver [granted to India for its trade with Russia and Iran]? Will he demand a transaction in return, some give on the trade side or a big defence deal for the US as well? Russia and Iran are sticking points, but the fact that the Trump administration is dealing with these privately is a sign of how much the relationship has changed. [Mr Trump] usually doesn’t give out freebies.
Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit. The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity.