While most eyes are on Russia and China, we should really be watching Iran, says Robin Wright in The New Yorker. Efforts to revive the 2016 nuclear deal abandoned under President Trump – which lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme – have completely stalled. The reformist president who brokered the original deal, Hassan Rouhani, has been replaced by Ebrahim Raisi, a “rigid ideologue” and unashamed hawk. And Iran’s nuclear programme has advanced so much during the diplomatic impasse that soon any deal will be pointless. Its so-called “breakout” time to produce enough fuel for a bomb has plummeted from more than a year to “as little as three weeks”.
Tehran’s growing nuclear capabilities aren’t the only worry. It is also “one of the world’s top missile producers”, and has reached so-called “overmatch” – the point where it can fire more missiles at its enemies than they can possibly shoot down or pre-emptively destroy. After the US assassinated the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in 2020, Iranian forces responded by hammering a US airbase in Iraq in the “largest ballistic-missile attack ever by any nation on American troops”. (None died, but 110 suffered traumatic brain injuries.) Put simply, Iran is now “better armed and its military and political powerbrokers more hardline than at any time in its modern history”. That could be a recipe for disaster.