Strategy Note /

Iran and Israel conflict worsens as each tries to shape the next US nuclear deal

  • Renegotiation of the Iran nuclear deal is likely to take months and may require the catalyst of a security crisis first

  • Amid domestic political uncertainty, both Israel and Iran are shoring up external alliances and ramping up aggression

  • Ultimately negotiation more likely than war but investors should expect inflammatory actions by both sides along the way

Iran and Israel conflict worsens as each tries to shape the next US nuclear deal
Hasnain Malik
Hasnain Malik

Strategy & Head of Equity Research

Tellimer Research
12 April 2021
Published byTellimer Research

The reset or renegotiation of the Iran Nuclear deal will be a protracted process which will be punctuated by more overt aggression, directly and via proxies, from Israel and Iran, conflicting priorities of regional and global powers impacted by the deal, and interrupted by domestic political change (potentially to the Israeli PM and certainly to the Iranian President). It may require a moment of crisis to act as a catalyst for a new settlement. There are a few more rocky months ahead but no one can afford a war.

Israel's cyberattack against the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran, maritime attack against the Saviz vessel in the Red Sea, and airstrikes against Iranian-linked assets in Syria all point to a more intense phase of conflict with Iran that coincides with the re-opening of negotiations between the US and Iran over a new Nuclear Deal.

On the other side, Iran has expanded its nuclear enrichment programme, engaged in its own Red Sea vessel attacks, and continued attacks from its regional allies (particularly Houthi strikes into Saudi). Each side has also sought to demonstrate its international alliances with public shows of support, eg the "ironclad" commitment for Israel voiced by US Defence Secretary Austin and the 25-year Cooperation Program signed between Iran and China. Ironically, each side is also in the midst of domestic political uncertainty: Israel PM Netanyahu is battling both rivals for his leadership and charges for corruption, while Iran is scheduled to elect a new President on 18th June (from a list of candidates first vetted by its Guardian Council).

The Iran Nuclear Deal ostensibly centres around the bargain struck between the US and Iran. The US, under the Biden administration, sees the old Nuclear Deal as the best guarantee of curtailing Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Iran wants sanctions relief above all, but has endured enough economic pain without any loss of political power for the Revolutionary Guard elite to wait it out. But regional allies of the US – principally Israel but also most of the GCC – are keen to remind the US that they need more guarantees built into any new deal over Iran's non-nuclear threat. And powers such as China, EU, India, Russia and Turkey see strategic opportunities to exert greater influence in the region as the US, at the margin, allocates more of its resources to Asia.

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