Iran and JCPOA
Tehran's public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—because it views the JCPOA as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities, it expects the P5+1 members to adhere to their obligations, although Iran clearly recognizes the new US Administration is concerned with the deal. Iran's implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran's nuclear activities, mainly through improved access by the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.
Iran is pursuing capabilities to meet its nuclear energy and technology goals and to give it the capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. If it chooses to do so. Its pursuit of these goals will influence its level of adherence to the JCPOA. We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran's ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Tehran's desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Progress on Iran's space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies.
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains an enduring threat to US national interests because of Iranian support to anti-US terrorist groups and militants, the Asad regime, Huthi rebels inYemen, and because of Iran's development of advanced military capabilities. Despite Supreme Leader Khamenei's conditional support for the JCPOA nuclear deal implemented in January 2016, he is highly distrustful of US intentions. Iran's leaders remain focused on thwarting US and Israeli influence and countering what they perceive as a Saudi-ied effortto fuel Sunni extremism and terrorism against Iran and Shia communities throughout the region.
Iran is immersed in ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iranian officials believe that engaging adversaries away from Iran's borders will help prevent instability from spilling into Iran and reduce iSiS's threat to Iran and its regional partners. Iran's involvement in these conflicts, including sending hundreds of its own forces plus arming, financingt and training thousands of Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia fighters to support the Asad regime, has aggravated sectarianism and increased tensions with other regionalstates. Tehran's provision of aid to the Huthis, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), explosive boat technology, and missile support, risks expanding and intensifyingthe conflictin Yemen and the broader Iranian-Saudi dispute. We assess that Iran's leaders intend to leverage their ties to local actors in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen to build long-term Iranian influence in the region. Iran will also utilize its relationship with Moscow to try to expand Iranian influence and counter US pressure.
Hardliners, who believe that the West is attempting to infiltrate Iran to undermine the regime, have driven the increase of arrests of citizens since 2014 who are dual nationals. The islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will likely continue to scrutinize, arrest, and detain individuals with ties to the West, particularly dual US-iranian and UK-iranian citizens. This practice will weaken prospects of attracting foreign investment into Iran's economy.
Iran continues to develop a range of new military capabilities to monitor and target US and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs, ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats,submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and can striketargets up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran's borders. Russia's delivery of the SA-20c surface-to-air missile system in 2016 provides Iran with its most advanced long-range air defense system.
IRGC Navy forces operating aggressively in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz pose a risk to the US Navy. Most IRGC interactions with US ships are professional, although US Navy operators consider approximately 10 percent to be unsafe, abnormal, or unprofessional. We assess that limited aggressive interactions will continue and are probably intended to project an image ofstrength and possibly to gauge US responses.
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