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  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Ebrahim Mohseni
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This report covers findings from two surveys fielded in September and early October 2020 and late January through early February 2021 to assess how Iranians were faring as the covid-19 pandemic intensified the challenges their country was already facing, what they thought about the parliamentary election in Iran and the presidential election in the United States, and how the inauguration of Joe Biden impacted their attitudes towards nuclear diplomacy and regional security. Iran was one of the earliest countries to be hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, with the country’s first cases confirmed on February 13, 2020, two days before the parliamentary election, senior officials among those soon infected, and high death rates reported. Western reporting depicted widespread government incompetence and cover-ups exacerbating the pandemic’s toll. As in other countries, Iranian officials struggled to decide whether to close schools, curtail economic activities, and restrict religious observances in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread, but cases and deaths remained high through 2020. When we fielded the first survey wave, the daily number of new confirmed covid-19 cases in Iran was starting to climb sharply again after having been relatively flat since May. Some world leaders, including the U.N. Secretary General, called for an easing of sanctions on Iran as part of global efforts to fight the pandemic. The United States, which had withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, maintained that medicine, personal protective equipment, and other humanitarian supplies were exempt from the steadily increasing sanctions applied as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. But, the United States’ designation in September 2019 of the Central Bank of Iran as a terrorist organization made most foreign suppliers of humanitarian goods reluctant to sell to Iran. A decision in October 2020 to also designate the few Iranian banks that were not previously subject to secondary sanctions further impeded humanitarian trade, caused another sharp drop in the value of Iran’s currency, and had other negative economic effects. The Trump administration’s stated objective was to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesced to a long list of U.S. demands articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The original twelve points include the types of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that the government rejected during previous negotiations and that the Iranian public has consistently opposed. It also included stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles and ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, International Community
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, Clay Ramsay
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) has been conducting in- depth surveys of Iranian public opinion on nuclear policy, regional security, economics, domestic politics, and other topics since the summer of 2014. Each survey includes a combination of trend-line questions, some going as far back as 2006, and new questions written to assess and inform current policy debates. This report covers findings from three surveys fielded in May, August, and early October 2019 to evaluate how the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is affecting public opinion in Iran. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and began re-imposing sanctions on Iran that the Obama administration had lifted under the terms of the 2015 agreement it had negotiated with Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In the fall of 2018, it blacklisted hundreds of Iranian entities and threatened to impose secondary sanctions on anyone who did business with them. In spring of 2019, it tried to prevent Iran from getting any revenue from oil sales, its main export, by ending exemptions for key customers. In the summer of 2019, it tightened constraints on Iran’s access to the international financial system, including channels that had been used to pay for medicines and other humanitarian goods that were officially exempted from earlier sanctions. It also sanctioned Iran’s foreign minister, complicating his ability to interact with U.S. officials, experts, and media figures. The Trump administration’s stated objective is to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesces to a long list of U.S. demands articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The original twelve points include the types of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that the government rejected during previous negotiations and that the Iranian public has consistently opposed. It also includes stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles, ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East, halting cyberattacks and other threatening activities, and releasing all U.S. and allied detainees. Pompeo subsequently added other demands related to civil liberties in Iran. The Iranian public enthusiastically supported the JCPOA when it was first signed, partly due to unrealistic expectations about how much and how quickly economic benefits would materialize. After the International Atomic Energy Agency certified in January 2016 that Iran had met all of its nuclear obligations and implementation of sanctions relief began, foreign companies were slow to ramp up permissible trade with Iran or to make major investments there before they knew how the next U.S. president would view the JCPOA. By the end of the Obama administration few Iranians said that they had seen any economic benefits from the deal and most lacked confidence that the other signatories would uphold their obligations. But a solid majority of Iranians (55%) still approved of the agreement.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America