Iran is located in a very strategic place in the Middle East. It borders on the Persian Gulf, through which much of the global oil travels. It is majority Shi’i, so in that sense it stands as a member of a minority faith in the Middle East itself, which is dominated by the Sunni. It has a population of about 85 million people and like most places in the Middle East, it’s a young population, the majority being under 35 years old. Religion and politics are fused, they’re intermingled. The clerical community is actively involved in political and national administration. Iran’s nuclear program began in the 1950s. There’s always been attraction to both nuclear energy and nuclear arms. Nuclear energy can be transformed for weapons purposes, as well as civilian purposes. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, countries agreed to forgo the possibility of nuclear weapons and Iran is a member of that particular treaty. Therefore its nuclear program always has to be monitored by the IAEA– International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA has not always been satisfied with the level of access that it has been granted to Iran, and real evidence has come forward to suggest Iran has engaged in research about how to harness nuclear energy for weapons purposes. When it comes to the relationship between the United States and Iran, a series of events have been very instrumental. In August of 1953 of course, there was a coup in Iran and the United States was complicit in that change of power. And that has become a source of tension. And then came the 1979 revolution, which bought in a government that was identifying itself as antagonistic to the United States, and the hostage crisis of 1980, where the Iranian government held American diplomats hostage for 444 days. The roots of the current crisis is in August of 2002, when there were revelations that Iran was developing a massive plutonium enrichment facility that it had not declared to the IAEA. The United States and the international community had what they called a two-track policy. One track was increased pressure on Iran: economic sanctions, which became more intense as time went along. The second track was the idea of negotiations with Iran as a means of solving this issue. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the compromise agreement that was finally reached in July of 2015. The whole series of international sanctions that were put on Iran were largely lifted. Iran agrees to a number of limitations on its nuclear program. It imposed some serious restraints on Iran, but it is an interim agreement where restrictions fade after year 10. The United States has overlapping interests in Iran today. First of all are the issues of proliferation and whether Iran’s nuclear program can be ensured to be for peaceful purposes. There’s Iranian sponsorship of groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that are identified as terrorist organizations. There is the issue of Iranian regional activities. There are issues of human rights within Iran itself. In the recent decade or so the issue of proliferation in many ways has eclipsed all the other concerns. The JCPOA, like every other arms control agreement, has within it a committee that deals with non-compliance. So the first step in any prospective violation is to go to that committee with evidence about Iranian non-compliance. If that process becomes deadlocked, then the issue can be transferred to the United Nations for deliberation and imposition of economic sanctions. You have a military option as well. The Israelis also have the option of taking unilateral military action. America’s allies are very concerned about Iranian ambitions and that creates another push on the United States to be more robust in terms of resistance to Iran. So it’s likely to be a period of continued tension and underlying difficulties.