Iran on Monday began enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility and seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in the Middle East between Tehran and the West.
The scenes in Iran mirror the coronavirus outbreaks in Wuhan, China, northern Italy, and now, New York City. At least 2,234 people have died in Iran as of today, according to the government — although outside observers believe the number is far higher.
Iran's military denied on Monday being behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. But experts suggest that if Iran were involved, it would represent a calibrated yet risky pushback to the US.
Diplomacy is often awkward, stymied by translators, late nights and unsecured yurt communication (yes, that really happened). But diplomacy can also stop a war, as years of secret and not-so-secret negotiations between the US and Iran proved when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was reached in 2015.
Reformists have made some progress towards easing economic hardship, loosening social control, and initiating a temporary easing of tensions with the outside community. But the parlous nature of the political structure empowers the theocrats to manipulate the system and stymie any reform effort that promises a path to democratization.
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