Since mid-2011, Iran’s military intervention in Syria has grown steadily. By 2015, at least eight Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) generals had been killed in Syria.
On March 22, President Donald Trump announced that John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will replace National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster. Bolton served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. An outspoken critic of the nuclear deal, he has advocated for regime change in Tehran and use of military force against the Islamic Republic.
On February 27, General Joseph Votel, told the House Committee on Armed Services that Iran remains “the major threat to U.S. interests and partnerships in the Central Region,” which extends from Egypt to Pakistan and from Kazakhstan to Yemen. He warned that the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia is exacerbating “multiple security dilemmas” in Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Tehran police have reportedly arrested 29 people, mostly women, for appearing in public without a hijab (head covering), according to Iranian media. Women have increasingly taken to street corners and squares by themselves or in small groups to protest the modest dress code imposed after the 1979 revolution. Chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has downplayed the protests, suggesting they were “trivial” and “childish” and possibly instigated by foreigners.
Iran’s economy was a key driver of the protests that erupted on December 28. Tens of thousands took to the streets to express their frustration with rising prices, unemployment, the gap between rich and poor, and corruption. The 2015 nuclear deal, which included sanctions relief, has not yielded significant benefits for the average Iranian.
On March 13, President Donald Trump announced that he was replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo.
On November 4, Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Saudi forces said they intercepted the missile but the Houthis hailed the launch as a success. A Houthi spokesman told Al Jazeera that the Burkan 2-H, a type of Scud missile, traveled more than 800 kilometers to its target. It was the first time the Houthis had attacked the Saudi capital.
The Trump administration has cited North Korea’s attainment of nuclear weapons and increasingly advanced missiles as a key reason for reexamining the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “What we're saying now with Iran is don't let it become the next North Korea,” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on October 15.