Crisis in the Gulf

The United States’ assassination of top Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani has further escalated tensions in the Gulf following a year of provocations—including drone attacks, ship seizures, and attacks and protests in Iraq—that threaten to destabilize the region and trigger wider conflict. Read the latest Atlantic Council work on the developing crisis in the Gulf and wider US-Iranian tensions.

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Past events

Mon, Dec 9, 2019

Emirates Mars Mission and the UAE Science and Technology Vision

On December 9, the Atlantic Council hosted H.E. Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, and Omar Sharaf, Project Manager for the Emirates Mars Mission, for a discussion of the UAE Science and Technology Vision and the latest developments in the Emirates Mars Mission.

9:00am Washington DC

Mon, Jul 29, 2019

Avenues for managing the escalating crisis in the Gulf

On July 30, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the Arabia Foundation held a discussion unpacking the recent pattern of escalation with Iran in the Gulf, the US and regional policy response, and what comes next.


Thu, May 30, 2019

Russia’s resurgence in the Middle East: How does US policy meet the challenge?

Atlantic Council Middle East Programs Director William Wechsler gave introductory remarks before the keynote address by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger.



Fri, Jan 10, 2020

US reportedly targets another top Iranian military figure, Abdul Reza Shahlai

US forces tried to target Shahlai, a senior Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps–Qods Force leader currently located in Yemen.

New Atlanticist by Thomas S. Warrick


Wed, Jan 8, 2020

Atlantic Council press call: What will follow the US strike on Major General Soleimani?

This development will influence US engagement with Iran and partners in the region and its knock-on effects may very well manifest in the cyber domain. What type of de-escalatory engagement should we expect between the US and Iran following the assassination of Soleimani? What types of responses, both kinetic and cyber, can we expect from Iran, a country in need of appearing powerful to its allies and adversaries?

Press and Members Call by Atlantic Council

Cybersecurity Iran

Wed, Jan 8, 2020

De-escalation still possible after Iran’s missile retaliation

Iran avoided a central US red line, and "therefore, the Trump administration will have the opportunity to test Iranian claims that they truly do not seek any further escalation," Will Wechsler says.

New Atlanticist by Atlantic Council

Conflict Iran

Wed, Jan 8, 2020

Iran’s missiles may have avoided the worst outcome

If there had been significant US casualties, the world would have awoken to the dawn of a regional war, because the Trump administration would have been compelled to attack the launch sites in Iran—and probably other targets in Iran, also. If the present news holds, the situation is slightly less dangerous, if still perilous.

New Atlanticist by Thomas S. Warrick

Conflict Geopolitics & Energy Security

Wed, Jan 8, 2020

Washington and Tehran can step back – if they want to

After the January 8 Iranian missile attacks on Iraq, a successful tactical de-escalation requires both that the Iranian leadership intends for its military actions not to be escalatory and that the Trump administration perceives those actions as they were intended. In the absence of direct communications between the United States and Iran, however, the potential for misunderstanding and thus the risk of miscalculation remains high.

New Atlanticist by William F. Wechsler

Conflict Geopolitics & Energy Security

Tue, Jan 7, 2020

US-Iran in crisis: Strategic ambiguity and loud weapons in cyberspace

Iran’s government will feel the need to retaliate against the United States, but it does not wish to ignite a prolonged war with the United States. The regime’s near-term aim is to demonstrate to its domestic and regional constituencies that it has the capability and the resolve to avenge Soleimani’s killing and, more strategically, to drum up support for hardliners ahead of legislative elections next month. While Iran has a number of options available, its cyber toolkit not one to be overlooked.

New Atlanticist by Simon Handler, Will Loomis, and Katherine Wolff

Cybersecurity Iran

Tue, Jan 7, 2020

Israelis questioning US’ Middle East strategy after Soleimani strike

Of still greater consequence is what Trump resolves to do, or not do, in the weeks and months ahead. Israel and other Middle Eastern states have long entreated the US, with its advanced capabilities and global footprint, to lead the effort to bring Iran to heel.

MENASource by Shalom Lipner

Israel Politics & Diplomacy

Mon, Jan 6, 2020

China’s response to the Soleimani killing

Anything that affects the Gulf states’ ability to get energy to market hurts China’s economy, which in turn erodes the performance legitimacy model of the Chinese Communist Party.

MENASource by Jonathan Fulton

China Iraq

Mon, Jan 6, 2020

By killing Soleimani, the United States destroyed its relationship with Iraq

The Iraqi parliament vote to remove US troops confirms that if Iraqis are cornered and forced to choose between the United States and Iran, they will find it safer to choose Iran.

MENASource by Abbas Kadhim

Iran Iraq

Mon, Jan 6, 2020

Twenty-eight years ago Hezbollah’s leader was assassinated, and Israel paid a price

Soleimani's death brings to mind memories of an earlier aerial assassination in south Lebanon during February 1992. The aftermath of that deadly attack twenty-eight years ago may provide pointers for what might unfold in the wake of Soleimani’s violent death—and possibly remind us of the risk of unintended consequences.

IranSource by Nicholas Blanford

Iran Middle East