Playing with fire

Are the US and Iran risking war?

Iran and the US are in an escalation spiral. In this dossier, our Heads of offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation report on the hot spots of the conflict.

About the dossier

What other steps could the EU take to save the nuclear agreement? How does Israel view the conflict? Who would benefit regionally or internationally from an escalation? What is Trump’s interest in this? How are developments in Tehran perceived? Omid Nouripour, member of the Bundestag and spokesman for foreign policy for the Green parliamentary group, visited Tehran very recently. His contribution paints a picture of the mood in the Islamic Republic and explains how Europe can still calm the crisis.

A mutual logic of escalation and counter-escalation can develop its own momentum up to and including war.


Since the shooting down of a US drone by Iran at the end of June, the danger of war is real. The US was reportedly on the verge of a direct military strike against Iran in response to the drone shoot down. However, a direct military confrontation would not only affect the Islamic Republic, but would also expand and drastically intensify the numerous, already virulent conflicts in the entire region – with incalculable humanitarian and political consequences.

In May 2018, Donald Trump unilaterally terminated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the nuclear or Iran deal. Since then, threatening gestures on both sides have intensified. The US has imposed a comprehensive, extremely effective sanctions regime on Iran. The aim is to persuade Iran to enter into new negotiations on a more comprehensive agreement than the one reached in 2015.

The consequences for the Iranian economy are devastating – medicines and food are becoming scarce. The IMF believes that an inflation rate of 40 percent is possible this year. The Iranian leadership is responding to pressure with threats against the US and its allies. The future of the nuclear agreement, which aims to block Iran's path to nuclear armament, is uncertain. Iran feels that it has been deceived about the benefits of the deal and has issued an ultimatum: ‘So far, our contracting parties have not fulfilled our expectations,’ said Foreign Office spokesman Abbas Musawi.

After the end of the ultimatum, on 7 July, the Iranian government announced its intention to exceed not only the agreed quantity of enriched uranium, but also the degree of enrichment agreed upon in the nuclear agreement.