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Foreign Affairs on Iran

"Next stop Iran?" (Front page from The Economist - 2012)

“Next stop Iran?” (Front page from The Economist – 2012)

WebPublicPress – (New York) – “Iran has invested more of its limited capabilities in its aspiration to upend the U.S.-led world order than perhaps any other country in the world, including China and Russia. In so doing, it has neglected the well-being of its people and made itself poorer and less secure,” writes Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in the forthcoming March/April issue of Foreign Affairs.


“Few countries have maintained clearer or more consistent aspirations over the last four decades than the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Sadjadpour explains. Since its 1979 revolution, “Iran has sought to expel the United States from the Middle East, replace Israel with Palestine, and remake the region in its image.” In pursuing this strategy, Tehran has successfully “established primacy in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, the four failed or failing states that constitute what Iranian officials call their ‘axis of resistance.’”


But as Tehran continues to exacerbate a number of U.S. national security challenges — including nuclear proliferation, cyberwarfare, terrorism, energy insecurity, and regional conflicts — “Iran displays external vigor that conceals ultimately incurable internal maladies.”


“For all of Iran’s success in cultivating militant groups across the Middle East,” writes Sadjadpour,  “there are tangible signs that it has overreached. Opinion polls show that nearly two-thirds of young Arabs in the region now view Iran as an adversary, a sizable majority of Arabs of all ages want Iran to withdraw from regional conflicts, and more than half of Arab Shiites hold an ‘unfavorable’ view of Iran.” This is coupled with increasing popular tumult among the country’s discontented masses, driven in part by ongoing economic deterioration.


“Although ending their four-decade cold war would serve the interests of both Iran and the United States, Washington will not be able to reach a peaceful accommodation with an Iranian regime whose identity is premised on opposing the United States,” Sadjadpour argues. “For this reason, the United States must deal with Iran like any adversary: communicate to avoid conflict, cooperate when possible, confront when necessary, and contain with partners.”


Sadjadpour argues that achieving a nuclear deal is not a strategy unto itself but urges the U.S. to seek consensus with its EU partners, as it did to pave the way for the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington should also coordinate with Beijing on the common goals of seeking a more stable Middle East, preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb, and lessening conflict with Iran. “Finally, the United States will need to help strengthen those Arab countries where Iran currently holds sway and foster unity among them.”


“Washington cannot change Iranian aspirations to counter American influence and end Israel’s existence, but it can—with the help of other countries—contain Tehran until the country gets a government that seeks to do what is good for Iran instead of what is bad for its ideological enemies,” Sadjadpour concludes. “Ultimately, the Islamic Republic’s grand strategy will be defeated not by the United States or Israel but by the people of Iran, who have paid the highest price for it.”
This article is part of the forthcoming March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, which will be released in full on Tuesday, February 22.

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