Iran Will Still Be a Slog

We can expect Tehran to use three tactics to seek advantage in negotiations.

This article was originally published in Defense One on January 23, 2021.

Even if the logic of the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran were sound, it didn’t work. Amid what the administration hailed as a “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran summoned its own maximum resistance strategy. The Iranian government remained in power, it began enriching large amounts of uranium to much higher concentrations, it continued to develop long-range missiles, and it increased its involvement in the politics of surrounding states.

While the Biden administration has committed to pursuing a different policy, it may not be able to achieve different outcomes. The more the administration pursues the Iranians, the more the Iranians will pull back, in a bid to increase their leverage. Yet, the more the United States pulls back, the more the Iranians will try to force the United States to engage. We should not expect an easy return to negotiations, whatever the Biden team wants, and we should not anticipate that a supposedly wounded Iran will capitulate. Instead, we should anticipate a drawn-out process punctuated by crisis. There probably isn’t a better path forward.

Read the full article in Defense One


Jon Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program