The Iran Plan: Can America Contain Tehran's Damage?

Kamran Bokhari
Reuters

Kamran Bokhari

Security, Middle East

Another major war in the region will only further work to the advantage of the Islamic Republic and the Islamic State at the expense of the already very weak constellation of Arab states.

The Iran Plan: Can America Contain Tehran's Damage?

Tensions between the United States and Iran are at an all-time high. Both sides are engaging in high-stakes moves to force a behavioral change in the other. Washington and Tehran both wish to avoid war, however, in such an escalatory environment, the risks of miscalculations significantly increase. Regardless of the outcome of this struggle, Iran is likely to retain its regional influence across the northern rim of the Middle East because of the chronic weakness of the Arab world.

The emergence of the Islamic State is a major unintended consequence of the U.S. war in Iraq. A much more significant repercussion, however, is that the 2003 move to effect regime change in Baghdad served as an enabler for Iran’s efforts to emerge as a regional power. Since then, the United States has been caught in a causality loop whereby its efforts to counter transnational jihadism leads to greater room for maneuver for Iran and vice-versa. The current state of U.S.-Iranian brinksmanship has to do with the fact that the United States cannot allow Iran to augment its gains from the weakening of the Islamic State.

Iran is clearly out to undermine the existing regional security architecture. The Iranian strategy is largely based on acting by proxy via Shia (mostly Arab) militias and not just on its western flank extending to the Mediterranean but also on the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, we are now seeing an increasingly aggressive campaign of attacks from the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia’s territory. The other less talked about part of the clerical regime’s strategy is that of negotiations, which is far more critical.

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