Sticking with the Complicated U.S.-Iran Relationship

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U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The U.S. has declared Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests to be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and top American officials have indicated a strong desire to contain and roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East.

The U.S. has many options at its disposal, including the use of military force. However, the current balance of power in the Middle East and Iran’s position in relation to major regional and international powers is likely to limit U.S. options toward Iran. The JCPOA is widely regarded to be a success story, especially by the European Union, China, and Russia. But perhaps more importantly, the Islamic Republic is relatively stable at home and a power to be reckoned with in the Middle East. To be sure, the U.S. can apply much more diplomatic and economic pressure against Iran and even resort to military force, but Washington will face real limits in its ability to change Iran’s behavior in the region or stop its growing missile program.

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