To avoid the fate of its predecessors, and not fall prey to the Iran trap, the Trump administration needs to understand the historical context of where it stands with Iran. It should play it smart, using Trump’s reputation as a hardliner to its advantage, but stay in the nuclear deal. It can push back against Iran’s regional agenda but has to be careful at the same time to deprive the hardliners in the regime in Tehran—backed as they are by their supporters in Moscow—of an excuse to aggressively suppress the call for reform by the Iranian people and hand Russia more opportunity to stick it to the United States in the Middle East.
Ross Harrison is on the faculty of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC and is also on the faculty of the political science department of the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches Middle East politics. Harrison authored “Strategic Thinking in 3D: a Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy and Business Professionals” (Potomac Books, 2013), and co-edited with Paul Salem, “From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East” (Middle East Institute, 2017)
Alex Vatanka is an Iranian-American Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute. He is the author of “Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy and American Influence” (I.B. Tauris, 2015). His forthcoming book, Personal Rivalries in Tehran and the Making of Iranian Foreign Policy, is due out in early 2019. Follow him on Twitter @AlexVatanka.