Iran Can’t Win a War against the U.S., but It Can Win in Negotiations

As tightening American sanctions take an ever-greater toll on the Islamic Republic’s economy, its leaders are beginning to consider a diplomatic way out—even as they continue to employ military options. Ray Takeyh writes:

For now, the Islamic Republic has settled on a policy of calibrated terrorism. This has been one of the more ingenious innovations of the theocratic state, which engages in acts of terror where its complicity is clear but difficult to prove. It is unlikely that the Revolutionary Guards’ creaky speedboats will confront the U.S. armada in the Persian Gulf any more than they will directly attack U.S. troops in the region. But Iran will gradually escalate pressure by relying on its many proxies to target U.S. [allies], particularly the Saudis. Oil installations, diplomatic compounds, and trade routes are likely to be menaced by Iran’s Arab agents.

This will not be a systematic campaign of terrorism but a selective use of violence over a prolonged period. This policy is not without its risks, but it does have the advantage of putting pressure on the United States without risking retaliation. . . .

The subtle debate in Tehran today revolves around whether it is time to take up President Trump’s offer of talks. [President Hassan] Rouhani and his cagey foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have long been intrigued by the possibility of negotiating with Trump. The two led the Iran talks with the Europeans in 2005, as well as the more consequential negotiations in 2015 that yielded a nuclear accord that satisfied Tehran’s needs. The lesson that they have drawn from those experiences is that Iran seldom loses at diplomacy. . . .

Iran cannot win a war against the United States, but it is confident it can outwit Washington at the negotiating table. The most persistent question in Iran today is not about war but whether it is time to entrap the Americans in another lengthy diplomatic process.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iran sanctions, U.S. Foreign policy

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy