During the past 40 years, American experts and policymakers have claimed that the rulers of the Islamic Republic are divided between “moderates” and “hardliners,” and therefore that a conciliatory U.S. posture will strengthen the hand of the moderates while confrontation will only make the hardliners even more aggressive. This theory was used to justify the 2015 nuclear deal, and has likewise been cited by critics of Washington’s current policy of “maximum pressure.” But the nuclear deal was followed by years of brutal Iranian adventurism throughout the Middle East, while the present course, as Amir Taheri explains, seems to be bringing out the opposite result:
[B]adly hit by cash-flow problems, the [Iranian] regime has been forced to cut down payments to regional clients in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Gaza. This has led to a reduction in Lebanese Hizballah’s military presence in Syria while the Houthis in Yemen have also gone into slow-motion mode. Almost all offices in 30 Iranian towns and cities recruiting “volunteers” to fight in Syria, ostensibly to protect Shiite shrines, have been closed or downgraded into a symbolic presence.
The Islamic Republic has also stopped raising new fighting units of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries. . . . At the same time, Tehran has taken no new hostages and even released three, including an American. In his meeting in Zurich with Brian Hook, Trump’s point-man on Iran, the Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif relayed the message that Tehran was prepared for further releases.
The daily Kayhan, believed to reflect Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s views, claimed last Tuesday that, in a letter transmitted through the Swiss ambassador, Tehran had “indicated agreement” to return to a de-facto recognition of “the Zionist regime,” disarming of the Lebanese branch of Hizballah, and ending support for Hamas.
More about: Iran, Iranian nuclear program, U.S. Foreign policy