Understanding Iran's U.S. PolicyMohsen M. Milani
MOHSEN M. MILANI is Professor of Politics and Chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Although a great deal has been written about the United States' policy toward Iran, hardly anything comprehensive has been produced about Iran's policy toward the United States. Given Washington's concerns that the United States faces "no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," as the 2006 National Security Strategy put it, this lack of serious attention is astonishing. What does exist is sensationalistic coverage about Iran's nuclear ambitions and about mad mullahs driven by apocalyptic delusions and a martyr complex. That picture suggests that Iran's policy consists of a series of random hit-and-run assaults on U.S. interests and that its leaders, being irrational and undeterrable, must be eliminated by force.
In fact, Tehran's foreign policy has its own strategic logic. Formulated not by mad mullahs but by calculating ayatollahs, it is based on Iran's ambitions and Tehran's perception of what threatens them. Tehran's top priority is the survival of the Islamic Republic as it exists now. Tehran views the United Sta