Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits next to Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, October 2017.

This month, U.S. President Donald Trump revealed his administration’s much-anticipated Iran strategy. It involves increasing pressure on Tehran on virtually all fronts, most notably through the decertification of the nuclear deal that former President Barack Obama and the other world powers reached with the Islamic Republic in 2015. Trump premised his remarks on a talking point that has long characterized hawkish narratives on Iran; namely, that a more rational regime would presumably cease its nuclear activities.

“We are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons,” Trump said in his remarks. “In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The Iranian people long to—and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.” Comments like these are hardly uncommon among members

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  • ARIANE M. TABATABAI is Director of Curriculum and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in the Security Studies Program and an International Security Program Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.
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