Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony marking the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran February 10, 2017.
Reuters

Since November, when Donald Trump was elected president, U.S.-Iranian relations have gone into a tailspin. In response to the administration’s triumphalist tenor and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s pledge to “put Iran on notice,” Iran has partially escalated but also shown a modicum of restraint. Flynn’s replacement by Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster offers the Trump administration an opportunity to rethink its approach.

The goal should be to guard against any further escalation of hostilities. After all, unless the administration is willing to wage war with Iran, this confrontation won't achieve anything useful for the United States. What it will do is further strengthen the hardliners in Tehran, a process that is already underway, and undermine moderates such as President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif less than three months before Iran’s presidential election.

That the United States is in

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