An anti-U.S. mural in Tehran, October 2017.

The Trump administration has no coherent Iran policy. In May, U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the Iran nuclear deal—even though Iran was not in violation of it. Other than Trump’s uninformed and empty assertion that it was “the worst deal ever,” his pretext for the withdrawal was Iranian aggression in the region, which was not linked to the deal. In both his rhetoric and policy, Trump seems to be positioning the United States to enter into armed conflict with Iran, warning Iran in July that it could face “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Trump apparently wishes not merely to contain Iran’s power but to roll back its regional presence, confining its influence to its borders, disarming it, and, by implication, changing its regime, given that these are

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  • STEVEN SIMON is a Professor at Amherst College and served on the National Security Council in the Clinton and Obama administrations. JONATHAN STEVENSON is Senior Fellow for U.S. Defense and Editor of Strategic Comments at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He served as Director for Political-Military Affairs for the Middle East and North Africa on the U.S. National Security Council staff from 2011 to 2013.
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