Editor’s Note: This commentary was published in Arabic. This is a translation.
For decades, American foreign policy toward Iran has been caught in a complex web of outdated assumptions and misaligned goals.
The United States has traditionally treated Iran as a rational player within the regional and international system, a fallacy that has cast its shadow over policy formulation.
Iran’s ideological mission since the 1979 revolution, which has been to establish hegemony through a network of proxies throughout the Middle East. With tensions flaring in areas such as Gaza and southern Lebanon, it is crucial to reassess America’s position on Iran.
Revealing Iran’s true agenda: a network of agents
Iran’s geostrategic vision goes beyond traditional state goals, focusing instead on ideological and religious expansion.
Iran’s goals are simple and often stated: to destroy the “Little Satan” and the “Great Satan,” Israel and America respectively, but the mullahs have other goals as well.
Through a network of proxies—Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and Houthi rebels in Yemen—Iran is fomenting instability and has a broader goal of overthrowing governments in the region and beyond. The situation in Gaza and southern Lebanon is an example of how Iran’s tentacles are powerful. To destabilize the entire region.
The Gaza crisis and wrong assumptions
The recent escalation in Gaza highlights complex US policy. Washington’s attempt to resolve the crisis and prevent regional escalation lacks a nuanced understanding of Iran’s relationship with Hamas, the Sunni group. In contrast to the Shiite-Sunni divide, Iran supports Hamas as part of its broader strategy to destabilize Israel and expand its influence. By misunderstanding the alliance between Iran and Hamas, US efforts in Gaza are likely to falter, which will exacerbate regional unrest.
Misallocation of US military resources
The United States has recently strengthened its military presence in the region, mostly through the US Navy and its aircraft carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the focus of this military deployment was on the objects of Iranian expansionism – Hezbollah and Hamas – and not on Iran itself.
History has proven, through the US Navy’s Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, that direct action against Iran can produce tangible results. This operation reduced Iran’s naval capabilities and had a warning effect on its regional ambitions.
The economics of strangulation: hitting Iran where it hurts
One possible way to cripple Iran’s destabilizing influence is economic warfare. Iran’s economic linchpin lies in its oil exports, a critical source of hard money that fuels its internal repression, nuclear ambitions, and terrorism. Intercepting these exports would add a layer of internal and external pressure, and potentially lead to internal unrest within Iran, a weak point given the protests and uprisings in recent years.
Iran’s nuclear program: a time bomb
The US position on Iran’s nuclear program is another example of Iran’s policy disconnected from reality. Despite Iran’s track record of deception and covert operations, the United States has continued to treat Tehran as a rational and conventional state actor. This has led to flawed agreements that, instead of neutralizing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have given it the time and resources needed to become a nuclear-armed state. Failure to take Iran’s ideological motivations into account makes American policies not only ineffective but also dangerous.
The inside job: Iranian influence in American policy circles
Perhaps one of the most troubling developments is Iran’s successful influence operations within the US administration. Key political positions related to Iran are currently held by individuals with a softer stance toward Tehran. The appointment of Robert Malley, a longtime friend of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and chief negotiator in the Obama-era 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as a State Department envoy for Iran, raises questions about America’s ability to engage with Iran. Taking a tough stance towards Iran. These appointments likely contributed to the shift in US policy toward Iran, undermining efforts to limit Tehran’s ambitions while significantly expanding Iran’s access to cash.
Shaping the American Approach: A Call for a Comprehensive Strategy
What America desperately needs is a coherent, comprehensive strategy that takes into account Iran’s ideological motivation, deploys military assets effectively, and maximizes economic sanctions. This must coincide with strong diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving global consensus against Iran’s destabilizing activities. A multidimensional approach would create pressure for Iran, forcing it to rethink its expansionist agenda.
In an era of evolving geopolitical dynamics, American policy toward Iran must evolve beyond its antiquated framework. By engaging with Iran directly, recognizing its ideological motivations, taking advantage of its economic vulnerabilities, and being vigilant about its domestic policy influences, the United States can craft a strategy that is both realistic and effective. A more direct, multifaceted approach to dealing with Iran would enhance Not only regional stability, but also global stability.