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What does Iran Want?

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A Great Article on What Iran Wants:

Yesterday there was a very interesting article in Politico that somewhat answers the question “what does Iran want from President Trump?” Written by Ray Takeyh, the article examines the roots of Iran’s behavior, what Iran wants from America, and whether or not Iran is winning.

Could war with Iran happen soon? Perhaps, I don’t think anyone really knows. But, there have been several close calls lately, and Iran has been more aggressive than usual. In light of that, I think it is important to examine Iran’s role in the Middle East and what the facts on the ground currently are. Takeyh does that in this great article. After reading it, I felt much more aware of what is going on with Iran and why relations with Iran are currently so tense. Because of that, I highly recommend that you read the article.

Read Takeyh’s article on Iran here:


In his article, Ray Takeyh does a great job of holistically reviewing the current situation with Iran. First, he describes the roots of Iran’s current behavior. Then, he describes what Iran wants from America. Finally, he describes whether or not Iran is winning its spat with America.

What are the Roots of Iran’s Aggressive Behavior?

The roots of Iran’s current behavior go back to the time of the Shah. The US helped support a violent and hated autocrat. Then, in the 1970’s the Iranians overthrew the Shah and installed an Islamic government, imprisoning Americans for over 400 days in the process. Relations with America have been fraught ever since.

However, tensions have dramatically escalated as of late due to President Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on Iran. The Iranian regime, as Takeyh mentions, has long wanted to breach the terms of the nuclear deal John Kerry created. Yet, they haven’t been able to until now. The reimposition of sanctions gave them a reason.

And in short, the Iranians are acting aggressively because those sanctions have bitten them badly. Inflation is currently at 50%. Iranian GDP is expected to contract by at least 6%. The administration is nearing its goals of lowering Iranian exports to zero. Companies around the world have agreed with the US and now refuse to do business with Iran. Sanctions have bitten, and the Iranian regime is lashing out as a response.

What does Iran want from America and President Trump?

Iran wants a resumption of negotiations. They want to pressure Trump into returning to the negotiating table so that they can hopefully get the sanctions lifted.

But, they want America to be weakened both at home and internationally so that they are more likely to extract concessions. Shooting down an American drone but avoiding shooting down a manned plane shows that, according to both President Donald Trump and Takeyh. Shooting down a manned plane would have started a war with America. By shooting down a drone they avoided that, but potentially chastened Trump. However, as I mention in my “A Leader with some Backbone” post, Trump is nowhere near as bendable as his predecessor. Iranians shouldn’t count on him being weakened by this. The Iranians are counting on Trump being restrained by his lack of interest in getting involved in new Middle Eastern wars. But, he could easily strike back without precipitating a war. And it looks like he has already done that through cyber-attacks and new sanctions. So, is Iran winning or is America winning?

Is Iran Winning?

According to Takeyh, the Iranians are not winning. As mentioned above, Trump’s sanctions and tariffs are significantly hurting their economy and increasing resentment among the Iranian people.

Iran has succeeded in incrementally increasing pressure to get to Trump, as Takeyh notes. But, they haven’t yet brought Trump back to the negotiating table. And sanctions are hurting their economy. Iran has threatened tankers and shot down a drone. Both are damaging to America and the West. But America has already struck back effectively through degrading Iran’s economy. So no, it isn’t clear that Iran is winning. At best it is a draw.

Analysis of the Article about Iran’s Ambitions:

I really like this article because of what Takeyh does and doesn’t say. While he does speculate some as to Iran’s reasoning or goals, most of what he says is rooted in fact. That makes it much easier to follow his argument. Instead of reading the mindless speculation that is present on most websites, I was able to read an article that delved into the facts of the situation. For example, Takeyh did a great job of using data to support his assertion that sanctions are severely hurting Iran’s economy. Additionally, he does a great job of using quotations and context to describe why the Trump Administration has responded the way it has and what might happen in the future.

I agree with Takeyh that the answer to “What does Iran want” is that it wants America to return to the negotiation table. And I also agree that it wants America at that table in a weakened state. Trump would not sign a new deal unless that deal stops Iran from supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East and prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb at any point. The Iranians think they can get him to step away from that by weakening America before negotiations and then making the talks last a long time so that America is pressured into signing a bad deal.

But, there is no indication that strategy would work, which is something that Takeyh unfortunately does not delve into. Although Trump cancelled the air strikes minutes before bombs started falling, he has otherwise not shown a willingness to back down on the international stage. I doubt that will change, especially if he feels like he might lose at home. He is a leader with some backbone, so he will most likely remain strong. Iran needs to remember that before it gets too deeply involved.

Conclusion to “what does Iran want?”:

Takeyh does a great job of describing what Iran hopes to gain from this current crisis. For that reason, I definitely recommend reading his article. It will leave you much better informed about Iranian desires and intentions.

However, I do not think that he does a great job of describing what America will do or has done. He left out the recent cyber-attacks, for example, which makes President Donald Trump look much more passive than he is. Trump has accomplished lots, as I describe in “What has Trump done since the Election,” so he is not likely to be a passive bystander to this situation and let Iran trample all over him. He has great accomplishments to protect, and has shown a willingness to use force when necessary, such as in Syria. Finally, Takeyh does not do a very good job of describing the limits of Iranian influence. While he briefly mentions its proxy militias and armament programs, he doesn’t go into the limitations of those tools. Admittedly, he also doesn’t describe them as all powerful, unlike many other pundits. But I still think he should have described those limits to give the reader more context about how likely it is for Iranian plans to come to fruition.

Takeyh should have described those traits of both Trump and Iran to give more context and insight into whether Trump is likely to accede to Iranian plans. I don’t think he is, so I doubt Iran will get the deal it wants. It will probably just end up isolated and with a weakened economy.

Image at top By Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0,


Trump is a leader with backbone:

Read Takeyh’s article here:

Trump’s accomplishments since the election:

The limits of Iran’s influence and power:

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