The U.S. Is Outplaying Iran in a Regional Chess Match

(National Review) Seth J. Frantzman - In the complex game of wits being played between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime, it appears that the U.S. temporarily checked Iran's usual behavior. Tehran knows that any real battle with U.S. forces will result in Iranian defeat. Tehran can't risk massive retaliation against its allies or the regime at home for fear that it will lead to the destruction of all it has carefully built up in the last years. In the past, Iran benefited from its ability to threaten Western powers and attack U.S. forces with proxies, even seizing U.S. sailors, without fear of reprisal. It learned in the past that the U.S. preferred diplomacy, but the current administration appears to have put Tehran on notice. If Iran thinks Washington isn't serious, or if it senses that domestic opposition to Washington's saber-rattling is building, Iran may call America's bluff. But if Iran thinks the U.S. really will retaliate, it will tread carefully. Iran now wants to assure its own people that war isn't likely through media stories about how the U.S. isn't serious. This is in contrast to the usual Tehran bluster and threats, even harassment of ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran's sudden quiet could, of course, be the calm before the storm, but it is more likely a reflection of the regime's sudden confusion about U.S. policy. This is a good thing for American interests. Iran needs to be kept guessing about U.S. intentions. It needs to tell its proxies to stop threatening U.S. forces in Iraq. The U.S. gained the upper hand in its recent escalation against Iran by playing Iran's game of bluster and support for allies on the ground. If Washington wants to continue to keep Iran in check, it needs to keep up the pressure. The writer is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

2019-05-23 00:00:00

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