Anti-USA protest in Iran Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump Is Strengthening Iran’s Radicals

US President Donald Trump’s decision to pursue a more aggressive Iran policy underscores his administration’s misunderstanding of the Iranian regime. Shelving the 2015 nuclear deal would not only heighten regional tensions; it would also embolden the very hardliners that the US has been seeking to contain.

STANFORD – The United States and Iran have rarely agreed on how to proceed with nuclear talks or other elements of their bilateral relations. But synergies and similarities between two factions – Iranian hardliners and the hawks of the current US administration – are as counterintuitive as they are profound. Indeed, Donald Trump’s new Iran strategy has given radicals in Tehran reason to celebrate, as they have found in the US president an unwitting ally in their quest for political dominance.

For years, Iran’s “conservative radicals” – a concept that combines extreme conservatism in matters of faith and philosophy with radical views on violence – have argued that negotiation and rapprochement with the US are foolish and futile. The US, these hardliners believe, is interested only in regime change, and to fight Islam in the region.

This view has led Iran to align more closely with Russia and China. But as crippling nuclear-related sanctions in recent years brought the Iranian economy to the verge of collapse, Iran’s conservatives were forced to negotiate in good faith with the international community.