Assessments

Iran Is Still Playing the Long Game

Jan 8, 2020 | 20:54 GMT
Mourners in Tehran carry a banner featuring Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the military leader's funeral procession on Jan. 6.

Mourners carry a banner featuring Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Gen. Qasem Soleimani during the military leader's funeral procession in Tehran on Jan. 6. Iran limited its military retribution for Soleimani's death in a U.S. attack to missile strikes on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops that left no casualties.

(ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

If the Islamic Republic of Iran has had one consistent goal since 1979, it's been survival; since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has essentially existed in crisis management mode, whether it's been fighting Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War or weathering the latest U.S. sanctions. Today, there are two interlinked issues that Iran views as essential to its long-term survival: Its economic health and its regional strategy in Iraq and the Levant. Protecting both of these priorities has put Tehran in a bind, however: Iran could ameliorate its dire economic situation by caving in to U.S. demands and disengaging from the wider Middle East. But this would entail reducing support for its regional proxies and Bashar al Assad's government in Syria, thereby crippling Iran's strategy to project power across the region -- the very thing that so irked U.S. President Donald Trump in the first place. Still, bind or not, Iran's limited...

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