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Iran's Arc of Influence

Iran’s domain in the Middle East stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. It maintains this arc of influence through its use of militant proxies, political agents and economic relationships, fending off challenges to its power from Sunni rivals in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Iran’s nuclear program, meanwhile, will continue to test relations with the West. But for all the program’s controversy, it is unlikely to spark a serious confrontation with the United States — Iran will instead leverage its control of the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 20 percent of all globally traded crude oil passes. In fact, some of the biggest challenges to Iranian power will come not from without but from within as new generations of Iranians drift further from the religious principles — principles guarded by the still-strong clerical elite — on which the revolution was founded.

For all the Iran nuclear program’s controversy, it is unlikely to spark a serious confrontation with the United States — Iran will instead leverage its control of the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 20 percent of all globally traded crude oil passes.
(BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Iran has increased the budget for its ballistic missile program twice this year.
    U.S. leaders know that any attempt to thwart Tehran's ambitions must start by restricting the movements of its most powerful military branch, the IRGC.
    The Iran nuclear agreement may have helped speed moderation in the country's politics.
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