The U.S. Is Outplaying Iran in a Regional Chess Match
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.
May 20, 2019
In the first two weeks of May, U.S.–Iran tensions appeared to be careening toward war. In an escalating series of warnings, the U.S. asserted that an attack by Iran would be met with unrelenting force Iran eventually responded with its usual bluster about being prepared for a full confrontation with Washington. But on the ground, the Middle East looks more like a chessboard, with Iran and its allies and proxies facing off against American allies. This state of affairs was brought into sharp relief when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched a drone attack on Saudi Arabia and a rocket fell near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
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. Iran prefers bluster in rhetoric with a careful strategy of extending its influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, knowing 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 instability and the destruction of all it has carefully built up in the last years. Iran is suffering from the effects of recent nationwide floods and from shortages due to sanctions, so it can’t afford a total war, and its allies in Iraq and Lebanon are in sensitive positions of power.