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Iran Hawks Always Get Iran Wrong

President Trump and Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei. CreativeCommons, Shutterstock.

The president’s Iran obsession is paired with exceptionally poor understanding of the region:

“When I came into here, it was a question of when would they take over the Middle East,” Trump said Thursday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News. “Now it’s a question of will they survive. It’s a big difference in one and a half years.”

Only Iran hawks have ever claimed that Iran was capable of “taking over” the entire region, and they were completely wrong when they said that. Now they’re fantasizing about regime collapse, and their analysis is just as bad as before. Iran hawks will always overstate Iranian power for the sake of fear-mongering, and then they will make equally unfounded claims about Iran’s internal weaknesses to lend support to their plans for regime change. The same people will insist that Iran is “on the march” and then in the next breath pretend that their government is a shaky house of cards that just needs a nudge to come tumbling down. They invariably sound the alarm about Iranian “expansionism” when Iran has relatively less regional influence and then boast about Iranian isolation when most other countries are happy to do business with them. The reality is that Iran hawks are always missing the mark in both directions: they exaggerate the threat from Iran because it makes it easier to sell aggressive policies against them, and they exaggerate the fragility of the regime because it makes regime change seem relatively easy to achieve.

The silly contrast Trump drew between now and a year and a half ago would make a more thoughtful president question some of his assumptions. If the “question” at the start of 2017 was when Iran would “take over” the entire region, the people asking that question were inexcusably ignorant. If the same people are now wondering whether the regime that was supposedly on the verge of regional domination is going to survive, it’s safe to say that no one should ever listen to anything those people say. The problem is that Trump knows so little about Iran and the region that he never realizes that he is relying on shoddy “analysis” offered up by propagandists and ideologues. That doesn’t bode well for the future of U.S. Iran policy, which is already defined by its cruelty, stupidity, and ineffectiveness.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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