By Dina Esfandiary and Ariane M. Tabatabai
FOREIGN AFFAIRS - July 20, 2018
Tehran Is Hedging Against International Isolation
In May, President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. A few weeks later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the administration’s aggressive new Iran policy, which was designed to prevent the country’s emergence from isolation. This strategy, the Trump administration believes, will force Iran to return to the table and make a “bigger and better” deal that addresses the president’s concerns with the existing agreement. For Tehran, a full economic recovery and renewed ties with Western countries now seem unlikely. But this doesn’t mean that the Trump administration’s plans will succeed. For the better part of two decades, Iran’s leadership has been hedging against international isolation by developing deeper ties with China and Russia. Today, as Washington once again seeks to tighten the screws, Tehran sees its relationship with Beijing as key to remaining afloat. China has announced it will likely continue importing oil from Iran, even after the United States moves to cut down Iranian oil sales down to zero by November. And Chinese engagement with Iran might pave the ground for others to follow suit, which would undermine the new U.S. pressure campaign.