Iran’s national security policy is the product of many overlapping and sometimes competing factors such as the ideology of Iran’s Islamic revolution; perception of threats to the regime and to the country; long-standing Iranian national interests; and the interaction of the Iranian regime’s factions and constituencies.
The Trump Administration has articulated a strategy to counter Iran’s “malign activities” and its behavior more broadly, based on pressuring Iran economically through sanctions. Arguing that the JCPOA-related sanctions relief enhanced Iran’s ability to exert influence in the region, President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, and reimposed all U.S. sanctions by November 4, 2018. Additionally, the Administration strategy for countering Iran’s malign activities includes training, arming, and providing counterterrorism assistance to partner governments and some allied substate actors in the region. Some U.S. forces in the region are deployed to deter Iran or interdict its arms shipments to its allies and proxies. President Trump and other senior U.S. officials also have indirectly threatened military action against Iranian actions that pose an immediate threat to U.S. regional interests or allies. In late September 2018, the Administration issued a report (“Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities”) outlining Iran’s malign activities as well as a litany of other activities the Administration termed “the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior at home and abroad.” The Administration insists that an end to Iran’s malign activities is a requirement of any revised JCPOA and normalization of relations with the United States.