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U.S.-Iran Relations

- November 15, 2019
Is a military conflict inevitable?
Featured Report

President Trump's withdrawal from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal and his crippling economic sanctions against Tehran have added more volatile elements to an already tense Middle East. Trump wants to force Iran to permanently halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and stop supporting Shiite militants fighting Sunni governments across the region. The sanctions, while causing suffering for many Iranians, have united the country behind its defiant clerical leadership. Tehran has sought to raise the stakes of the confrontation and encourage global pressure on Trump to lift his sanctions by downing a U.S. drone and harassing foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. American officials also accuse Iran of attacking Saudi Arabia's oil installations. So far, Trump has not responded militarily, but neither has he relaxed the sanctions. As long as they remain in place, experts say, Iran will likely continue its provocations. The standoff between Washington and Tehran will not end peacefully unless the two sides start talking about their differences, experts add.

Escalating Standoff

De-Escalating Tension

530 B.C.–A.D. 1501Persian Empire falls to a succession of foreign invaders; Iran adopts Shiite Islam.
1900s–1948Persia becomes constitutional monarchy; after discovery of oil, Britain and Russia occupy the country during world wars.
1950s–1960sThe Iranian government nationalizes the oil industry, provoking a CIA coup.
1978–1995Islamic revolution transforms Iran into bitter U.S. foe.
2000–2010U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq enable Iran to extend its regional influence.
2011–PresentIran accepts an international deal that lifts nuclear-related sanctions, but President Trump withdraws and reimposes sanctions.

Will U.S. sanctions force Iran to the negotiating table?


Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech.


Esfandyar Batmanghelidj
Founder, Bourse & Bazaar.


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