There’s an unfortunate tendency in Washington to navel-gaze. At the heart of Chuck Hagel’s conceit is that the failure to resolve the Iranian nuclear and terror challenge is because of mistakes in Washington rather than strategy in Tehran. Almost every president—Democrat and Republican—enters the Oval Office blaming his predecessors—rather than America’s adversaries—for the failure of diplomacy. While many American diplomats and politicians may assume the world is reacting to American actions, the dirty little secret that has become so painfully obvious in recent years is that it is the United States—and not our enemies—that has no coherent strategy. Call it “leading from behind” or call it incompetence, but the United States is more often in reactive mode than proactive mode.
Against this backdrop, some analysts asked me to speculate about how Iran develops and executes its strategy, and what aspects of Iranian policy development American officials often miss. It might be a long slog to read, but here’s my crack at the answer.