Several analysts have recently written that it would be a strategic error for the U.S. to allow Iran to play a greater role in the region, given its destabilizing nature and hegemonic ambitions. Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies writes that the administration is “grossly mistaken” if it thinks it can cooperate with Iran to combat Sunni extremism. According to the Treasury Department, Iran has an agreement with al Qaeda whereby the latter can stay in the former’s territory as long as it does not conduct operations there or attempt active recruitment. Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Daily Star, contends that Iran has a strategy of dividing the Arab world along sectarian lines, which “provides fertile ground for Iran to impose hegemony regionally.” Iran’s strategy, Young writes, directly undermines the American policy of “building consensus to reinforce governance institutions and prevent the emergence of vacuums in the region.”
The ongoing Iranian-Hezbollah-Syrian offensive in southern Syria has put Iran right on the Israel-Syria border. Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies quotes a U.S. military official: “You cross a red line in Syria, you start to infringe upon what Iran sees as its long-term interest and those Shia militias [in Iraq] could turn in the other direction.” This accommodation, Badran argues, creates a wedge between Israel and the U.S. Lee Smith, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, agrees with Badran, writing that in the American attempt to contain Sunni jihadism in Syria and Iraq, a “strategic divergence” over Iran has opened between the U.S. and Israel.
Analysts usually aligned with the Obama administration have also expressed their concern about the President’s desired rapprochement with Iran. Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars wrote in January, “[I]f the administration is too eager for an agreement, it will find itself…with an emboldened Iran…untransformed, unrepentant, and in a stronger … position to challenge U.S. interests in a turbulent Middle East.” David Rothkopf, the CEO and Editor of the FP Group, maintained in a January essay that if things continue on the same path, the administration’s “pivot to Iran is going to seem like a great blunder.” Former Special Advisor to the Obama administration Dennis Ross recommended a new strategy that will “focus on isolating Iran in its neighborhood and undermining its clients” to “raise the price to Tehran of its objectionable policies.”