Iran will continue to utilize asymmetric or “gray zone” tactics as long as it believes it can do so with relative impunity. However, when confronted with strength, Iran has often backed-down. Indeed, under the Trump administration, naval harassment of American vessels by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is reportedly decreasing. To explain its de-escalation to a domestic audience, the regime has twisted itself into rhetorical knots.
Ultimately, Washington’s deployment of a carrier strike group offers an opportunity to strengthen its Iran policy and make the case for tough diplomacy. As America re-orders its military priorities to focus on “great power competition,” the move signals that the Persian Gulf remains an utmost national security interest, as does checking Iranian aggression.
Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Senior Fellow focusing on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), where he contributes to its Center on Military and Political Power (@FDD_CMPP). Bradley Bowman is former Senate staffer who served as an Army officer and taught at West Point. He now serves as Senior Director for CMPP at FDD.