“Just before the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, the United States and Iran appeared to be set on a collision course. COVID-19 quickly displaced such concerns from international headlines. But as the world prepares for further outbreaks of the disease in the months ahead, it should similarly brace for tensions between the United States and Iran to flare up again. Domestic political dynamics in the two countries risk fueling a cycle of escalation. Each side is digging in and making decisions based on flawed assumptions. Meanwhile, the odds of a diplomatic resolution dwindle by the day.

“The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump fundamentally miscalculated when it abandoned the Iran nuclear deal two years ago and opted for a policy of ‘maximum pressure.’ The bet was that sanctions on Iranian oil exports would compel Tehran to come to the negotiating table, where it would agree to far-reaching concessions on its nuclear program and end its aggressive policies in the region…”

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