How to win the influence contest in the Middle East

Co-authored by Aiman Mansour

The United States and its partners in the Middle East have two problems with Iran. One stems from Tehran’s penetration of neighboring states; the other, from its nuclear program, which could yield weapons if left unchecked. The two issues are linked strategically and politically: an Iran with nuclear weapons capability would likely be emboldened in its regional adventurism. And Iranian adventurism empowers those in Washington and in the Middle East who favor imposing, rather than negotiating, limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s regional activism thus clouds the prospects for a renewed nuclear deal with Iran—and so long as there is no such settlement, the risk remains that Iran will develop nuclear weapons, an outcome that is obviously not in the U.S. interest.

Addressing Iran’s regional advances is therefore vital. But the manner in which the United States and its regional partners have so far tried to do so has failed. Military force and comprehensive sanctions have not stymied Iran’s regional activities. On the contrary, they have done the opposite. Today, Syria and Lebanon are more dependent on Iran than ever before. The United States and its Gulf partners should consider a fresh approach that makes use of their wealth and countervailing soft power.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.