USAIran: Between Maximum Pressure and Heroic Flexibility

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-7-69-79
A. Shumilin (,
Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences (IE RAS), 11/3, Mokhovaya Str., Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation


The article analyzes the factors that determine the evolution of the United States’ conceptual approach to the Islamic Republic of Iran during the four administrations (from W. Clinton to D. Trump), as well as the main factors that influenced formation of Iran’s policy towards the U.S. Since the mid‑1990’s until recently, Washington’s approach has undergone significant changes – from the doctrine of “containing Iran” to the “maximum pressure campaign” on the Iranian leadership. The policy of the current U.S. administration has actually put the Gulf region on the brink of a full-blown military explosion (exchange of missile strikes in January 2020). However, in recent years, Tehran has also noticeably tightened the foreign policy line of “heroic flexibility” proclaimed in 2013 by Ayatollah A. Khamenei. And yet, despite the gigantic military superiority over Iran, the United States seek to avoid a direct clash with it. The reason is not only predicted losses on both sides. The ultimate goal of the American establishment is to bring Iran back to the bosom of partnership with the United States. Tehran understands this, and therefore, from time to time sends reconciliation messages to Washington. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. – Iranian attitude has not changed. It is significant that, despite the magnitude of the epidemic and the number of victims in the country, Tehran refused a humanitarian gesture – the medical assistance offered by the Trump administration. Simultaneously, despite political disagreements with the European Union, the Iranian leadership agreed to accept European assistance. Against this background, the confrontation between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf continued to grow: the leaders of both states are betting on a strategy of mutual deterrence, which results in balancing on the verge of a collision.


Iran, USA, JCPOA, nuclear deal, maximum pressure, heroic flexibility, sanctions, confrontation, Persian Gulf, Arab monarchies


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For citation:
Shumilin A. USAIran: Between Maximum Pressure and Heroic Flexibility. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2020, vol. 64, No 7, pp. 69-79.

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