Iran-US Conflict: What’s Next for the Region?

I had the opportunity to attend a discussion about the current Iran-US conflict with three experts in the field. Samer Shehata, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Trita Parsi, Executive Director for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Joshua Landis, Director of the OU Center for Middle East Studies. The three held a short lecture about their views on the current situation and held a Q&A with the audience after.

All three of the panelists did not seem optimistic about our current administrations past dealings and current trajectory regarding this issue. There was a consensus that the current situation was caused by President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal, and that his economic warfare may bleed into actual warfare.

Trita Parsi emphasized that the US has nearly avoided two events in the last 6 months that could have led to war; the Iran strike and proposed US retaliation for the attack on a US drone, and the US assassination of top Iranian Official Solemani. He also noted that Iran is beginning to spread the cost of this altercation to neighboring countries with events such as the bombing of tankers in the Persian Gulf and the attack on a Saudi Arabian refining facility. He believes that as Iran gets backed further into a corner, they will escalate the situation without conceding to Trump’s demands.

Samer Shehata shared similar views regarding the sanctions imposed on Iran, but gave credit to Iran’s restraint in the conflict. He believes that Iran knows that they are unable to retaliate to a significant degree, and is carefully calculating their moves while this plays out.

Joshua Landis had two takes regarding the US’s focus on Iran. The first being that the US believes that Iran is slowly becoming a hegemony in the Middle East, and the second being the outcome if we won this “war”. Landis believes that the claim of hegemony is baseless since the balance of power between Iran allies and enemies in the region greatly favors the enemies. Iran, under the current situation, would be unable to take over economically or militarily. Regarding the outcome, he believes that the outcome would be the same as in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq; further distressed unrest. A US win for this conflict wouldn’t lead to any meaningful change.

The panelists often stated that the current policy will only continue to hurt the US and Iran, but neglected to offer a possible solution other than a US administrative change.