Conventional wisdom claims that the main cause for the moderates’ declining position was U.S. pressure on the Rouhani administration, with some analysts describing Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign as a gift for Iranian hardliners. In such a view, Washington’s re-imposition of sanctions gave Iran’s hardliners “what they wanted” and “by putting the hardliners in the driver’s seat in Tehran, Trump made the current crisis inevitable.” This argument also credits U.S. pressure with strengthening “the hand of hardline Iranian factions, in the clerical and judicial establishment as well as in the Revolutionary Guards.” In the same vein, forecasts for Iran’s 2021 presidential election insist that the White House’s policies have created “impossible circumstances” for a reformist candidate to win. These facile explanations disregard Iran’s internal politics and vastly overstate the importance of Washington to shaping outcomes within Iran.
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