There is much evidence that shows the United States is implementing a containment strategy in relation to Iran, and Western policymakers and academics do not deny this.
Besides this, there are no more details about the real U.S. policy toward Iran, and no one knows how far U.S. decision makers are willing to go before putting the region at risk of a new war.
On the other hand, Iran has great potential to become a rising power, at least at the regional level in the first step, but the U.S. is trying to deny Iran has the ability to project power through a policy of engagement with the countries of the region. This means that the U.S. is uncertain about Iran’s power and influence in the region and to what degree the Islamic Republic will eventually use its power and influence in the regional game to establish Iran’s new role. Since U.S. policymakers believe that it is difficult to determine if Iran is inclined to use force to attain its objectives in the region, the best approach for Iran in this situation would be to initiate engagement on a specific topic.
So it is essential that the U.S. and Iran take confidence-building measures by pursuing hedging policies. But while the U.S. would benefit from relations with Iran in many ways, there is a real risk for Iran in relations with the U.S., because of its historical mistrust of the United States. So Iran should spread out the risk of relations by pursuing two opposite policies toward the U.S. This is a normal practice in international relations. The U.S. could also pursue two contradictory policy directions simultaneously: balancing and engagement in its foreign policy toward Iran, rather than containment, which are straightforward strategic choices.
The U.S. can be prepared for the worst by balancing, while also preparing for the best through engaging and creating binding multilateral frameworks. Iran and the U.S. could both use hedging strategies, which encompass balancing, while at the same time taking confidence-building measures and making efforts to promote engagement.
At this juncture, the U.S. needs to jettison its nuanced Iran containment policy -- which is based on the United States’ hegemony, economic monopoly, oil security, and global governance -- and replace it with a more reliable, short-term policy. Although U.S. policymakers have not yet rejected the idea of containment, they believe that a type of engagement policy could be highly successful in a number of spheres.
Thus, the uncertainty and the wall of mistrust separating the two countries could be described as structural and functional. In the climate of distrust between Iran and the United States, there are cultural differences that will have a significant effect on their relations.
Iranian foreign policy is relatively difficult to understand, in contrast to the situation in the United States, where foreign diplomats can access U.S. policy objectives in many ways. This is one of the main sources of confusion, and without all the facts and without information about objectives, policymakers are genuinely uncertain about which line to pursue to avoid putting the region at risk of a new war. So they need to implement a policy that could be described as a hedging policy because of the uncertainties.
But in order to moderate this policy, the causes of uncertainty in the relationship must be addressed. Some causes of uncertainty are structural and difficult to address, but others are well within the reach of policymakers, such as making intentions clear and making efforts to build trust.
The utilization of a hedging strategy by the two countries shows that their policymakers are not sure if the other side constitutes a threat or not.
Hedging is not only defined by a state’s actions but is also defined by its objectives, and it is difficult to devise policy without comprehensive knowledge about the other state’s objectives. Thus, a hedging strategy requires engagement on a specific topic.
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