Beyond Sanctions: How to Solve the Iranian Riddle

Olivier Laban-Mattei / AFP / Getty

Civil unrest Opposition supporters clash with police

Iran is the 21st century equivalent of 1930s Russia — a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The Iranians haven't stumbled upon this mystifying state coincidentally, and the enigma isn't the result of outsiders' failure to try to understand them. Rather, the Iranian government has a deliberate policy aimed at confusing the outside world about its goals and decision-making processes. "There is an intention out there to confuse," a noted Iranian professor told me in Tehran a few years ago. The rulers in Tehran think that opacity and the perception of unpredictability buy them security.

Given...

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