America has rarely been able to think clearly about Iran; not least because the regime’s followers held 52 of its citizens hostage for 444 days after seizing the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. But if Iran has recently extended its power it is in large part because of the mess caused by America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
That said, Mr Obama’s accord, the JCPOA, succeeded in freezing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of many sanctions. Mr Trump thinks this was a terrible deal that failed to halt the nukes for good or stop Iran from stirring trouble around the region. Renewed sanctions are pushing Iran into a deep economic crisis. But re-imposing them when Iran was abiding by the JCPOA casts America as the rogue. This has deepened the split with European allies, which have created a system to help firms sidestep them. America has bound itself more tightly to autocratic Arab regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, that have themselves fomented instability and radicalism. What “moral clarity” can America claim in denouncing Iran’s human-rights abuses when it turns a blind eye to those committed by its friends?