The Islamic Republic of Iran and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have arguably become the most powerful country, and leader, in the Middle East. A Machiavellian combination of ruthlessness, radicalism, and realism—underpinned by a 2500-year history of subtle statecraft—has helped Tehran fill political vacuums created by the Iraq war and Arab uprisings. Though American and Iran share numerous common interests—and adversaries—as long as Iran continues to define itself as a revolution rather than a nation-state cooperation will be minimal, containment will be necessary, and confrontation may be unavoidable.

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This essay was originally published by the Hoover Institution.