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Understanding Iranian threat perceptions

Rather than perpetuating mantras about Iranian expansionism, the United States and its regional allies should take a closer look at the origins of Iranian threat perceptions.
Iranian soldiers march during a parade marking the country's Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

A pervasive perception in US policy circles and among US allies is that Iran seeks hegemony in the Middle East. Israel and other regional states often claim that Iran wishes to "revive the Persian Empire." While such claims would be dismissed as farcical by any Iranian official, it is important to note that such sentiment lies at the root of the current standoff between Iran, its regional rivals and the United States.

Contrary to mantras such as the above, Iranians broadly view their contemporary history as one of falling victim to aggressive outside powers and struggling to maintain a sense of security. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a series of events and factors have led Tehran to believe that Washington and its regional allies seek regime change and Iran's territorial dismemberment. This perception is fueled by comments such as that of US Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier this week, who said that regime change will be necessary before the US and Iran can have substantially positive relations.

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