Deciphering Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” Policy: The Enduring Challenge of Containing Iran

Hossein Aghaie Joobani, Mohammadhossein Daheshvar


Since the advent of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the US has pursued a policy of containment towards Iran. In a major shift from Obama’s policy of appeasement, the Trump administration has spearheaded the “Maximum Pressure” campaign in an effort to contain Iran and coerce it into changing its behaviour. Although the fate of Trump’s policy remains a puzzle, it is evident that the US administration’s decisions, i.e. the withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions and re-securitisation of Iran as well as Tehran’s counter-strategies to defy US pressures have exacerbated the enmity between Washington and Tehran. By applying the Regional Security Complex theory and linking it with George Kennan’s “containment strategy”, this article attempts to deconstruct the modus operandi of Trump administration towards Iran and scrutinise the various policy tools the US has employed to implement the maximum pressure doctrine. This research concludes that through exerting vast economic sanctions, maximizing diplomatic pressures and maintaining military deterrence, the Trump administration aims to create the conditions of possibility for regime collapse in the event that Iran refuses to change its behaviour. The article uses an analytical-explanative method and seeks to contribute to the existing academic and policy-oriented research regarding US-Iran relations via employing a hybrid theoretical lens. 


Regional Security Complex Theory; Middle East; Iran; Donald Trump; Maximum Pressure; Containment Strategy

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