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US President Donald Trump has made no secret of his confrontational attitude toward Iran and his hostility toward the Iran nuclear deal, which he touted as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Besides criticizing some of the agreement's provisions, the Trump administration has also expressed strong concerns about the country’s long-range missile program and its support of terrorist groups and proxies across the Middle East. Yet if Trump wants to chart a more hawkish course on Iran, what are his options? Two foreign policy experts at the Cato Institute, a conservative US think tank, lay out the different approaches the United States could pursue and weigh their likely consequences. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why the reimposition of sanctions on Iran will likely backfire,
  • Why the United States has no viable military options against Iran and
  • Why engagement with Iran is more apt to produce desirable results than confrontation.

About the Authors

John Glaser is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, where Emma Ashford is a research fellow.



The Trump administration seems determined to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran pledged to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for lifted sanctions. Trump has repeatedly insisted that Tehran is violating the agreement but has provided no proof. Although it is not yet clear that America will withdraw from the deal, the US government is likely to take a more aggressive approach toward Iran. US policy options include:

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