Now that the dust has settled from the U.S.-Iran conflict in December and January, a more nuanced picture of events has emerged. Moreover, with Washington and Tehran potentially poised to repeat history, it is crucial to analyze the lessons from that December/January confrontation and how they apply moving forward.

Iran can’t accept the status quo — defined as either idly absorbing the U.S. pressure campaign or succumbing to U.S. demands — but it has few good alternatives. Between now and November, Iran has three general paths. It can escalate in an attempt to force Washington to reduce sanctions pressure, it can enter negotiations with Washington from a weak position, or it can continue to scrape by until the U.S. presidential election.

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