But if Iran’s economic prospects have fundamentally improved since the completion of the nuclear deal, its political outlook has not. Although the White House lobbied for the JCPOA by arguing that the deal would help empower moderate forces within Iran, nothing of the sort has occurred: the JCPOA has not significantly strengthened Iran’s reformists, and elections in recent months have only served to further entrench the country’s conservative status quo. Tehran’s anti-American animus also remains intact, and high-ranking Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have warned against the normalization of ties with the United States. The meaning of these developments is clear. Although Iran has profited handsomely from the nuclear deal, it has no interest in a more pacific relationship with the country principally responsible for making that deal possible.
What the agreement has succeeded in doing, however, is reinvigorating Iran’s global ambitions. After laboring for years under international sanctions and with limited means to make its foreign policy vision a reality, the Islamic Republic is now undertaking a landmark expansion abroad. From its deepening military footprint in Syria to its renewed push for engagement in Latin America, Tehran is unmistakably on the march.