Iran has become a symbol of radical Islam and the nuclear threat in the Middle East. It was not always this way. Actually, between the 50’s, 60’s, and till 1979, Iran was actually an oasis of calm, modernity, and openness in the Arab world of the Middle East.
This all came to a quick end in 1979 in the Iranian revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Overnight, Iran became a ruthless dictatorship where modernity was frowned upon and religious fundamentalism became the dominant aspect of life. What many do not understand about the present sanctions of the Trump administration vs. the deal of the Obama administration is a basic difference of policy vis-a-vis Iran. Obama accepted the present reality of Iran, and worked to make the best of a difficult situation. Trump wants to turn the clock back.
The present Iran deal brokered by Obama allows Iran to continue to get closer and closer towards their goal, but more slowly with more supposed oversight. The Trump sanctions basically counter the progress of Iran towards a nuclear weapon by basically strangling the Iranian economy. Trump basically wants the Iranians to give up their hopes for nuclear power in order to keep their struggling economy from falling apart. Moreso, Trump may even want the Iranian leadership to fall apart and may even want to foment a revolution.
This is a rather radical idea. But it is probably the right thing to do. If Iran buckles under the pressure, all tyrannical regimes will realize that you don’t mess with the United States. Economic pressure is very effective – especially with teetering regimes. But, it is way too early to judge the wisdom or folly of the Trump policy vis-a-vis Iran.