Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, wrote the following for Al Jazeera America.
The escalating tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the story of a declining state desperately seeking to reverse the balance of power shifting in favor of its rising rival.
History teaches us that it is not rising states that tend to be reckless, but declining powers. Rising states have time on their side. They can afford to be patient: They know that they will be stronger tomorrow and, as a result, will be better off postponing any potential confrontation with rivals.
Declining states suffer from the opposite condition: Growing weaker over time, they know that time is not on their side; their power and influence is slipping out of their hands.
So they have a double interest in an early crisis: First, their prospects of success in any confrontation will diminish the longer they wait, and second, because of the illusion that a crisis may be their last chance to change the trajectory of their regional influence and their prospects vis-à-vis rivals.
When their rivals — who have the opposite relationship with time — seek to deescalate and avoid any confrontation, declining states feel they are left with no choice but to instigate a crisis.
Saudi Arabia is exhibiting the psychology of a state that risks losing its dominant position and whose losing hand is growing weaker and weaker. … …
Source: Al Jazeera America
The observations I quoted would be just as true if Parsi had substituted “the USA” for Saudi Arabia and “China” for Iran. Since the Vietnam era, American political leaders have entered into conflicts just to prove that we Americans were strong and willing to fight, while the Chinese leaders have quietly made their country stronger.
I don’t know what the future holds for Iran or China, but I have no doubt that we Americans need to change direction or we will lose what power we have.