Iran and N. Korea Defy Trump With Missile Launches this Week
This week, in a direct challenge to the Trump administration, Iran and N. Korea tested missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Both nations want sanctions relief and are slowly ratcheting up pressure on Washington to respond. Moreover, both nations feel that they are gaining the upper hand in their high-profile face-offs with Washington.
"Many observers quickly determined that the test was an attempt to get the Trump administration's attention in the wake of several leadership summits that failed to produce an outcome desired by either side or possibly a warning to South Korea as it strengthens its military."
And on Wednesday, Iran tested a Shahab-3 medium-range missile. Arms experts say that it's possible Iran could use the Shahab-3 to deliver a nuclear weapon if they ever develop one. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded that Tehran stop such missile launches and destroy its missile stockpile. Iran has launched this type of missile before, but this time it seems like a direct rebuke to Pompeo and a further, although well calibrated, escalation of the dispute.
It's noteworthy that neither Iran nor N. Korea feel particularly threatened by Donald Trump's "fire and furry" bluster any more. Both are feeling more comfortable "poking" the White House without fear of a US military response.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un is in the strongest position because he has a nuclear arsenal and can threaten S. Korea with conventional weapons. He also knows that President Trump needs some sort of a foreign policy victory before the 2020 election. So, he will continue to ramp up pressure on Trump to negotiate sanctions relief. If he doesn't get some soon, expect him to test a long-range missile which would represent a much more direct challenge to the President.
Iran has a slightly weaker hand militarily, but still plenty of ways to damage US interests in the Middle East and disrupt the global oil market. And they don't believe that Trump has the stomach for another war in the Middle East, especially one which could be far bloodier than Iraq or Afghanistan. National Security columnist Max Boot captured the scenario succinctly:
Washington Post, Max Boot: "I’ve spent the past week studying Iranian capabilities, and I don’t see any military option that would qualify as decisive or low-cost. Instead, what I see is the mother of all quagmires: a conflict that would make the Iraq War — which I now deeply regret supporting — seem like a “cakewalk” by comparison."
Donald Trump and his national security team expected Iran and N. Korea to knuckle under to US sanctions and military threats. It doesn't seem like they ever formulated a plan B if the threats didn't work, and Iran and N. Korea are now moving ever closer to directly calling the President's bluff.
By: Don Lam and Curated Content