Trump's Iran Policy Comes Back to Haunt Him
Is there anything more shameful and embarrassing than watching the Trump Administration warn Iran not to breach the nuclear thresholds in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015, the agreement the President abrogated last year while renewing a host of sanctions against the regime? Of course they were going to move forward with their nuclear program at some point, if for no other reason than to pressure America to scale back it's economic pressure. And, yes, it's true that the other signatories [Germany, Russia, China, France and the UK] continue to honor the deal, but they have been unable to shield Iran from the impact of Trump's sanctions.
3 Things to understand about the Iran Crises:
1. This crisis is of Trump's making. To be clear, Iran is a bad actor that supports Shiite proxy forces throughout the Middle East, jails human rights and pro-democracy activists limits women's rights, and flogs gays and lesbians. Iran's leaders are brutal and repressive, but they are far from the only such regime in the region and America can't go to war with every nation that interferes in its neighbors' affairs and violates human rights.
President Obama led the effort to curtail Iran's effort to obtain a nuclear weapon in order to prevent them from threatening our allies in the region, not because he was blind to their repression or regional ambitions. He understood that a nuclear armed Iran would be far more dangerous, would destabilize the Middle East, and that eventually Israel would go to war to stop them. Israel's decision would pull the US into another war in the region that would quickly spread to Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as Iran's proxy forces responded.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a commendable success that Iran has adhered to and that all the other signatories still support. Every one of them opposed Trump's decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions, and warned that it would lead to a crisis at some point. And here we are.
2. Individuals in the Trump Administration have helped to stoke the Iranian crisis. We are a still a long way from war with Iran, but, for various reasons, there are actors in the Trump administration that have encouraged President Trump to ramp up the confrontation.
Vox: "John Bolton, Trump’s top national security aide, has long argued for regime change in Iran and advocated for bombing the country to stop it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also pushed the US to confront the Iranian regime."
Bolton has always seen Iran's theocracy as a threat to the region, but Pompeo's rationale is a bit more complex, likely resulting from his long-time support for Israel and admiration for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "who sees Iran as an existential threat to his country."
Vox: "It’s important to note that Trump says he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but the problem is that he’s effectively outsourced his Iran policy to the hawks. That means that at a time when cooler heads should prevail, there aren’t many cool heads to be found."
3. Both sides understand the consequences, so, for now, the likely result will be a slow increase in tensions, but no immediate conflict. The longer term is more problematic.
President Trump now faces dual challenges from Iran. They can simultaneously threaten oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz and ramp up their nuclear weapons program. It's also quite possible that Iranian proxies in the Middle East will stage attacks to remind Trump of the havoc they could inflict on our allies. All were predictable when the President withdrew from the nuclear agreement, but it's unclear that the Trump administration had anticipated their current quandary.
The United States will increase its naval presence in the region and threaten retaliation for future attacks on shipping. Bolton, Netanyahu and Pompeo will try to convince anyone who will listen that Iran's re-energized nuclear program presents a crisis. At some point Israel will again threaten to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. We will have returned to the status quo prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iran is betting that despite American threats, Trump doesn't want another war, especially with an election year approaching. In the short-term, they are probably right, but what about the longer term. It may depend on who wins the 2020 election. A Democrat would likely find a way back to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but a reelected Trump would almost certainly feel free to pursue regime change and that would be devastating for America and the Middle East.
National Security analyst Max Boot, Washington Post: "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."
By: Don Lam & Curated Content