One of the running themes of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been its increasingly open contempt for many major U.S. allies and their interests. The administration’s Iran policy is a case in point. Under Trump, the U.S. has broken faith with Germany, Britain, and France by reneging on the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, and again by threatening European firms with penalties if they engage in legitimate trade with Iran. The administration has taken a series of actions that have increased tensions with Iran, soured relations with our European allies, and brought the Middle East closer to another unnecessary war. Just as some of our European allies recoiled from the proposed invasion of Iraq in 2002, many of our allies are likewise alarmed by and opposed to the administration’s pursuit of conflict with Iran.
Lara Seligman and Robbie Gramer report on the growing friction with allied governments, citing the recent statement from the British deputy commander of the anti-ISIS coalition that I mentioned earlier:
The rare rebuke of an allied officer by the U.S. military, as well as Europe’s chilly reception of Pompeo during a recent visit and Spain’s decision to recall a frigate from the U.S. Navy strike group in the Persian Gulf, reflects growing tension between the United States and its allies over the administration’s hard-line stance against Tehran.
Jim Townsend, a former senior Pentagon official, said European allies, already skeptical of Trump’s foreign policy, see disturbing parallels to President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, especially since Trump’s hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, appears to be directing the administration’s approach to Iran.
“Allies are getting nervous about just what Bolton might cause to happen by accident,” Townsend said. “They remember that following the Americans blindly can get you engaged in a forever war.”
European governments can see as well as anyone that the administration has been trying to trigger an incident that it can use to justify escalation. The tightening of oil sanctions, the IRGC designation, and the new sanctions on Iran’s metals trade earlier this year have been leading up to the overhyping of threats and the buildup of U.S. forces in the last two weeks. The U.S. is responsible for bringing things to this point, and our allies have no desire to be caught up in it. The New York Times reports:
Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington — where John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has prodded President Trump into backing Iran into a corner.
One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton [bold mine-DL]. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States [bold mine-DL].
Administration officials will claim that they “fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran,” as Pompeo said earlier this week, but then previous administrations that have been intent on starting a war have said much the same thing. It is common for the instigator of a conflict to profess that he has no desire for war, but then everything he does proves otherwise. So when you see the administration paving the way for a new war, don’t be fooled when they claim that they aren’t seeking the thing they have been pursuing for months. Let’s not forget that these are the same officials that claim that regime change is not their policy when it clearly is and that they are on the side of the Iranian people that they are sanctioning to death. If you want to know what the administration’s Iran policy is, it is a good bet to assume that it is the opposite of what they insist the policy isn’t. It is this duplicity at the heart of U.S. Iran policy that makes it impossible for other governments to trust the motives of the administration.