The International Crisis Group warns that Iran and the U.S. are on a collision course:

All this ratcheting-up of tension was entirely predictable, and most of it is entirely provoked by the U.S.

A collision is still avoidable, but there has to be some effort on the administration’s part to try to avoid it. Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo have steered U.S. Iran policy so that a completely unnecessary war has become much more likely, and for the last year the president has signed off on almost everything Bolton and other Iran hawks have wanted. There is a popular assumption that Trump doesn’t want war with Iran, but judging from every decision he has made over the last year it is becoming harder and harder to believe that is the case.

A president who didn’t want war with Iran wouldn’t already be waging a punitive economic war against the entire country. As far as the Iranian people are concerned, the war has already begun, the U.S. started it, and they are the ones being targeted by it. Elham Pourtaher describes the effects of the economic war:

Those who feel relieved by thinking that Trump will not engage in an actual war and is merely interested in making threats should realize that the war has already begun. U.S. sanctions are producing a level of suffering comparable to that of wartime. Sanctions in fact are a war waged by the United States against the Iranian working- and middle-classes. These groups struggle to make ends meet as unemployment dramatically increases even as the inflation rate skyrockets. The same people that the Trump administration is pretending to want to set free are the ones that are hit hardest by current U.S. policies in the Middle East.

If Trump didn’t want to make war with Iran more likely, why did he sign off on designating the IRGC as terrorists? If he doesn’t want war, why does he permit Bolton to continue running the administration’s foreign policy as if it were his own? Even if Trump doesn’t want a war, he shows no awareness of how close to the brink his destructive Iran policy has brought our two countries. Headlines keep referring to the “drift” or “slide” towards war as if it were something that just happened, but it didn’t just happen. The president made a series of terrible decisions on the advice of his warmongering subordinates that steadily brought the U.S. and Iran to the present situation. He didn’t have to make any of those decisions, but he did, and so far he has squandered every opportunity to de-escalate.

I certainly hope that the president doesn’t want war, but I see no reason to believe that when our government is busily exaggerating threats, building up military forces in the vicinity, and drawing up plans for attack. The obsessive and relentless hostility towards Iran and its people that our government has displayed over the last two years was always leading to a confrontation, and if we are to avoid a costly collision the administration will need to start backing off from its extreme demands and relax its punitive measures. The U.S. and Iran are in a similar position to the one that the U.S. and North Korea were in during 2017 and early 2018, but this time there is no allied government in a position to provide us with the much-needed diplomatic off-ramp.

The good news is that the administration’s reckless drive towards war is already being met with some deep skepticism and opposition from members of Congress. It falls to Congress to oppose military action against Iran and to cut off funding for a war if the president chooses to initiate one without their approval. Congress must refuse to give Trump the authority to order attacks on Iran or its proxies, and it should pass Sen. Udall’s legislation opposing unconstitutional war with Iran to make clear that our representatives disapprove.

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