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The Trump Administration’s Iran Obsession

Trump is considering a more aggressive anti-Iranian policy:

President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.

The Trump administration is full of people fixated on and intensely hostile to Iran, so this hardly comes as a surprise. Hostility to Iran has been one of the few constants in Trump’s foreign policy positioning since he first announced his candidacy, and it has been the recurring theme in his regional policies since taking office. Tillerson, Mattis, and McMaster presented the plan to Trump, so a more aggressive anti-Iranian policy has the stamp of approval from the administration’s more conventional members. It seems likely that Trump will approve their plan. The administration is gearing up to increase U.S. involvement in the region in opposition to Iran while doing its best to undermine the JCPOA. That suggests that the U.S. will align itself ever more closely with its reckless regional clients, and it could bog itself down in multiple conflicts for the sake of the administration’s Iran obsession.

Sadly, this misguided and dangerous course of action will probably be well-received in Washington, where the conventional wisdom has long held that Obama was too accommodating to Iran. Trump’s reflexive rejection of anything associated with Obama (except disgraceful support for the war on Yemen) has dovetailed with the prevailing hawkish view in D.C. that the U.S. needs to meddle even more in the name of opposing Iran. That promises to yield nothing but open-ended conflict for the U.S. in Iraq and Syria and perhaps elsewhere along with increasing tensions with Tehran that could eventually lead to a new war.

One section of the proposal is vague but quite worrisome:

The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi‘ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.

It’s not clear what this would mean in practice, but I fear that it means that the U.S. would indulge Bahrain’s government in whatever repressive tactics it wants to use against its domestic critics while continuing to sell them even more weapons. Everything that our Gulf clients have done in recent years in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere should have made the U.S. realize how dangerous and destabilizing these states have become, and their domestic crackdowns serve as a reminder of how awful their regimes are. A plan that ties the U.S. more closely to our reckless client states and forces us to take their side in regional rivalries even more than our government already does is a deeply flawed and irresponsible one.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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