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The Trump Administration’s Iran Obsession

Trump is considering [1] 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.

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6 Comments To "The Trump Administration’s Iran Obsession"

#1 Comment By Christian Chuba On September 12, 2017 @ 11:39 am

The striking thing about this as I read it is that it underlines how our mindless hostility is without merit. We are literally fighting on the same side in Iraq while cursing at them and their intervention in the other two countries does no harm to us except for our feelings. Yet we have built them up to be the greatest evil on the earth since, well, you know the cliche.

#2 Comment By Moosebreath On September 12, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

An entirely unintended consequence of our hostility to Iran is that it gives yet another example to North Korea that the returns for a country which disarms itself of weapons of mass destruction is negative. So far this millennium, we have attacked Iraq and Libya after giving up their WMD, and it looks like we may do the same to Iran.

Based on this history, it is not irrational for North Korea to hold on to its nukes.

#3 Comment By Chris Fisher On September 12, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

If we had a saner foreign policy, we’d be hostile to the Saudis who are actually funding terrorism, engaging in expansionist brutality against their neighbors, and repressing their people.

Iran isn’t a model state, but it’s, at least, less noxious than the house of Saud.

#4 Comment By collin On September 12, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

More than any other issue, I wish Trump was pretending to be a dove. Or he can still be a Hawk by having the entire conservative media argue that:

1) Obama signed a bad deal.
2) Only because of Alpha Male Trump is Iran complying to the the very bad deal.

Heck even back Gorka to Fox & Friends!!! Otherwise, Iran is making lots ineffective meddling in neighbors, Syria, Iraq & Yemen, wrecked by war which is not making life better for anybody.

#5 Comment By Ines On September 12, 2017 @ 1:49 pm

If you care about the Christians in the Middle EAst, there are a lot of Christian refugees from Iraq in Iran. Those people leaved peacefully in Iraq until we decided that getting rid of Saddam was the right thing to do.

Do we now want to take their refuge away, too?

#6 Comment By Clyde Schechter On September 12, 2017 @ 2:38 pm

By contrast with America’s way of engaging the world, I just read this morning that China is going to invest $30 billion into building infrastructure in Haiti (a country whose entire GDP is about $8 billion). China is already doing similar large-scale investment in Africa, building roads, water systems, etc. that can give impoverished countries the resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Which country, US or China, do you think the world will revere as a leader 50 years from now?