Trump and the Iran Hawks
Scott McConnell urges Trump to shun the Iran hawks:
The blunt fact is that Iran has not been behaving like much of an enemy. Unlike the period in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution, when Iran did seek to destabilize many of its neighbors, it is now become at least latently a fairly orderly power; indeed it may now be the most stable country in the Middle East.
I think McConnell is right about all of this, but the trouble is that Trump has surrounded himself with people that take it as a given that Iran is the leading source of instability and upheaval in the region. Either Trump shares that view, or he doesn’t see anything seriously wrong with it. Given the role of the Saudis and the Gulf states in destabilizing Syria and wrecking Yemen, this view of Iran’s role seems obviously untrue or at least in need of serious qualification, and yet alarmism about Iran is something that all of Trump’s top foreign policy picks seem to indulge in to one degree or another.
Flynn’s obsession with Iran is impossible to miss, but even the people that are expected to act as a check on Trump’s impulsiveness hold similar views. During his confirmation hearing, Gen. Mattis asserted, “Iranian malign influence in the region is growing. Iran is the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East and its policies are contrary to our interests.” Even the last part is somewhat debatable, but the first two claims are misleading or very much exaggerated. McConnell rightly notes that Iran is “a sworn enemy of ISIS,” but Mattis is on record saying that the two aren’t enemies at all and seemed to be floating conspiratorial speculation that they are somehow working together. At best, this preoccupation is a distraction from more pressing security threats, and at worst it threatens to take the U.S. towards a collision with Iran that could still be avoided.