Buzzfeed reports on the possible implications of the creation of the Trump administration’s “Iran Action Group”:
After Pompeo’s announcement on Thursday, Ali Vaez, the Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, summoned the specter of the George W. Bush administration’s march to war in Iraq. “This has eerie echoes of the White House Iraq Group in the run-up to the Iraq war and [is] another step towards groupthink in this administration,” he said, referencing the arm of the Bush administration that helped make the case for war.
“If the Trump administration was serious about diplomacy with Iran, it would have tapped someone as special envoy who had some constructive history with the Iranians, not a man who in the past 18 months presided over the destruction of all channels of communication and the only diplomatic achievement between the two countries,” he added.
The Trump administration has made it plain over the last year and a half that it has no interest in real diplomacy with Iran. Instead they have insisted on compelling Iran’s government to make huge, unrealistic changes to all of its policies on pain of economic strangulation. As I have said before, Trump is not interested in a “new” or “better” deal that Iran would ever be willing to accept, but rather wants to force Iran’s capitulation across the board. The administration’s demands for Iran are preposterous, and in their maximalism they betray the administration’s real goal to be regime change.
Nicholas Miller explained last week why the administration’s “change in behavior” line isn’t credible:
If the actual goal of the Trump admin. was changing Iran's behavior, we’d expect to see a few things: (1) a coercive campaign whose strength is proportionate to the demands being made and (2) a clear, realistic path through which Iran could ease US punishment. Neither exist. 2/x
— Nicholas Miller (@Nick_L_Miller) August 17, 2018
As Millers says later in his thread, the Trump administration has less leverage over Iran than its predecessor had, but it demands far more than Obama ever did. Obama was focused on the nuclear issue and didn’t try to include all other disputes in negotiations with Iran because it was obvious that would make an agreement impossible to reach. Trump is demanding that they agree to deeper concessions on the nuclear issue and then reverse decades of their regional policies as well, and the only reason to make such sweeping demands is to have them rejected. Iran won’t comply with most of the administration’s demands, and it couldn’t comply with some of them short of surrendering its sovereignty. A great power makes impossible demands of a weaker government because it is looking for a pretext for conflict and/or the overthrow of that government, and that is exactly what Trump has done with Iran.
When the U.S. has sought war and/or regime change with another state, it has been common for the U.S. to deny that regime change was the goal from the start. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration repeatedly claimed that it wasn’t seeking war, but in everything that it did during 2002 and early 2003 the administration made clear that Iraq’s compliance would never be good enough. Obama explicitly said that the U.S.-led intervention in Libya was not aimed at regime change, but in practice the U.S. backed an uprising aimed at achieving exactly that and rejected any negotiations that would have stopped short of regime change. When it comes to pursuing regime change, U.S. actions against the targeted government usually make a mockery of official denials.
Administration officials keep pretending not to want the thing they are obviously seeking because even they know that the U.S. record of toppling foreign governments is a chronicle of disaster and massive suffering for the people in the affected countries. The Trump administration doesn’t want their Iran policy to be compared with the Iraq and Libya debacles, but their overt and intense hostility towards the Iranian government and the Iranian people guarantees that it will be.