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Trump’s Two-Faced Iran Policy

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium on July 12, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Jonathan Swan reports on remarks that Mike Pompeo made at a meeting with Iranian-Americans in Dallas last week:

In a closed-door meeting with Iranian-American community leaders last Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is “not going to do a military exercise inside Iran” to expedite a regime change, according to three sources who were in the room, including one who took detailed contemporaneous notes and shared them with me.

Coming from the same Secretary of State who claims that the Trump administration supports the Iranian people and doesn’t seek regime change, this statement is meaningless. It has become standard practice for this administration to describe its Iran policy as the opposite of what it is. Even though U.S. sanctions are making Iranians more miserable, they will claim that they desire the Iranian people to prosper and succeed. When their demands amount to achieving regime change in all but name, they will nonetheless claim that they are merely interested in a “better deal.” Pompeo has lied so frequently about multiple issues that no one should take his word for anything, and it should come as no surprise that he told an audience of Iranian-Americans what he thought they wanted to hear. It is extremely hard to believe that the Trump administration has actually ruled out military action against Iran at this meeting when they have never done so when it comes to Venezuela or North Korea, and I don’t believe for a minute that Bolton and Pompeo have abandoned their past support for attacking Iran.

If the Trump administration isn’t “going to do a military exercise inside Iran” at some point, it is going out of its way to lay the groundwork for war. Promoting the lie that Iran still seeks nuclear weapons, dredging up discredited conspiracy theories about connections with Al Qaeda, and designating the IRGC as terrorists are the things that an administration does when it is building a case, no matter how flimsy, for some kind of military action. When we look at the Trump administration’s actions instead of their self-serving public statements, we realize that the latter are little more than a smokescreen intended to distract attention from what they have been doing.

Even if the Trump administration doesn’t end up launching a military attack on Iran, it has nonetheless been waging a wholly unjustified economic war on the country for the last year and has just announced its intention to escalate that war. Seeking to force Iran’s oil exports to zero is an attack on the entire country. That is going to cause even greater hardship for tens of millions of Iranians who have already been suffering the effects of the earlier sanctions. The Trump administration may not be dropping any bombs on Iran yet, but it is harming and killing Iranians all the same.

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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