The president did not spell out what he meant by making Iran “pay a thousand-fold,” or even what sort of “something bad” would trigger such a disproportionate response. But we don’t need to know those details to see in these comments a microcosm of the inescapable failures of the Trump administration’s Iran policy.
The “maximum pressure” approach this White House has taken — leaving the Iran nuclear deal and imposing heavy sanctions in the hope that Tehran bows to every U.S. demand — has not worked and will not work. It harms American security, precludes constructive negotiations, incentivizes Tehran’s belligerence, and hurts ordinary Iranians who can’t control their government’s behavior. This self-defeating strategy contradicts all the best foreign policy aims Trump claims to embrace: proportionality, diplomacy, and peace.
A road to conflict without offramps
Consider the contrast between Trump’s comments to Limbaugh and his explanation of his decision to call off a retaliatory airstrike against Iran in the summer of 2019 after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone near its coast. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights,” Trump tweeted, “when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.” The reason, Trump elaborated in an interview later that day, was that he “didn’t think it was proportionate” to kill 150 people because of the destruction of an unmanned drone.
Trump was right then, and he’s wrong now. A policy of disproportionate retribution does not enhance U.S. security — it risks unintended consequences and trapping us in an escalatory cycle where we have fewer options and less flexibility to respond to unexpected threats. What is marketed as toughness is better understood as self-sabotaging recklessness. It gives Washington less room to maneuver and could draw our country into another unnecessary and unwanted war.
Yet it’s not surprising to find Trump carelessly threatening escalation on talk radio —because escalation is inherent to maximum pressure. By design, it’s a road toward conflict without offramps. The plan, in theory, is to force a new nuclear deal with far fewer benefits and far stricter terms for Iran. In practice, the Iranian regime has made clear it won’t accept this absolutist approach no matter how harsh U.S. sanctions may be.
That means the longer maximum pressure continues, the more Iranian provocation (low-level uranium enrichment, regional troublemaking, and the like) we can anticipate as the Iranian regime attempts to demonstrate its resolve. It also makes diplomacy almost impossible, because the Trump administration refuses to talk until after Iran accedes to its every demand. That is not how diplomacy works, and, unsurprisingly, it’s utterly counterproductive.
Trump told Limbaugh “we’ll have a great deal with Iran within one month” if he is re-elected, but there’s no reason to think that’s true — and his re-election is in question, too. Tehran has held out on this administration for more than two years now, and every sign suggests it is determined to outlast Trump’s unrealistic orders, whether that means four more months or four more years.
Trump approach high-risk, low reward
Far worse than failed diplomacy, of course, would be outright war. That is exactly the direction the Trump administration’s maximum pressure is sending us with Iran — in direct contravention of the president’s repeated promises to end “endless wars” and extricate our military from years-long military misadventures in the Middle East. Trump is even prolonging the 17-year war in Iraq, a military intervention he’s called “the worst decision in the history of our country,” in part to have a base from which to “watch” Iran. This is strategically inane, a high-risk, low-reward tactic that makes us constantly and needlessly vulnerable.
It is not too late to change course. The lull in open hostility from Iran since we came to the brink of battle in January is a temporary pax pandemica reinforced by Tehran’s reported plan to “act conservatively” and maintain “a holding pattern” until after the U.S. presidential election. Though neither permanent nor vindicating for the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran, this is a welcome pause and could be an opportunity to reform U.S.-Iran relations, whether that opportunity stays with Trump or transfers to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who in most polls is favored to win the presidency.
That means ending maximum pressure, swearing off unprovoked antagonism like Trump’s threats in the Limbaugh interview, ending U.S. military interventions throughout the Middle East, returning to the Iran deal (which Biden has already pledged to do), and using that basis of diplomacy to build a realistic, productive relationship with Iran. Now that would be something that has “never been done before.”
Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. follow her on Twitter: @bonniekristian
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump’s Iran threats on Limbaugh escalate pressure but they won’t work
Original News : https://news.yahoo.com/trump-iran-strategy-fail-no-110042900.html