Trump's policy for Iran is becoming dangerous

Trump, Us President, Usa, Policy

Tension is rising between the United States and Iran. Washington ended the exceptions to sanctions imposed on Tehran to further stifle it. John Bolton raised his voice and strengthened the US military presence in the Persian Gulf. So much so that even the newspaper Foreign Policy, not really known for its anti-imperialist tendencies, is critical of the Trump government's policy against Iran. (IGA)

On May 5, John Bolton, National Security Advisor, issued a strong warning to Iran. He announced that the United States would deploy the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a fleet of bombers in the Persian Gulf, "to send a clear and unequivocal message to the Iranian regime that any attack on the interests of the United States or its allies would be met with an implacable force. "He added that the United States "does not seek war with the Iranian regime" but is "fully prepared to respond to any attack. »
It is not yet known what triggered Bolton's deployment and hard language. Early reports suggested that this could have been a response to evidence that Iran-supported Shia militias were planning attacks on US troops in Iraq. Other reports suggested that Israel had informed US officials of an imminent attack by Iran against US interests, personnel or allies in the Gulf. An anonymous US official stated that the deployment was ordered to strengthen "deterrence against what was perceived as potential preparations by Iranian forces and their agents indicating possible attacks against US forces in the region". But the officer added that there were no signs of an imminent Iranian attack.

Bolton has extensive experience in the art of exaggerating and manipulating information to justify the use of force. So much so that one might be tempted to reject all this as fake news. But the prospect of an Iranian provocation that would provoke a broader military confrontation is very real, even though it is the Trump government's policy to corner Tehran that has considerably increased the danger.
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Bolton's warning comes against a backdrop of rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. A year ago, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015 and reimposed severe sanctions on banks and oil in order to deprive Iran of resources and destabilize the regime. The sanctions have weighed heavily on the Iranian economy. But so far, the government's campaign of maximum pressure has not achieved its stated objectives, namely to force Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear agreement or to reduce its support for terrorism and regional activism. Faced with this failure, the White House has not reassessed its strategy. Instead, she went twice as hard.

Seeking to bring Iran to the breaking point, the Trump government announced in late April that it would end the derogations that had allowed China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey to continue to import about 1 million barrels of Iranian oil per day. The US government's stated objective is to bring Iran's oil exports, the engine of the country's economy, as close to zero as possible. Iran has responded with new threats of closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway off the Iranian coast through which about 20% of the world's traded oil flows flow. And relatives of the regime have suggested that Iran could take further steps to disrupt oil exports from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - Tehran's competitors who defended Trump's maximum pressure campaign. The regime could target oil shipments through the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea, or strike Saudi and UAE critical infrastructure with destructive cyber attacks.

In an additional effort to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, the Trump government has also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. This is the first time Washington has issued such a designation against a government component of another country. The Iranian Parliament reacted by passing a law, signed by President Hassan Rouhani last week. It declares all US troops stationed in the Middle East to be terrorists and designates the US government as a sponsor of terrorism.

At the same time, Iranian leaders seem to be considering measures to revive the country's nuclear programme. To date, Iran has respected the limits of the nuclear agreement on uranium enrichment and other prohibited activities, although it had very little economic benefit to gain in return. Over the past year, Tehran's strategy seems to have been one of resourcefulness. Diplomatically, he has expressed international outrage against US sanctions and is waiting for a regime change in Washington after the 2020 elections. But the political consensus among Iranian elites in favour of nuclear restraint seems to be collapsing. Iranian officials have recently suggested that Iran may begin to exceed the limits of the country's nuclear agreement on the stockpile of low-enriched uranium or restart uranium enrichment at the Fordow underground facility. Rouhani is about to officially announce Iran's next steps. Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, even said that factions of the regime are pushing for Iran to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a whole. While such radical action seems unlikely at the moment, Iran's patience on the nuclear front is running out.

As a result, while it has been a year since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear agreement, the US government's maximum pressure campaign has triggered a spiral of action-response that has created a very worrying situation. The risk of military confrontation is increasing every day.
Thousands of US and Iranian-backed forces operate in close proximity to each other in Iraq, Syria and the overcrowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue their air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, despite international outrage over the world's worst humanitarian disaster. And Israel regularly carries out military strikes against Iranian arms supplies and infrastructure in Syria. In this unstable context, there are many scenarios of an intentional or unintentional war between the United States and Iran.

If Iran or its allies react to US pressure by spilling US blood or severely damaging the region's main oil infrastructure, things could quickly turn violent.
Unlike what was put in place in the last few years of the Obama administration, there is currently no high-level communication line between Washington and Tehran to manage such a crisis. And the most radical seem eager to fight, to seek opportunities to raise prices rather than defuse tensions.

All other things being equal, Trump will probably not want another US war in the Middle East. But, if the past is a prelude, his instinct will be to respond (probably via Twitter) to any Iranian provocation with bellicose rhetoric that will fuel the fire. There are also Iranian actions that would trigger intense political pressure for military action from the President's right-wing, hawks in Congress and regional allies - the same forces that drove Trump to withdraw from the Iranian agreement. Moreover, Trump is no longer surrounded by his former national security adviser, McMaster, his former Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, or other cold heads. He is now surrounded by advisors such as Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have long called for a war against Iran.

In fact, Trump's advisors seem to be considering precisely this possibility and its possible legal justifications. Last month, at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Senator Rand Paul asked Pompeo whether the 2001 authorization to use military force against al-Qaeda and its associated forces gave the Trump government the power to wage war on Iran. Pompeo refused to give a direct answer. But in a grim echo of the period before the war in Iraq, the Trump government considered that there was a link between Iran and al-Qaeda.


If Iran resumes its nuclear activities, we can expect a return to the Israeli threats of military action as they were common from 2009 to 2012. Only this time, the US government will be much more inclined to encourage Israeli strikes than to limit them. While it seems deeply rooted in domestic policy calculations, Trump's support for Benjamin Netanyahu's government is unwavering and unconditional. And Trump's closest advisors seem ready to encourage him to give Israel the green light to launch an attack. After all, in 2015, Bolton believed that the best way to counter the Iranian nuclear threat was an Israeli strike supported by the United States to overthrow the Iranian regime.

All this comes at a very dangerous time. Before the situation becomes uncontrollable, it would be wise for the US government to swallow its rhetoric, open high-level communication channels with Tehran and express its willingness to return to the nuclear agreement as a starting point for new negotiations. But there is no way the government will follow that path. It is based on a strategy of maximum tension and it is becoming increasingly clear that war is on the march - whether Trump is leading it or not.