Mark your calendars. This moment hasn’t happened often and may never happen again: I, a progressive and a staunch opponent of President Trump’s agenda including his approach to foreign policy, actually think the president should ignore his advisers and trust his gut. It is being reported that Trump is frustrated with his advisers, including the warhawk and regime-change advocate John Bolton, who are pushing for military action against Iran. The president’s restraint is actually a show of consistency, something he has lacked due to his trademark mercurial personality.
Part of Trump’s “America First” mantra is built upon opposition to the costly Iraq War. His base believes that Iraq was a failure predicated upon misinformation, poor intelligence, and lies. They believe those resources would have been put to better use at home. In this one instance, they are correct.
Assuming U.S. intelligence is correct (British intelligence sources dispute the severity), the Iranian government deserved every bit of the recent strongly-worded warnings from the Trump administration. U.S. intel gathering suggested that American personnel in the region were about to suffer an attack – either by Iranian forces or by one of their proxies such as the Yemeni Houthis. The Saudis are also claiming that Iran is behind the sabotage of oil tankers moving through the region.
While the withdrawal of State Department employees sends a message to the Iranian government, the Trump administration shares the blame in this escalation. Despite no evidence that Iran was not abiding by the JCPOA nuclear deal put in place by the Obama administration – which helped to keep everyone in the region safer, including our allies in Israel – Trump decided to pull out last year and re-impose sanctions against Tehran. The JCPOA called for Iran to decrease its low-enriched uranium stockpiles by 98%. The U.S. has also sent an aircraft carrier and bombers to the region.
Trump’s trademark irascibility might normally suggest that the U.S. is indeed heading for war. But my hope is he remains consistent this one time and ignores the warhawks — both those here at home and abroad.
Tehran has countered by stating it will no longer abide by parts of the 2015 nuclear deal – a maneuver aimed directly at the United States, since several European nations continue to observe and adhere to the agreement.
Trump bragged to Steve Hilton that Iran “is devastated from the standpoint of the economy”. He is probably correct, but this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the deal. The goal was not to devastate Iran but to pacify them and stabilize the region. In the same interview, Trump claims to have “tremendous poll numbers”, despite the fact that more than 50 percent of the country disapproves of his job and he is approval rating is nearly a full 9 points lower than President Obama’s at the same juncture in his presidency. In fact, you’d have to go back to Jimmy Carter to find a president with a lower approval rating 851 days in.
A war with Iran should not be taken lightly. While the U.S. will have the backing of the other powerful nations in the region – namely Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Iranians not only have one of the strongest militaries in the region (and in the world), they are also a theocratic Shia nation, meaning they believe they are fighting for something greater than the structure of their republic or even the soil on which they stand.
The Institute for Science and International Security has stated that Iran is at least 8 months from making a single nuclear weapon. Thanks to the Obama Iran Nuclear deal, their uranium decreased from 22,000 pounds to around 250, which falls short of the level it would take to build a weapon. The JCPOA stopped Iran from building new state of the art centrifuges, which were in the works before the deal. It is likely that Iran will restart its centrifuge project.
Trump must also understand that should he decide to move forward against Iran, he will need to convince the Democrats in Congress to declare war. This is not a step he can take unilaterally, and the American people on both sides of the political spectrum must hold the president to this principle, lest we become a republic with a supreme leader that resembles – well – Iran. The fact that the Trump administration is seemingly laying the groundwork to use the AUMF, is making him the new look like the architect of another Iraqi war, that kind of war he opposed as a candidate and a private citizen.
Trump’s trademark irascibility might normally suggest that the U.S. is indeed heading for war. But my hope is he remains consistent this one time and ignores the warhawks – both those here at home and abroad.
There are some, like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a possible 2020 rival of Trump’s that suggest that his aversion to war is not genuine and that he will eventually act in the interests of Netanyahu and the crown prince. Let’s hope he is truly consistent this time and ignores the warhawks, both foreign and domestic.