Here’s the real question in terms of Iran: what is our objective and what is our strategy to achieve that objective? The only answer that makes sense is this is all being driven by Donald Trump’s ambition to be the anti-Obama.
Trump has chosen to put “maximum pressure” on Iran by re-imposing sanctions and now killing their top general. Why?
The White House says they are not trying to create regime change in Iran, they just want Iran to change its behavior. According to an administration policy paper, “The core objective of President Trump’s Iran Strategy is the systemic change in the Islamic Republic’s hostile and destabilizing actions, including blocking all paths to a nuclear weapon and exporting terrorism.”
OK. But does anyone really think that killing one general – even one this important – is going to change Iran’s foreign and defense policy? Soleimani wasn’t a freelance terrorist leader; he was part of the Iranian government, and that government goes on. Would our policies suddenly change if an adversary assassinated our Secretary of Defense?
We don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. So why unilaterally tear up the Iran nuclear deal which at least paused their nuclear program? Our own experts said Iran was complying with the deal. Now Iran is restarting its program. Trump’s actions have made a Shia bomb more probable, not less.
And is it credible to believe that Iran is going to stop supporting Shia militias in Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq? Extending its influence by helping Shia allies has been at the core of Iran’s foreign policy for decades. And by the way, if checking Iranian influence is so important, why did Trump walk away from Syria and de facto hand it over to Russia and Assad, Iran’s ally?
So maybe our secret desire IS regime change. That’s certainly what John Bolton and his cadre of hyper-neocons want. That policy at least make sense because the only way you are going to change Iran’s behavior is to replace the political structure of the Islamic Republic with ….what? A new Shah? An authoritarian secular government on the model of Egypt? Not likely.
Bolton and Pompeo might want regime change, but I believe Donald Trump when he says that is not his objective. He is, at heart, an isolationist.
What does Trump want? It seems that one of his primary motivations is to reverse and erase President Obama’s legacy. Anything Obama built must be torn down. So, he blows up the Iran nuclear deal, setting off a chain reaction he probably didn’t anticipate and doesn’t welcome. But The Donald never admits mistakes, so we blunder on towards something like war with no realistic objective or strategy.
This confrontation with Iran has taken on a life of its own. Iran will make the next move. In a rational world Congress would then to do its job and stop this madness. But tribal partisanship has overcome rationality. This is all very, very dangerous.