We should view Irans recent posturing for what it is: retaliation to the Trump administrations unnecessary and deliberate provocation
Last night, in response to Iran shooting down an American drone earlier this week, the United States came within one whim of an erratic and unstable president from launching a military strike on Iran.
Like the recent oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman, the Trump administration has framed the drone incident as if it occurred in a vacuum implying that the Iranians are launching these (alleged) attacks without provocation, and providing an aura of legitimacy to a possible American military response.
And thats exactly what the Trump administrations Iran hawks led by the national security adviser, John Bolton, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo have seemingly planned all along: to cultivate conditions that make military conflict with Iran the only option.
The current Iran predicament is the result of a years-long campaign by the same people who pushed for invasion of Iraq. Instead of learning from the Iraq debacle, theyve decided that any means, including a potentially catastrophic war with Iran, are justified in order to achieve regime change in Tehran. Their public arguments for escalation with Iran have generally been cloaked as criticism of Barack Obamas Iran nuclear agreement, by disingenuously calling for what they know is an unachievable better deal.
The facts are indisputable. When Trump assumed office, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as the nuclear deal is formally known was working as advertised, blocking Iran from building a nuclear weapon. The United Nations atomic energy watchdog has even confirmed more than a dozen times that Iran is, thus far, complying with the deal.
But instead of capitalizing on these gains, the Trump administration threw it all away to take a different path. Slowly, over time, Trump officials ramped up their bellicose rhetoric toward Iran; falsely accused Tehran of coordinating with al-Qaida (presumably to invoke the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force as legal justification for a possible attack); pulled out of the JCPOA; and imposed sanctions so devastating that the Iranians were almost certain to lash out, whether in the form of the minor skirmishes weve seen in recent weeks or rejection of the terms of the 2015 nuclear accord.
In early May, Bolton an unrepentant Iraq war cheerleader who has been calling for war with Iran for nearly two decades announced a military build-up in the region to counter purported threats from Iran. But we later found out that Team Trump was not only blowing that intel way out of proportion, but also that US intelligence agencies had assessed that Irans new and threatening activity was actually in response to the Trump administrations aggression.
We should view Irans recent posturing for what it is: retaliation to the Trump administrations unnecessary and deliberate provocation.
Although Trump backed down this time, the possibility of war with Iran is very real. Even a limited strike scenario could quickly spiral out of control.
Thankfully it appears that, for now, Trump is holding to his campaign promises of wanting to extricate the US from its Middle East forever wars and refrain from starting any new ones. But were dealing with Donald Trump and the primary factor in determining whether we go to war with Iran is whether he believes it will benefit him politically at home. Everything Trump says or does must be viewed through that lens.
To fight the Trump administrations efforts to escalate conflict with Iran, we must call on Congress to speak out more forcefully against war with Iran, and get Congress to pass recently introduced legislation that would bar funding for any unauthorized war. It might also mean, however distasteful it may feel, promoting voices calling for restraint from the only television news outlet Trump cares about, like Tucker Carlson at Fox.
But of course there are no guarantees. There still remains a well-funded, influential, and eager pro-Iran war lobby pushing Trump towards conflict. The only question that remains is whether it will box him in far enough to the point of no return, or whether a public campaign against war can provide the off ramp that will be required.
Ben Armbruster is the communications director for Win Without War and previously served as National Security Editor at ThinkProgress