The Trump Administration Got What They Wanted With Iran

Since President Trump appointed John Bolton and left the Iran Nuclear Deal, America-Iran relations have headed towards this inflection point.

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

We are living with the inevitable results of President Trump’s unjustified withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. A US drone has been shot down by Iran. While officials claim it was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, Iran claims that it was in Iranian airspace. The Trump Administration has yet to announce its retaliatory measures, but President Trump has said it could’ve been unintentional, seemingly signaling he’s not too keen on conflict.

There are reports that President Trump disagrees with National Security Adviser John Bolton on exactly how the US should retaliate.

Top members of Congress huddled with President Trump today to talk next steps. Given the new hardline leadership in Iran, this is an important story to watch. As we wait to see whether the US will perform a limited strike or something significantly more measured, some context about Bolton’s hawkish worldview, and how it’s helped us get to this point, is important. As we’ve covered before here at Rantt, Bolton’s hawkish stance on Iran has been well documented. Bolton’s calls for regime change in Iran long predate his tenure in the White House. When he was appointed by President Trump in April 2018, pundits and Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about what could come.

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In a nutshell, Bolton has helped to propel President Trump’s foreign policy towards a conflict with Iran. If the Trump administration wanted to reduce Iran’s nuclear capacity, they would’ve stayed in the Iran Nuclear deal, more officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Bolton wanted an excuse to levy more sanctions on Iran, apply economic pressure on the country, and cause regime change by sparking an uprising among the Iranian people. With that in mind, let’s break down all the developments that led us here.

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised he would tear up the JCPOA. Under the terms of the deal, Iran received relief from economic sanctions in exchange for reducing their nuclear material and uranium enrichment. This was President Obama’s signature diplomatic achievement and took cooperation with the UN Security Council to pull it off. It was signed in 2015. Trump’s criticized the deal and alleged violations on the part of Iran, even as his own administration’s officials, like then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, said none existed.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in May of 2018 – one month after John Bolton took H.R. McMaster’s position as National Security Adviser. It’s more accurate to say the Trump administration violated the JCPOA, because Iran was complying with the deal and was overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – who validated Iran’s compliance 9 separate times. In the immediate aftermath, Iran did not choose to violate the terms of the JCPOA and worked with the European signatories (UK, France, and Germany) to continue to receive the deal’s benefits even without America’s participation.

In response, President Trump threatened to sanction America’s own allies if they did business with Iran – mainly by purchasing Iranian oil which is the bedrock of their economy. Those moves crippled Iran’s economy thoroughly, causing them to get frustrated, triggering what we’ve seen since.

In April of this year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard, an Iranian military branch, as a terrorist organization. In early May, Iran said that it would begin to withdraw from some components of the JCPOA, by enriching small amounts of uranium. On May 5th, the US sent an aircraft carrier to the region, warning of potential attacks from Iran. On May 9th, The New York Timereported that upon Bolton’s request, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan presented plans for the potential deployment of 120,000 to the Middle East if Iran executed an attack – a plan that wasn’t acted upon.

On May 15th, the US cited intelligence indicating that there was an impending threat from Iran and ordered an evacuation of the US embassy in Iraq. It’s important to note that US allies at the time said they saw no impending threat. Even Republican members of Congress like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had expressed anger at how they were being left in the dark on the intelligence. On June 13, we had an attack on two oil tankers that Iran was allegedly behind. While many were understandably skeptical to trust the Trump administration’s intelligence on the attack, US allies have validated the intelligence. There was then the US’ subsequent announcement of 1,000 additional troops to the region. Now, we have this drone being shot down.

Here is a good thread on the drone.

The American people do not want a war with Iran. The prospect of a lengthy, deadly, and frivolous war might make conservative hawks like Bolton curl their mustaches but there is no other constituency for this. Given the fact he campaigned on avoiding frivolous wars, President Trump himself has reportedly grown frustrated with some of his more hawkish advisers and told Shanahan he does not want a war with Iran back in May. Trump is well aware that war with Iran would tank his support, and even chip away at his seemingly ironclad base. But if Trump was serious about avoiding conflict, he wouldn’t have hired National Security Adviser John Bolton in the first place.

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News // Donald Trump / Iran / John Bolton / Mike Pompeo