By Trudy Rubin
Philadelphia Inquirer

The Red Tea Detox

On the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the rhetoric between workforce Trump and the ayatollahs has risen to fever pitch.

In his State of the Union deal with, President Trump labelled Iran the “world’s main state sponsor of terror” and “a radical regime” that does “dangerous, dangerous issues.” The US has withdrawn from a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed harsh financial sanctions.

Pushing again, Iran’s supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated Friday that the Iranian slogan “‘Demise to America’ means loss of life to Trump and (nationwide safety adviser John) Bolton and (secretary of state Mike) Pompeo.” Khamenei’s web site stated the slogan would stay alive till the USA modified its “evil and imply” methods.

But squeezing the Tehran regime has grow to be the centerpiece of what passes for Trump’s Mideast technique. The president and his prime officers have made fairly clear their actual purpose is regime change. Bolton even publicly predicted to a fringe Iranian opposition group in 2017 that the Tehran regime would fall by 2019.

This sort of magical enthusiastic about Iran infuses Trump coverage (though Pompeo, a minimum of, ought to know higher). Fairly than test Tehran’s Mideast misbehavior, it units the USA as much as fail.

Earlier than I get to why, let me emphasize that Iran does certainly meddle dangerously in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Arab Gulf. Some prime examples: Transport tens of hundreds of missiles to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia to level at Israel, vastly increasing the wretched Syrian civil struggle, and heating up the Syrian border with Israel.

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However the U.S. response has been confused and contradictory. Fairly than work with European and key Arab allies, comparable to Iraq, to test Iran, the White Home has tried to bludgeon them into confronting Tehran straight. And it has made maximalist calls for on the ayatollahs that they can not meet with out committing suicide.

This method is not going to work.

Let’s begin with the Europeans.

Our key allies, Britain, Germany, and France, needed to maintain the nuclear deal in place, whereas squeezing Iran towards a second pact that addressed the deal’s loopholes (comparable to missile manufacturing). The allies additionally stood prepared to affix Trump in pressuring Iran on its Mideast mischief. As an alternative, Trump junked the deal, asserting that he was countering Iran’s nuclear risk. He referred to as his personal intel chiefs “naïve” and “fallacious” once they stated Iran was adhering to the deal.

The end result: Trump has break up the important thing alliance towards Tehran. The Europeans are searching for methods to work round new U.S. sanctions vs. Iran, with Russia and China prepared to assist. The allies wish to forestall Iran from leaving the deal, which might set them again on the trail to a bomb.

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Subsequent, let’s have a look at Trump’s efforts to rally the Sunni Arab world towards Tehran.

The president is relying closely on Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as his level man – sure, the identical MBS who seems to have ordered the homicide of Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince has additionally made a army mess in Yemen, successfully rising Iranian affect there.

Meantime, Trump’s sudden choice to swiftly pull all U.S. troops out of Syria (by April, says the Wall St. Journal) will improve Iranian affect in that nation. But, even because the troop withdrawal removes U.S. leverage in Syria, Pompeo claims, magically, that the U.S. goals to get all Iranian-backed forces out of that nation.

As for Iraq, Trump and Pompeo once more show magical considering. The president’s public proclamation this week that U.S. troops there’ll “watch Iran” was rejected even by America’s closest Iraqi allies. “Don’t overburden Iraq with your individual points,” President Barham Salih, a Kurd, stated this week.

What Salih meant is that Iraq shares a 905-mile border with Iran, together with historic and non secular ties, and might’t afford to be a pawn in Trump’s anti-Iran campaign. Then again, a quiet U.S. coverage to proceed coaching Iraq’s military with a view to stability Tehran’s immense affect – can be welcome in Baghdad. However a Trump bludgeon gained’t work.

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Certainly it’s Trump’s public Iran-bashing, and his calls for that allies take part, that ensures his coverage’s failure.

On Feb. 13, Secretary of State Pompeo will convene a high-level worldwide convention in Warsaw which was meant to construct an anti-Iran coalition. The E.U. gained’t ship its international minister, and doesn’t wish to provoke Iran to give up the nuclear framework. Pompeo isn’t more likely to make a lot progress towards his purpose.

That’s as a result of the U.S. calls for on Iran are clearly aimed toward toppling the regime, not at assembling an efficient coalition to make Tehran curb its geopolitical excesses.

“Given the extremely public nature of Trump’s place on Iran, it’s arduous to see the place his Iran coverage goes,” says Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, who has had many troublesome dealings with Tehran. “You want a broad world coverage into which Iran suits.”

As an alternative, we’ve tweets and a flawed assumption that the Iranian regime will collapse beneath the strain of sanctions. As an alternative, by alienating helpful allies and counting on magical considering, Trump allows the ayatollahs to maintain destabilizing the Center East.

Trudy Rubin is a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. © 2019, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content material Company.


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