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Trouble for Tehran
NYT: Trump’s Iran Policy Is Working

The New York Times may not like to openly admit to admiring President Trump’s Iran policy, but its latest dispatch from Tehran shows how his combative approach is already causing headaches for Iran’s leaders:

Gloom and dread can be felt across the Iranian capital, and some people blame not only Mr. Trump, but also their own leaders. […]

In classrooms, taxis, hair salons and homes, many people in this nation of 80 million have gone from first dismissing Mr. Trump’s comments as political bombast to worrying about new sanctions and even military strikes by the United States. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has responded to Mr. Trump with mocking sarcasm.

“Trump is unpredictable; our leaders are unpredictable,” Ms. Sameni said. “It suddenly feels as if we are on a sinking ship.” […]

“After the nuclear deal, everything looked up,” said Ali Sabzevari Fasfangari, 33, a magazine publisher. “It was far from perfect, but at least improving.” […]

“It seemed it was a pivotal turning point: We were on our way back to becoming a part of the international community,” he said.

In the nearly three weeks since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, that feeling has completely dissipated.

It sure looks like Trump’s policy of turning up the heat on Iran is causing problems for the Iranian government—and, indirectly, confirming critics of the Iran deal who argued that its effect was to make it easier for the mullahs to keep power at home, even as they stepped up Iranian aggression abroad.

Taking a tough posture toward Iran has been one of Trump’s most clear-cut priorities since assuming office; in many ways, he has more clearly laid the groundwork for confronting Iran than Sunni jihadists like ISIS. By putting Iran “on notice” after its latest missile launch, imposing new sanctions, calling out Iranian proxies in Yemen, and questioning the future of the nuclear deal, Trump is signaling that the Obama era is over and that the Iranians can expect forceful pushback, not conciliation, when they challenge U.S. interests.

Despite the risks, picking an early fight with Iran does make some strategic sense for Trump. Of the three main revisionist powers who have gained ground under the Obama administration, Iran is clearly the weakest and most overextended. By coming out swinging against Iran, Trump is stoking fears of unpredictable escalation to make the Iranians back down from further provocations, while sending a signal to other challengers that it is unwise to test the new administration. Time will tell whether that calculation proves correct, but the early reports suggest that Trump is indeed making Tehran feel the heat.

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  • RedWell

    Confronting Iran may be necessary, and Trump’s approach may even put Iran on the defensive, at least for the moment. Two observations, though.

    One, the article seems to be suggesting that average Iranians are most vexed about this approach. They just want to be in a normal state. More to the point, hardline Iranians – the ones who opposed the nuclear deal — will continue to gain in this environment. Of course, again, the government was pushing the envelope and needed to be confronted. Still, simply pressuring Iran with a “crazy like a fox” approach will not deliver predictable outcomes. To claim that is “working” is too much after a few weeks.

    Two, and related, what is Trump’s endgame? Pressure the government to what end?

  • Procivic

    Trump, now an embarrassment the world over, has done little but advance negative aims. Threatening Iran has not worked in 38 years and it won’t work now, however much the righ-wing press admires this unpresidential hustler.

    • seattleoutcast

      Only an embarrassment in socialist circles. Reagan was an “embarrassment” and ended the Cold War.

      • Tom

        Let’s not overstate things. He set up the preconditions to end the Cold War. The credit for ending it should be split between him and HW Bush.

        • f1b0nacc1

          I must disagree. Daddy Bush handled the surrender competently enough, but he and the crowd of cold warriors he was surrounded by were deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the stable dynamic they had lived in for decades was coming to an end. Bush tried to keep the USSR propped up, not end its misery.

          Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am sure that Bush was a good and loyal American who genuinely believed what that his concerns were real and important and (most importantly) in America’s best interests. With that said, it was quite obvious that he preferred the certainty of the status quote, to the ‘dangerous opportunities’ of victory.

          • Tom

            I think you have a point, but I would contend that his goal was less to keep the USSR propped up than to ensure a “soft landing,” as it were, for when it finally collapsed.

          • rheddles

            No, he wanted to keep Gorbachev and the center in power. He probably thought Yeltsin seemed too much like…Trump.

          • f1b0nacc1

            rheddles has already made the point that I wanted to make. There was a huge amount of concern in the Washington establishment about who would take over after a collapse of the Soviet Union. The fear was that after the Menschiveks your got the Bolsheviks, so what would come after them?

            A big piece of it though, was something a lot more basic (and human) than that. I got the feeling at the time (and I was still relatively young watching it happen) that a lot of people were simply used to the existing arrangement, and were deeply uncomfortable with change. Bush41 was very much this sort of man, someone who had spent his adult life in that Cold War world, and though I believe he devoutly wished for peace, he was very uncomfortable with the end of the old certainties by which he had lived his life.

          • Disappeared4x

            now you know why I write the number, e.g. Bush41

        • seattleoutcast

          Sure, I’ll work with you there. But Reagan got the ball rolling. I doubt if Bush would have done the same if he had been president.

          • Tom

            That we agree on. Reagan and Bush were perfectly timed.

  • Is it, really? Why is he so friendly towards Putin and Assad, but not towards Rouhani’s Iran?

    • Disappeared4x

      Hezbollah and UNSC Res 1701. Putin and Assad already trying to get Hezbollah off the battlefield in Syria.

  • Psalms564

    We will know whether it is working or not by Iran’s behavior. So far, it is way too early to tell.

    • Dagnabbit_42

      I don’t think that there is any chance Iran will start behaving well.

      If I’m correct about that, then neither Trump’s approach, nor Obama’s, nor any other, will “work” when judged by the standard of “what makes them behave themselves.”

      I think the better standard for any given approach is whether, when they misbehave, their misbehavior helps (or fails to harm) us, while harming or (failing to help) them.

      With Obama’s approach, they seemed to be living quite well, walking with strut and swagger, …and we had egg on our faces every time their headlong race towards nuclear-power status came freshly to the attention of every semi-conscious observer.

      Perhaps with Trump’s approach they’ll be living less-well and we won’t look like suckers every six months.

      Or perhaps they’ll nuke Tel Aviv, D.C., or both.

      Either way, I’m profoundly unconvinced that they would have acted otherwise, had our policy towards them been different.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    America’s enemies will see to it that Trump gets tested soon.

    Here are three strategies for dealing with the top three.

    Iran – Modern civilization is fragile, bomb Iran’s energy industry out of existence, and put an end to any energy requiring technology for several years.

    China – First create an Asian alliance from India to Japan, and from South Korea to Australia. Then sink China’s fortified China sea islands with full loads of ground penetrating SDB’s timed to detonate synergistically. And finally, a strategic blockade of China’s ports, and a disavowal of China’s US Treasury holdings ($1.3 Trillion).

    Russia – Give hundreds of Hellfire armed UAV’s and thousands of Javelin AT missiles to Ukraine and watch Putin scream.

    Of the three, putting Iranians in the dark and on foot is by far the easiest, and can be done by Presidential authority alone.

    • Why not try to ally with at least one of them instead of attempting to wage war on all three?

  • sacip

    It’s giving Trump a bit too much credit to assert that there’s some strategic thinking going on here. He’s for undoing Obama’s Iran initiatives and holding the mullahs accountable, even through rhetorical means, is a good start. For Trump, it’s ” addition by subtraction”, progress by undermining Obama’s approach. So far, so good. Cautious optimism is all that is warranted thus far.

  • FriendlyGoat

    In the past several decades, Iran has been in religious control and operated more or less officially on religious principles. I don’t think there is anything about Donald Trump which will turn the mullahs some other direction. One might question whether there are sufficient secular people in Iran to overthrow this religious control in order to get closer to the new Trumpian America. Ya think?

  • Proud Skeptic

    One of the surest signs that the Iran deal was a set up for Obama is the fact that as soon as it was signed, the mullahs put it to good use as a propaganda instrument. They immediately started constantly telling us we were violating its terms, all the while violating it themselves.

    When there was no agreement, there was nothing to violate and therefore no basis for even false accusations of bad faith. When there was no agreement, we just imposed sanctions and never went on record that we would do anything.

    Obama walked right into Iran’s trap. We got nothing for it but accusations of bad faith.

  • Trump is somewhat severe with Iran but Obama was absurdly accommodating. The ‘deal’ (a term unknown to the Constitution or statute) was agreed to by none except Obama who adhered not merely to its letter but to its ‘spirit’ which was one of absolute trust in and deference to the Iranian theocracy with no expectation or recognition of reciprocity. It is somewhat amusing that Trump is seen as a harsh counterparty when he ‘threatens’ that he might actually expect Iran to adhere to its side! Even everything is not enough for the mullahs. Less than nothing was plenty for Obama. Hillary? She could not have done worse, in my view, than Obama but thank whomever we shall never find out.

  • elHombre

    The mullahs, like the DNC and our leftmedia, organize clownshow demonstrators to chant, “Death to America.” (Don’t think for a second that the Secular Progressive American Jihadists are not up for death to America as we know it.)

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