Testing Testing
American Adversaries Test Trump

After a dangerous encounter between U.S. and Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, the Washington Post is picking up on a pattern of provocations from Tehran:  

Swift-moving Iranian vessels came dangerously close to a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend, U.S. officials said Monday.

The apparent harassment of the USS Invincible on two occasions, on Thursday and Saturday, came amid Iranian state media reports that Iran had tested its newly acquired S-300 missile air defense system that is designed to intercept incoming missiles.

In addition, Fox News reported that Iran had test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles that destroyed a floating barge over the weekend, but that could not be independently confirmed. […]

Taken as a whole, the incidents form a pattern suggesting Tehran and Washington could be squaring off for a more direct confrontation. Trump came to office condemning the Obama administration for being what he characterized as weak on Iran, and he has vowed to be tougher. Iran seems to be testing whether Trump means what he says.

The Post is right to see a pattern here, but it is not limited to Iran. All around the world, from the Strait of Hormuz to the South China Sea and even in continental Europe, American opponents are testing the new President to see what he is made of.

On Monday, North Korea fired missiles into the sea, declaring the purpose was to practice for attacks on U.S. bases in Japan. The previous weekend, Iran stepped up its aggressive tactics against the U.S. Navy, perhaps to see whether Tehran was still “on notice” after the departure of Michael Flynn, the Administration’s most vocal Iran hawk, from the NSC.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to cause trouble in Eurasia, accusing the U.S. of meddling in Macedonia’s internal affairs and stirring up angry anti-American sentiment in the midst of its political crisis. And in Ukraine, Russia has periodically turned up the heat, both escalating the fighting on the front lines and helping to squeeze Ukraine economically by supporting the efforts of pro-Russian rebels to take over the assets of Ukrainian oligarchs. On top of all this, China is still playing the long game, prepping missile installations on its fake islands in the South China Sea and engaging in a succession of provocative maritime maneuvers to intimidate its neighbors.

Even as he battles the press and his predecessor at home, Trump faces growing pressure from overseas. Sensing disarray in Washington, American opponents around the world are taking the opportunity to probe for weaknesses. This is unlikely to end without at least one major international crisis.

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