Trump refuses to take the bait mullahs (and Democrats) hoped he would
Because the first law of progressive politics today is "Thou shalt say nothing positive about Donald Trump," few if any on the Left are hailing his holding off on attacking Iran in retaliation for shooting down an armed drone as statesmanlike restraint. Citing an anonymous "senior administration official," The New York Times reported last night:
President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.
This morning, the president confirmed this in a Twitter thread:
....On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
....proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
The shared goal of the mullahs and the Democrats was to create a no-win situation for the president: if he attacks Iran, he risks being drawn into a shooting war, a move that is not likely to be popular and could easily cost him his re-election. It could also very likely drive a wedge between the United States and its allies that are cooperating in the sanctions against Iran that are seriously hurting it. That is the mullahs' goal, and they are more than happy to risk loss of life and facilities in order to achieve it.
For the Democrats, the prime goal is something to criticize. And they are attacking Trump for even considering launching an attack, while the Morning Joe crew today on MSNBC trashed him for vacillation.
The president clearly is in a situation requiring he play 3- or 4-dimensional chess. He has to deal with Democrats anxious to attack him no matter what he does; our allies who want Iranian oil and markets for their goods; the mullahs who want nuclear weapons and the end of sanctions and friction among our allies; and his base, including many hawks who crave retaliation if not war.
Because Obama's JCPOA Iran deal ensured that the mullahs would get nukes ten years after it began, it was unacceptable. Trump knows that, but Democrats ignore it.
So long as he can avoid war, time is on Trump's side, as the sanctions are strangling Iran. He's offered the mullahs forsaking regime change as a goal, but clearly wants something in return for that offer, probably abandonment of their nuclear arsenal and a robust inspections regime to verify it. That is not something they want, but his job is to make it the better option they face.
We live in interesting times, I am afraid. My guess is that the mullahs will escalate. My further guess is that Trump will find means other than a conventional military attack to retaliate.
But honestly, it's only a guess.
Grapic credit: Fastfision.