The United States has rejected an appeal from Britain, France and Germany to grant broad exemptions to European firms doing business in Iran, saying it would press ahead with sanctions intended to exert “unprecedented” economic pressure on the Tehran regime, U.S. and Western officials told NBC News.
The letter from the Trump administration marks the latest dispute in an increasingly tense U.S. relationship with European allies, aggravated by the president’s harsh criticism of NATO partners this week during his visit to Brussels.
According to a report in Axios, Israel and the United States formed a joint working group in recent months to help support internal opposition to the Tehran regime. And at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday, Trump said that that “there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians.”
Pompeo has unveiled plans for a major address on July 22 entitled “Supporting Iranian Voices” after having issued a series of tweets endorsing Iranian protests and pointing to high unemployment among the country’s youth. “People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders. The world hears their voice,” Pompeo wrote on June 27.
Path Towards War
The decision of the United States to wage war against Iraq in 2003 was one of the worst mistakes our country has ever made. Was Saddam Hussein a brutal dictator? Yes, but he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, and toppling his regime had profound consequences—bringing the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, promoting deep instability in the region, inflicting lasting damage on American credibility, and imposing enormous costs on American taxpayers.
Joining the Senate in 2013 as a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I vowed to learn something from that mistake. I fear the United States is on the verge of blundering into another unnecessary war with Iraq’s next-door neighbor Iran. The same warning signs are on the horizon, and I hope we will turn back from the foolish path we seem to be taking.
The first warning sign is the Trump administration’s rejection of the prospect of diplomacy to reduce tensions. The U.S. led many nations in developing the 2015 comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, which contained in its first paragraph the affirmation that Iran would never “seek, develop or acquire” nuclear weapons. The agreement contained specific commitments, including an inspection protocol designed to make sure that Iran complied and clear consequences if it didn’t. Donald Trump’s administration has backed out of the deal, even though our allies and the chief international nuclear inspection agency have verified that Iran is in full compliance with it. With the U.S. out, Iran might back away from its commitments and restart its nuclear-weapons program. As the present struggle to curb a nuclear North Korea demonstrates, giving Iran an excuse to resume its program is foolishly dangerous.
Second, there has been an uptick in bellicose rhetoric from the Trump administration toward Iran. The president stated at the recent NATO summit that there might be an “escalation” between the U.S. and Iran. Third, tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria and the potential for direct confrontation are on the rise.
Exacerbating these warning signs, the administration has shown that it believes it can take military action without even coming to Congress to seek permission. President George W. Bush came to Congress months before his administration took military action in Iraq, but the Trump administration has twice struck Syria with missiles and also directed U.S. air attacks against Syrian military positions even though it did not have specific legal authority to do so. When pressed on how those military actions comply with domestic and international law, the administration simply asserts that the president can use military force if it is in the “national interest.” The view that the president can just assert “national interest” as a magic password and bypass the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war should worry every American. There is little doubt that this president might use the same rationale to justify military action against other nations, including Iran.
I hope I am wrong about what I see coming. But watching this administration tear up a diplomatic deal with Iran, use increasingly belligerent rhetoric about that nation, and assert that it can wage war without coming to Congress leads me to sound an alarm. We cannot afford another unnecessary war, and Congress and the public must be vigilant to stop it.
Could it Spin out of Control?
Threatening other countries and acting belligerent and imposing an economic blockade on them might sometimes bring them to the table if they think they can get a better deal that way. But what Trump and Pompeo want from Iran just will never be acceptable to Tehran. They want the ayatollahs unilaterally to surrender to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and let the latter two have Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and cease supporting the Palestinians.
The reason Barack Obama and John Kerry conducted a successful negotiation with Iran was because they focused in on a single issue– Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. And they put the kind of limits on that program that Iran could minimally live with. Had they thrown in Lebanon and Iraq and rockets and kowtowing to the House of Saud, they’d have never so much have been able to conduct a telephone call, much less achieve a wide-ranging treaty.
But if you throw around a lot of threats about “escalation” and “pain” and present the other country with nothing but an ultimatum, that can lead to serious trouble. In fact, it is a truism of military and diplomatic history that ultimatums always lead to war.
National Interest Not
If Trump can wage war simply because it's in the "national interest" then he can do virtually anything under the same rationale.
Tim Kaine is right to be concerned. More accurately, everyone, regardless of political party affiliation, should be concerned.
It most assuredly is NOT in the US national interest for any president to wage war without Congressional action.
Congress needs to pass a bill to reassert Congressional authority and override unanimously the expected veto. Most senators, and sadly even most Democrat Senators don't have the intellectual integrity.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock