On Thursday, June 20th, Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. Navy surveillance drone over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. This followed a bombing of a U.S. ally, a Japanese oil tanker by the Iranian Guard.
As of this writing, the United States has taken no retaliatory action against Iran. At the last minute, President Trump called off a retaliatory air strike against Iran. He decided that the potential for hundreds of Iranian casualties resulting from such a strike would be a disproportionate response.
Reporters shouting at President Trump as he walked to his office resembled schoolyard kids yelling “Fight! Fight!” They breathlessly asked, “Mr. President! Are you going to attack Iran?”
President Trump, who is a whiz at stirring up the media, simply stared stoically and replied, “You’ll see.”
Reporters probably weren’t the only ones anxious to know how the U.S. would respond to an unprovoked attack in international waters. The Mullahs of Iran were likely uncertain whether firing their missile could have begun a series of uncontrollable events that could have resulted in a war they would most certainly lose.
Losing a war with “The Great Satan” could also result in some hellish consequences for the sinister theocracy that has held the Iranian people in its iron grip for over 40 years. The Iranians want to live more like people in the West. They don’t like being ruled by clerics who make laws through a rubber-stamp, sycophantic parliament, enforced by fanatical revolutionary guards. So, the consequence of the U.S. releasing shock and awe on the Iranian war machine would not turn out well for the Mullahs.
In any event, past U.S. administrations have adopted a policy of containment when dealing with Iran. While Trump critics have complained that U.S. policy in dealing with Iran has been unfocussed, one consistent theme has emerged: Iran cannot add nuclear weapons to its bag of evil tricks as it stirs up trouble in the region.
The deal that the previous administration made with Iran to achieve that, though, was a terrible one.
President Obama tried to pay off the Mullahs to slow down their nuclear weapons development. He bribed them with palettes full of cash. The Iranians signed the agreement, and Obama high-fived himself for being apart of a bad deal where the Iranians got the money to help them stay in power and continue their terrorist attacks on Americans.
President Trump saw the agreement for what it was: a shakedown. He pulled the plug and turned the economic sanctions back up.
That has obviously put the mullahs in a bind. Rather than attack Americans directly in the Gulf, the Iranians launched motor boats with limpet mines and blew holes into two oil tankers owned by other countries. One of those countries was Japan, whose Prime Minister Abe happened to be in Iran at the time advocating a diplomatic solution.
So, against the volatile backdrop of two intractable enemies and the years of animosity and resentment blocking any hope of reconciliation, someone in Iran decided to knock an American spy plane out of the sky. Then, despite the evidence that the U.S. drone operators can readily produce, the Iranians claimed that the drone was over their air space.
That claim, obviously didn’t fly. President Trump has the data, and he could have retaliated with a rain of cruise missiles and GPS guided bombs and leave smoking craters where Iranian missile sites used to be.
But, instead, President Trump played it smart and cool and made the right call. With a rather slick bit of nuance, the President gave the Iranians the benefit of the doubt. The attack, said Trump, could have either been a mistake or a rogue act of someone not under the control of the government. This had the effect of diffusing the crisis and calming a jittery Stock Market, which ended up closing on the upside at the end of the day.
The President waited until T-minus 10 minutes to call off the retaliation strike. Then, using Twitter as his fast line of communication to the public, he went straight to the American people and explained his reasons:
“… I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not … 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.”
The situation remains tense as the latest Iranian provocation has put both countries on the verge of going to war. President Trump, who campaigned on the premise that the U.S. needs to extricate itself from the interminable mess of the Middle East, doesn’t want a war with Iran.
Yes, our country’s military could give the Shia Mullahs the Armageddon they crave. That’s not the problem. It’s the aftermath and the hard lessons our country has learned from its Iraq experience: If you break it, you own it.