Why a war with Iran is unlikely: Donald Trump calls the shots and he doesn’t want one

By Anthony A. Shaffer

Acting President, London Center for Policy Research

Published in Usa Today

Those who fear that President Donald Trump is on the verge of dragging our country into war with Iran are forgetting, or deliberately twisting, what everyone knows about his reluctance to put our troops in harm’s way needlessly and endlessly.

The aggressive anti-American Iranian leadership, and the lack of political will to counter the Iranian aggression, goes back to the Carter White House, with every administration thereafter lacking the political will to confront Iran directly. The Obama administration’s feckless ministrations especially emboldened Iran’s regional aggression.

The Washington establishment elites who claim Trump is heading to war are mistaking bold leadership for reckless posturing. The truth is, regardless of what advice the president may get from his advisers in and outside of the White House, he’s the commander in chief and he is the ultimate decision-maker on life and death choices for our military and our national security interests.

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According to recent reports, the U.S. decision to send an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Middle East came after Washington received credible intelligence about Iran’s suspicious missile activity in the Persian Gulf.

“Overhead imagery showed fully assembled missiles, stoking fears that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRC — which the Trump administration recently designated a terrorist organization) would fire them at United States naval ships,” The New York Times reported.

After evaluating this alarming new threat, the White House deployed additional military assets to the Persian Gulf to ensure that U.S. forces in the region are adequately protected — a bold but necessary response of strength. The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, which just traveled through the Suez Canal en route to the Arabian Sea, will ideally serve more as a deterrent than a means of response to Iranian aggression.

Media are never happy with Trump

Predictably, though, the media are portraying the president’s stance on Iran in a much less flattering light, consistent with the reflexive anti-Trumpism that has become their trademark.

Journalists and talking heads have been depicting the president as a reckless warmonger who is backtracking on his pledge to end U.S. military involvement in conflicts overseas.

Let’s get something straight — just because Trump refuses to go on apology tours around the world, like his predecessor did, doesn’t mean that he is itching for war with Iran — or any other country, for that matter. Rather, the deployment of strategic military assets is actually a Reaganesque action intended to preserve the peace by discouraging a potential attack by Iran that would force us to defend ourselves and could possibly escalate into all-out war.

Just imagine if President Trump decided to ignore the intelligence report about Iran’s ballistic missiles, and Iran took that as a sign of weakness, emboldening the rogue nation enough to launch an actual attack. How would the press react to a deadly attack against U.S. soldiers that the White House chose not to prevent?

Keep in mind that some of the same people who are now fretting that Trump might rush off to war based on a single intelligence report were, until recently, positively horrified that he wasn’t giving enough credence to reports from the intelligence community.

War with Iran is unlikely for one reason

Trump’s critics can’t have it both ways — either the president has a habit of ignoring intelligence briefings or he doesn’t. Condemning Trump for being “at war” with the intelligence community while also blasting his administration for taking intelligence reports on Iran seriously is pure hypocrisy. And pure fantasy by the mainstream media.

The truth is, a war with Iran is unlikely for one simple reason — President Trump detests unnecessary military interventions. His entire foreign policy is based on the belief that economic pressure can bring bad actors to the negotiating table and that diplomacy, through his unparalleled negotiating skills, can solve even the most complex geopolitical challenges and achieve more than a military conflict ever could.

We’re already seen this doctrine in action, and the results have been encouraging. For example, we’re closer than ever before to a denuclearization deal with North Korea, a process that only stalled because of Trump’s unwillingness to make concessions that would weaken America’s strategic position. The president also cleaned up the mess his predecessor left behind in Syria, enforcing Obama’s “red line” by crippling Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons and defeating the ISIS caliphate, which in turn have allowed him to announce the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country.

Trump’s approach: threats and diplomacy

President Trump’s approach, however, depends on maintaining the credible threat of military force to remind America’s adversaries that diplomacy is in their best interest, too.

The president’s critics are often quick to point out that his White House is full of foreign policy hawks — but every experienced negotiator knows that having diverse viewpoints on a policy team, especially when it comes to foreign affairs, is effective in formulating the best possible strategy. Besides, if we want other countries to take the threat of U.S. military action seriously, there’s really nobody better than Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, to deliver that message.

At the end of the day, President Trump is the one who calls all the shots at the White House — and everything that he has done on the world stage for the last two years proves that he is not a trigger-happy warmonger. There is no desire for war — diplomacy is still desired. However, should war come the president will permit our military to win…so the situation with Iran will be no exception.