“Security Council Adopts Resolution on Iran Nuclear Deal” by United Nations Photo is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
By Shawn Rostker
The New York Times reported recently that President Donald Trump sought out options for military engagement with Iran after a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material was reported by international inspectors. Senior advisers persuaded the President not to engage with Iran out of fear that it could escalate quickly into a more wide-scale conflict. The Trump administration has been walking a tight rope with Iran since it withdrew its support from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) in the earliest days of its tenure. Since that point, Iran has increased its production of low-grade uranium beyond the limits laid out by the landmark nonproliferation agreement and increasingly restricted regulatory commissions’ access to its nuclear facilities and centrifuges.
The Trump administration’s inept foreign policy has backed itself into this corner it now finds itself in; a corner in which the president considers a military strike on an Iranian nuclear compound to be a viable solution to a problem that his administration has been unable to quell. The “maximum pressure” campaign the Trump administration has waged against Iran has been brutish and clumsy, and has failed to achieve any of its preconditions to restarting negotiations. Instead it has inflamed U.S./Iranian relations, corroded diplomatic channels of communication, and brought us to the brink of war on multiple occasions. Additionally, our reneging on the multilateral commitment has emboldened the most hawkish, anti-Western elements within Iran, and politically empowered the factions most fervently opposed to working with us. The outgoing administration’s parochial foreign policy has inflicted lasting damage that will affect U.S./Iranian relations for years to come. The incoming administration will be forced to deal with an Iranian regime increasingly hostile towards U.S. interests and increasingly skeptical of U.S. entanglement. If we are able to escape the final weeks of this current administration without plunging into war with Iran, we will have narrowly avoided catastrophe. Unfortunately however, the damage done will remain, and the United States will face an Iran growing in nuclear-capability and ambition and reshaping regional power in a direction detrimental to United States’ interests in the Middle East.