The man who put Iran “on notice” and warned that the “Trump administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations,” has now been removed from his position as National Security Advisor. Yet, even with Michael Flynn gone, all signs indicate the Trump administration is likely to continue on its course toward confrontation with Iran ― and threatening both U.S. and regional security in the process.
There have been three separate reports that the Trump administration is considering action that would risk war with Iran and jeopardize the agreement that has rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and subjected it to intrusive international monitoring.
Last week, reports indicated that the administration was considering designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – an Iranian military force – a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). This proposal raised red flags for both military and intelligence officials, who warned that it could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq operating in close proximity to Iranian directed Shia militias in the fight against the Islamic State. Further, the officials warned that designating a foreign military force a terrorist organization “would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions.”
The IRGC designation has for years been championed by neoconservatives eager to escalate tensions with Iran and kill the Iran nuclear deal. As former UN Ambassador John Bolton ― who was considered for the number two position at the Trump State Department and has advocated bombing Iran ― recently stated, the IRGC designation could be a way to convince the Iranians to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.
A second report indicates that last week Defense Secretary James Mattis was considering interdicting an Iranian ship in international waters to inspect it for arms that could potentially be headed to Houthi forces in Yemen. However, the interdiction was set aside given that the legality of the raid was suspect, in addition to leaks and fallout from the hasty raid in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of a Seal Team 6 member and several civilians, including an eight-year-old. Adding an interdiction of an Iranian vessel in potential violation of international law to current tensions over naval activities in the Persian Gulf would be a combustible mix.
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