In an article for the Miami Herald by Andrew Malcolm, author and veteran national and foreign correspondent, he writes about the statement made by US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, that drew a diplomatic red line for Iran.
In only 244 words, the National Security Adviser, and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, listed a long series of Iranian transgressions, such as their funding of global terrorism, flouting U.N. resolutions on ballistic missile tests, and attacking ships in international waters. In conclusion, Flynn stated, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
When asked if military action was a possibility, Trump said that everything is on the table.
Because the United States has little credibility after eight years of an appeasement policy in the Middle East, it may take some time, and perhaps the use of military force, for the Trump administration to be taken seriously.
As proof of this, Iran soon launched another rocket, as domestic protests broke out over Trump’s immigration ban and its rollout.
During the presidential campaign Trump’s major themes involved the Nuclear Deal with Iran, which he called “terrible”, and the predictability of Obama’s foreign policies. “The United States needs to be less predictable,” Trump said.
The new president’s first two weeks were nothing, if not unpredictable.
Vice President Mike Pence warned on Sunday, “Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president.”
Obama’s diplomacy was indeed predictable. No matter what he sought, implied or threatened, he would try to resolves issues with words, negotiations, and sanctions. Obama offered concessions. He canceled missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in an attempt to coax Russian cooperation on Iranian issues. Russia thanked him, but sold advanced military hardware to Iran.
According to Malcolm, “Obama vowed “swift justice” on Benghazi’s murderers; nothing happened. His economic sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea were so serious that President Vladimir Putin ignored them, armed Iran, fomented rebellion within Ukraine and moved militarily into Syria,” and added, “Obama’s worst display of impotence came from his infamous 2012 threat to Syria’s Bashar Assad that using chemical weapons in that civil war would cross a red line in the Democrat’s mind.”
During a White House briefing Obama said, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground.” He continued, “that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
Assad once again used chemicals on civilians a year later. Facing domestic criticism, Obama blamed Congress for inaction, while Putin brokered a faux weapons disposal.
Trump sees unpredictability as a positive bargaining tool. Having Flynn read carefully from a prepared text, and take no questions, was a sign that Trump will employ ambiguity and threats to make Iran imagine how bad the consequences might be, starting with renewed sanctions.
His national security and State department secretaries are now in place, so Trump now has his team assembled.
“Westerners have an expression for someone who talks a lot and does little. They say he’s all hat and no cattle. Trump has that familiar red baseball cap. To avoid earning the same international reputation as Obama, we’ll soon see whether the New Yorker has any cattle in his diplomatic herd,” concludes Malcolm.