In the headlines last week we heard about President Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination – something of a historic choice.
A matter of hours later, Washington announced that Iran was being officially put “on notice”. The news was delivered by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency.
Flynn listed a number of contraventions carried out by Iran, including the defiance of U.N. resolutions on ballistic missile tests, the funding and spread of global terrorism and the provocation of vessels in international waters.
President Trump thus set boundaries for Iran in an attempt to curb its out-of-control behaviour.
When asked whether military actions against Iran was a possibility, President Trump declared that nothing has been taken off the table.
The relations between Iran and the United States are quite particular because Iran has been used to appeasement and concessions from the US. During President Obama’s time in office, the Iranian regime became accustomed to empty threats and indifference. This initially undermined the current administration and President.
In this case, Iran dismissed the words from Washington and proceeded to launch another ballistic missile.
Vice President Mike Pence warned Iran that it should not push the new administration too far. He said: “Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president.”
During the election campaign, Trump spoke about how the predictability of the United States was a major weak spot as it allowed enemies time to reflect and act. President Trump has already made sure that his foreign policies are not predictable.
Iran might be having a hard time dealing with this because President Obama was completely predictable for the Iranian regime. President Obama would maybe threaten or imply certain actions, but nothing would ever come of it.
Obama had promised “swift justice” regarding the 2012 Benghazi attack but nothing ever happened. Russia completely disregarded the economic sanctions Obama put on it for the annexing of Crimea. Putin actually put military in Syria and armed Iran after the sanctions were issued.
However, the worst example of inaction has got to be the 2012 threat Obama made to Syrian dictator Assad. He said that if chemical weapons were to be used again it would be crossing a diplomatic red line. The following year Assad employed the use of chemicals against civilians. What happened? Nothing, other than he blamed Congress for inaction.
Trump’s way to ambiguously deal with Iran is perhaps working. Instead of being clear about the consequences Iran will face for future aggressiveness, Trump is letting Iran just wait and see what will happen. He is letting Iran guess how serious the consequences will be.
The danger of this is that the Iranian regime might overreact. President Trump needs to anticipate Iran’s actions and have a plan for dealing with each possible response and reaction. As long as President Trump continues backing his words up with actions, the easier it will be to tame Tehran.