It seems clear at this point that the Trump administration is taking steps to invent a new confrontation with Iran. The drawing up of a new plan for sending 120,000 troops to the region “should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons,” as unnamed administration officials told The New York Times, is part of that push.
The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.
What’s less clear is (1) just who is really in charge here and (2) how far they will go to create reasons for using that substantial military force. Iran has not a thing to gain from “attacking” American forces, and the odds of it doing so are therefore near zero; we can surmise that it is the second scenario above, in which Iran resumes nuclear weapons development after the unilateral nullification by the Trump administration of the agreement requiring it to stop, that Bolton and his team are planning for.
The Trump team has had only limited success in convincing allies that now that the United States has withdrawn itself from the nuclear nonproliferation deal, the whole thing now counts as invalid—and it takes some doing for longtime allies of the United States to look long and hard at United States actions, Iranian actions, and come down on the side of the dodgy theocracy. But Team Trump’s saber-rattling has had just that effect, with a British deputy commander of the anti-ISIS multilateral task force emphasizing that there “has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces” in the region, a statement in seeming direct contradiction of the State Department’s dire new warnings.
What may be happening is a new wave of attacks by Yemeni military forces in the mostly one-sided and frequently horrific Saudi-led war in that country; Iran does indeed support those forces, as part of the region’s usual proxy battles among each of the major local powers.
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