A portrait of US President Donald Trump burns during a demonstration in Tehran on December 11, 2017. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Trump Go to War with Iran?

Akhbar Al-Khaleej, UAE, May 17

Will [US President Donald] Trump go to war with Iran? This is the most important question asked these days. The shortest answer is that he likely will not. Trump explicitly said that he does not want a war with Tehran, but wants to see the Iranian regime fall. The Trump Administration, despite the bellicose stance of influential figures in it like [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and [National Security Adviser John] Bolton, understands that more time is needed. A regime as strong as the mullah regime, which was established 40 years ago, takes time to be knocked down and defeated. Furthermore, Trump understands that war would pose a problem on a number of fronts. Most notably, he wants to win a second term. If the coming presidential elections in the US were behind us, the prospect of a violent strike against Tehran would be much higher. Trump would have nothing to lose, as presidents usually think of their second term as a way to shape their international legacy before they leave office. Sometimes, presidents are forced to launch a war during their first term, as was the case with Bush Senior, in Kuwait, and with his son, in Afghanistan following 9/11. But the choice of war and intervention is often one a president turns to only [in a second term]. The situation with Trump is even more extreme. All of his energy and thinking focus on winning again, even more than in the case of his predecessors. This exasperation is motivated by personal reasons because Trump’s opponents insulted him and questioned his election, accusing Russia of helping him. To win again for him is therefore a matter of personal dignity, life or death, and he is unlikely to launch a war with Iran that could derail his campaign and be used by his rivals against him. It is clear that the Iranians and their agents want to provoke Trump in order to push him to make thoughtless decisions that could hasten his departure from the White House and bring a Democratic president – who would be more favorable to Iran – back to power. But Trump is so far holding up strongly. A second reason Trump would avoid war is his deep political convictions, which are far more realistic than we want to admit. He is suspicious of the idea of large military interventions and prefers the idea of cooperation with allies. Syria is an example where he resisted the notion of military intervention to change political outcomes. He contributed to the elimination of Islamic State without spilling American blood. He also tried to convince his generals to withdraw quickly from Afghanistan. If Trump had been president in 2003, he probably would not have invaded Iraq because he is opposed to interfering in internal affairs through military projects. All of this brings us back to the first point: Does Trump want a war with Iran? The answer is no, but he wants to destroy the evil mullah regime until it breathes its last breath without getting America’s hands dirty. He will therefore patiently wait until after the 2020 mid-term elections before taking any action against Iran. – Mamdouh Mahini (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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