Although President Donald Trump consistently likes to stick to the claim that everything is coming along just fine under his leadership (or lack thereof), national security challenges are piling up anyway. Recently, an Iranian-backed militia attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq after the Trump administration carried out airstrikes targeting the group, and now, a former top official in the Obama administration has published a piece squarely blaming Trump himself for the mess. As Wendy Sherman explains it after having served as a lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal that Trump so freely dismissed, the president’s withdrawal from that agreement tore apart the de facto U.S. truce with Iran.
The embassy attack was led by a group called Kataeb Hezbollah, and they’re now gone from outside the U.S. compound after spending days violently demonstrating and briefly breaching the perimeter, but the threat remains. Sherman, who also served as undersecretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration in addition to her Iran deal work, wrote:
‘It is President Donald Trump’s failed policy toward Iran that has brought us to this combustible moment… we maintained an uneasy coexistence in Iraq, where Tehran holds considerable sway. That uneasy balance was destroyed when Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal… The results have been devastating to U.S. interests.’
Examples of this devastation that Sherman cites include increased power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force and increased “nefarious activities” in general, “since terror is not an expensive undertaking and so is largely immune from economic sanctions.” Additionally, in the face of suddenly spiked sanctions against the country from the Trump administration, Iran has slowly but surely begun to wind down its compliance from the nuclear deal, no matter the handful of other European countries signed on besides the U.S. That growing non-compliance has included an increase in the country’s uranium work.
No matter all of these warning signs, Sherman notes that the Trump administration seemingly had no plan ready to go to fortify Americans against incidents like the militia attack on the embassy. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has announced a deployment of hundreds more troops to the region, but that came after the violence had already gotten underway.
‘Administration officials might have worked more closely with the Iraq government to think through the best way forward. Instead, in essence, Trump walked into Iran’s trap… Had President Trump stayed in the Iran deal and used not only the remaining sanctions in the U.S. toolbox but also built a coalition of diplomatic partners to challenge Iran to truly join the community of nations, we would be in a very different place today. Three years into his presidency, Donald Trump owns the events and outcomes in Iraq and Iran.’
She further notes that after “having diminished our State Department, intelligence agencies and military, the very institutions that could have helped him construct an effective national security and foreign policy, [Trump] is now on his own.”
Along those lines, on New Year’s Eve, Trump tweeted:
‘Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!’
The problem is: it’s unclear how that melodramatic “threat” corresponds to the real world.
….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019