Trump playing a dangerous game in Iran: NY Times

May 6, 2019

The New York Times says the Trump administration “is playing a dangerous game in Iran”.

In a commentary written by its editorial board and published on May 4, the Times said this game risks a “serious miscalculation” by either Iran or the United States.

Following is an excerpt of the article headlined “Trump Dials Up the Pressure on Iran”:

President Trump has made no secret of his desire to isolate and impoverish Iran. After withdrawing last year from the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and five other nations, Trump launched his campaign of “maximum pressure” designed to change Iran’s behavior — and perhaps its leadership.

“Trump rushed to designate the IRGC terrorist before the Israeli election on April 9 to benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”Mr. Trump dialed up the heat (just recently) again by lifting waivers that had allowed eight countries (including China, India, South Korea and Turkey) to continue importing limited quantities of Iranian oil. Most of these countries have worked to reduce such purchases, but the Trump administration demanded that they end them outright or face American financial sanctions. On Thursday, Turkey said it couldn’t find other suppliers quickly enough to meet the deadline.

The goal, pressed most forcefully by the national security adviser, John Bolton, seems clear: to strangle Iran’s economy and lay the ground for regime change. Although Saudi Arabia has promised to stabilize the market by making up for Iranian oil losses, there is a risk the effort could backfire, triggering a hike in world prices.

Ending the oil sale waivers is just the latest twist of the screw. Last month, Trump added Iran’s most powerful military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, to the United States list of foreign terrorist organizations. It marked the first time an official military organization of a foreign state was so designated.

Details of the new policy haven’t been sorted out, a result of Trump’s rushed effort to announce the decision before the Israeli election on April 9 to benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The George W. Bush and the Obama administrations decided against the terrorist listing after the Pentagon raised concerns that the move could pose risks to American troops stationed abroad. Trump rejected similar advice. Shortly after he labeled the Revolutionary Guards terrorists, Iran retaliated by slapping the same designation on American forces in the Middle East.

The administration has been considering imposing sanctions on European, Chinese and Russian entities working with Iran in nuclear field.

Iran is still abiding by the 2015 agreement which put strict limits on its nuclear program, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors its compliance. But the pressure campaign is strengthening hard-liners in Tehran, and there are signs that Iran’s leaders may withdraw.

The Trump administration is playing a dangerous game in Iran, risking a serious miscalculation by either side. Even enemies can find ways to talk. Establishing a channel for heading off potential conflicts should be a priority.

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