Why I agree with Trump on Iran

Published 6:30 pm Monday, June 24, 2019

There’s a debate going on in the Trump Administration about what to do concerning Iran. On one hand, he has a group of advisers who can’t wait to go to war in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman against Iran. They are opposed by President Donald J. Trump, who wisely has tried to downplay the crisis, and has tried to refrain from conflict. He’s right, and here’s why.

When I was in graduate school at Florida State University, I was friends with an administrator, a Republican who later became a state legislator. He studied the Middle East well, and was fond of saying “we can go to war in Iraq, or Iran, but not both.”

Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush understood that as well. Bush Sr. seemed uninterested in a fight until Kuwait was attacked by Iraq in 1990. After our victory in the Persian Gulf War, he and his advisors sought a balance. It was a policy continued by Bill Clinton, keeping Iraq at bay with sanctions and No Fly Zones, while opening up a dialogue with moderate leader Mohammed Khatami.

That bipartisan plan was undermined by George W. Bush, who lacked his father’s wisdom and experienced advisors. Not only did he initiate Operation Iraqi Freedom (where his political ambitions had to be rescued by America’s military and diplomats from another Vietnam), but he also foolishly lumped together Iran and Iraq along with North Korea into an “Axis of Evil.”  

Such a plan may have tested well with a focus group of American voters, but it was an international diplomatic disaster. It chased the Iranian moderates and liberal reformers out of power, and encouraged North Korea and Iran to pursue a nuclear weapons program. They would have been stupid not to have done so, given what Bush did to Iraq, which did not have nukes.  

When Time magazine asked Trump about military action against Iran, he replied “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.” Then came news that he sagely called off an attack on Iran that his deputies have been gunning for.

It’s time for President Trump to clean house among his foreign policy advisers, starting with John Bolton, one of the men who strongly supported the disastrous Operation Iraqi Freedom. He needs more advisers who share his measured approach, and one which can get him a new nuclear deal with Iran that will make our allies, and the American people, happy with the economic opportunity it would bring, along with strengthening the Iranian moderate forces against their hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the only group which benefits from sanctions (due to their criminal connections and ability to subvert international inspectors).