On Saturday, Donald Trump spoke to reporters before departing to Camp David, where aides and advisors will compete with the warm glow of Fox News and the president’s Twitter app for the commander in chief’s attention.
“Look, Iran right now is an economic mess. They’re going through hell”, Trump said. “More sanctions are going to be put on. A lot more.”
He didn’t elaborate.
Nor did he elaborate roughly four hours later when he took to Twitter to make what sounds like an official announcement about what some initially thought might be an amorphous threat.
“Under the terrible Obama plan, [Iran] would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years”, Trump said, proving once again that he doesn’t understand the difference between nouns and adjectives. “Existing verification is not acceptable”, he continued. “We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday”.
It appears as though Trump has elected to tighten the economic noose around the theocracy rather than go the Bolton route and risk open confrontation. “Everyone was saying I’m a warmonger and now they’re saying I’m a dove”, Trump said Saturday morning. “[I’m a] man with common sense”, he insisted.
You might fairly chuckle at Trump’s claim to being a man who habitually appeals to prudence, but if ever there was a time for the president to exercise whatever tiny morsel of “common sense” does reside in the recesses of that “very large brain” of his, this is surely it.
The only question now is how long it will be before Trump starts trading Game of Thrones memes with Qasem again.
That wasn’t the only notable announcement Trump made on Saturday afternoon. The president also decided to delay a planned roundup of illegal immigrants that had caused quite a stir over the past two days.
“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border”, he said. “If not, Deportations start!”
That represented an abrupt turn from Trump’s shrill rhetoric earlier in the day. “The people that ICE will apprehend have already been ordered to be deported”, he shrieked on Saturday morning.
Getting back to Iran, according to Michael Singh of the Washington Institute, who participated in a recent conference call with BofAML’s GEM Economics team, Tehran is trying to secure leverage with Trump ahead of any negotiations. “The potential alternative objective of dropping out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Nuclear Deal and attempting a nuclear breakout is much less likely due to the potential for military confrontation”, BofA wrote Friday, summarizing Singh’s remarks, and adding the following color:
He also saw the possibility of US efforts to marginalize the JCPOA to prevent the Iranian regime from attempting to outwait the current US administration’s term. The sabotage attacks in the Gulf have not led to casualties and may thus have respected perceived red lines, as per Mr. Singh. He also suggested that the drone incident may set a precedent and embolden Iran. This could coincide with the upcoming US re-election campaign timeline, in our view. Mr. Singh did not see momentum behind a US or international campaign to secure Gulf shipping lanes.
Iran on Monday announced that the country will be in violation of key elements of the nuclear accord within days. Meanwhile, the Houthis continue provocations against the Saudis, although the term “provocations” might not be wholly appropriate in this scenario considering the fact that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for perpetuating the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in Yemen.
In any case, none of this is “good” news and one certainly imagines that more sanctions on Iran will lead to more escalations, which in turn raises the odds of someone “accidentally” being killed – Trump’s “common sense” notwithstanding.
Remember, Qasem Soleimani (who bows to no man other than Khamenei) has outwitted US leaders far more savvy than Donald Trump and has made a career of embarrassing the US military whenever it suits him. Short of an actual head-to-head clash that sees the US commit the full force of America’s armed forces to the fight (an extraordinarily far-fetched prospect), Soleimani will run up the score on Trump, just as he’s done to other administrations over the years.
As Michael Weiss recently put it, “Soleimani has relished his role bleeding the Great Satan on terrain he knows intimately, home to governments he’s infiltrated with a machiavellian admixture of coercion, bribery and violence.”
“His overriding sales pitch to everyone is that he’s a far more reliable and enduring ally than the US will ever be”, Weiss went on to say, adding that “everyone has begun to believe him.”