Spotlight: Trump may be backing himself into a corner in dealing with Iran, experts say

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-29 20:25:53|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- As tensions are riding high between Washington and Tehran, experts have said that U.S. President Donald Trump may have put himself in a difficult situation from which it would be hard to extricate himself.

"Trump, who almost certainly wanted to avoid a major military confrontation so close to an upcoming election, has to some extent backed himself into a corner," Wayne White, former deputy director of the Middle East Intelligence Office of the State Department, told Xinhua.

Tensions have escalated between the two countries since Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, arguing that it was a "bad deal" that would not prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran countered that it only wants nuclear materials for energy and technology needs.

Earlier this year, Trump designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Since last month, the United States has ramped up its military buildup at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base, from which U.S. forces withdrew 16 years ago.

In response to the U.S. military flexing its muscles in the Persian Gulf, Tehran has fought back on several fronts, attacking Saudi infrastructure and increasing strikes on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz following the downing of a U.S. drone, a claim that Tehran denies.

White said that the escalating tensions have left the U.S. president with few options, but "to continue on the present course risks the very military face-off he did not want."

He regarded the actions taken by the Trump administration as the president's efforts to appeal to voters who supported him during the 2016 presidential election.

"With the 2020 election in mind, Trump probably sought to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran, pleasing much of the GOP base, especially those supportive of eliminating any and all potential threats to Israel," White told Xinhua.

"Yet, Trump doesn't understand Iran," White said. "Notorious Iran hardliners within the Trump administration like (U.S. National Security Advisor) John Bolton similarly delude themselves into thinking harsh sanctions could well bring the fall of the clerical regime."

Experts have expressed concerns over a consequent backlash from Tehran against Washington.

White said that "despite widespread grumbling over inflation and shortages, hostile challenges from the United States tend to intensify overarching, pugnacious and unifying Iranian nationalism."

Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua that "U.S. policy has gravely misread Iran's government, political class, and public."

Ramsay said that the actions of the Trump administration are "unifying Iranians in a 'rally-round-the-flag' effect," as Iranians do not believe that the United States will implement its part of the agreement.

"Iran will reply tit-for-tat to any act by the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, etc. that Iran perceives as making incursions in its airspace or against its ships," said Ramsay.

"In the nuclear field, it will continue to move outside the constraints of the nuclear agreement, step by step, while keeping the International Atomic Energy Association monitors in place to record exactly how far Iran is going," he said.