There are the demands of America's strategic interests, domestic politics, and the wishes and demands of its regional allies. The President, who has made clear he's averse to foreign interventions, said Thursday that he acts to "temper" Bolton's more aggressive impulses.
In an era when the American capital is full of surprises, this search for monsters beyond the country's boundaries is one of the most startling departures from form, especially as the crises dreaded by the opponents of Mr. Trump have begun to close in. Not really. The recent tests rank relatively low on the North Korean provocation scale. And that priority makes sense if preventing war is the American goal, with denuclearization seen as the end of a process of improved relations rather than a precondition for such improvement.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described Tehran's threat to resume nuclear work - in what would be a contravention of its commitments under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - as a "bad reaction", calling on Tehran to show "political maturity".
Popular protests inside the country are growing, and with the ban on Iranian oil and other exports, Tehran's options are narrowing. However, a build-up of "deterrent forces" around Iran is necessary so that the U.S. could respond if Iran "decided to come after an American interest - whether that be in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Yemen, or any place in the Middle East".
Meanwhile, U.S. special forces personnel reportedly are on the ground in Yemen amid the Saudi-led war against the Houthi rebels. But there is also at least equal and perhaps even more chance that it might not be.
In the three-decade old military confrontation with the warring neighbour, none from the worldwide community had slapped Iran with sanctions on import, export and oil sales. Had Hillary Clinton being elected in 2016, she most likely would have hardened US policy towards Iran, even if she would not have withdrawn from the JCPOA. "Iran has large reserves of copper-the second largest in the world by some estimates-which is used for reduced‐visibility treatments in missiles to protect them from detection and interception".
With sanctions on Iran's crude oil trade beginning to strain the regime, the new sanctions on Iran's metal sector seek to cut off another source of revenue. But Trump can avoid that eventuality simply by refusing to countenance it.
That leaves Venezuela. Trump himself is reportedly frustrated that Bolton, among others, promised him an easy and bloodless victory, when instead Juan Guaidó, our man in Caracas, proved singularly inept at inspiring a coup that would surely have quickly won American support.
The ideal regime-change scenario would be effected by Iranians themselves. Trump indicated that he has had, on occasion, to "temper" regime hawks. Since America has nearly no real interests in Venezuela, it's easier to see the costs of deepening American involvement than the benefits. "There's no explanation for this except for the fact that there is no consistency in Trump's own views". On that score, he's fortunate indeed. His base seems likely to hold on to their belief in his toughness regardless of whether he pursues a policy of conciliation (as in North Korea) or confrontation (as in Iran), and regardless of whether events go his way or frustrate his plans (as in Venezuela). And Democrats are hamstrung by an inability, so far, to articulate a consistent alternative approach grounded in a readily-comprehensible understanding of America's true interests.
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