It’s always dangerous to predict what Donald Trump is going to do, but as much as the powerful cable news lobby, foreign policy establishment and a good chunk of congress wants it, the president is not going to start a war with Iran.*
Trump stoked war fever last night when he tweeted that he was “locked and loaded” for war, and the media is abuzz with excitement at the prospect for war. “That rhythmic pounding sound you hear from Washington is the growing drumbeat for military action to punish Iran for the Saturday strikes on two Saudi processing facilities that cut the country’s oil production in half,” said this story in the Washington Examiner. ‘It is now time for the U.S. to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,’ tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham after the attack. ‘Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back’.”
Let’s put aside for a moment the question of whether Iran was responsible for the attacks on Saudi facilities, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called that “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.” Let’s just say it’s pretty hard to trust the U.S. government on this one and if Iran was going to attack Saudi Arabia it’s timing was impeccably stupid given that John Bolton had just been fired as National Security Advisor.
Furthermore, Trump seems content to do to Iran what he’s doing in Venezuela and Syria, namely ratchet up sanctions and external pressure but not start a full-fledged war. He also clearly is trying to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Sanctions are obviously war by another name but so far Trump has stopped short of military actions that will clearly lead to war, which strikes on Iran are sure to do. “He is adamant about not getting into another land war,” one well placed source I spoke to said.
This person has always been a very good source. Hopefully he’ll be right once again.
(*Probably. I’m basing this solid 51-49 prediction on a quick reading of the news and a few phone calls. I’m heading out the door for a few hours and I’ll update this story and change the headline if war erupts.)