President Trump came into office criticizing the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and promised he would try to avoid foreign military engagements. Yet this month the White House has been talking as if conflict with Iran is suddenly on the table. Trump tweeted over the weekend, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”
But it’s not clear if U.S. officials have evidence that Iran “wants to fight” or why the Pentagon has dispatched additional ships and bombers to the Middle East.
National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been especially aggressive in their Iran rhetoric.
Pompeo and other top officials briefed members of the House and Senate in private on Tuesday. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that the U.S. warnings and deployments have already made Iran think twice about starting anything. “This is about deterrence, not about war,” Shanahan said.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN the U.S. is “playing a very, very dangerous game” by placing more military assets in the region.
Here’s a look at how the talk has turned so bellicose and the risks involved.
What changed between the U.S. and Iran?
The first Sunday night in May, the White House issued a statement from Bolton, saying the U.S. has seen “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” tied to the Iranian regime threatening U.S. and allied interests. Bolton said the U.S. was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and land-based bombers to the Persian Gulf in response.
Later, administration sources said intelligence photos showed Iran had loaded missiles onto small boats run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. last month declared a terrorist organization. But then the Iranian forces reportedly unloaded some. Read more