With reports coming out of the Trump administration that certain advisers want to ramp up the pressure on Iran – perhaps to the point of initiating military action – the president himself has been quickly distancing himself from the hawks. Several times over the past week, Trump has said that he does not want military conflict with Iran…although he will certainly give them what they want if the Islamic Republic makes the first move.
In an interview with Fox News host Steve Hilton over the weekend, Trump said that while he would be happy to avoid conflict with Iran, he was certainly not going to let them get their hands on a nuclear arsenal.
“I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons,” he assured Hilton. “I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons. You just can’t let that happen.”
Trump said that his decision to tear up the Iranian nuclear agreement had forced Tehran into a desperate economic situation.
“I ended the Iran Nuclear Deal, and actually, I must tell you, I had no idea it was going to be as strong as it was,” he said. “It totally – the country is devastated from the standpoint of the economy.”
While economic desperation could lead Iranian leaders to make a rash decision, Trump said that he was still eager to avoid war in the Middle East.
“With all of everything that’s going on, and I’m not one that believes – I’m not somebody that wants to go into war,” he said. “War hurts economies, war kills people most importantly. By far, most importantly.”
On Sunday, however, after reports surfaced that Iran-backed militias had fired a rocket towards the U.S. embassy in Iraq, Trump appeared to acknowledge that, like it or not, sometimes war has a way of finding you.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” the president warned. “Never threaten the United States again!”
It is tough to imagine why or how Iran would want to pick a fight with the United States, but Trump is right – it would be the “end of Iran” as it currently exists. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and much of the rest of the Middle East would be over the moon with that result, and the world would probably be, on balance, a better place for it. That said, if we’ve learned nothing else from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the rest of our foreign excursions, it’s that victory doesn’t always play out as smoothly as one might hope.