With Iran Tensions High, The Trump Administration Faces A Foreign Policy Crossroads

The U.S. and Iran have each taken provocative actions. 

By Rhonda FanningMay 16, 2019 1:17 pm,

Exxon Mobil, the irving-based energy giant with extensive operations in the mideast, announced Wednesday that it is “closely monitoring the situation” in Iraq after word that the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of diplomatic staff there. Reports suggest the potential for a military conflict in the region.

Some members of Congress are being shown new intelligence reports that the Trump administration maintains show missiles being placed on small boats in the Persian Gulf by Iranian paramilitary forces. There have also been reports that the U.S. is drafting contingency plans for a potential military confrontation with Iran.

William Inboden formerly worked at the National Security Council, and is executive director of the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas’ LBJ school of Public Affairs. He doesn’t believe the Trump administration wants to go to war with Iran.

“They’re bluffing a bit, they’re posturing, they’re escalating things,” Imboden says “so it’s dangerous. And there is the possibility of miscalculation.”

Iran announced recently that it will stockpile more heavy water for their uranium enrichment program. That violates the terms of the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from that deal last year.

Imboden says Iran is stepping up military involvement in Iraq and elsewhere.

“The Trump administration is also increasing the pressure,” he says.

Imboden says intelligence reports indicate that Iran is in fact arming small boats, but he says it’s unclear where and how Ire country intends to use them. Iran’s leaders could be bluffing or planning to threaten U.S. allies in the region.

The stakes are high, Imboden says, and the current confrontation with Iran could be the first serious foreign policy crisis of the Trump administration.

“It feels like we’re at a crossroads,” Imboden says. “Two-and-a-half years in, this administration hasn’t had any major foreign policy successes, but they also haven’t had any major foreign policy crises or disasters on a large scale.”

But the administration is stretched thin, struggling to manage conflicts with Venezuela, North Korea and China.

“It’s going to demand quite a bit of skill for the administration to navigate it without any of these turning into all-out war,” Imboden says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.