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Twin foreign policy crises greet Trump as election year dawns – CNN, CNN

Twin foreign policy crises greet Trump as election year dawns – CNN, CNN


(CNN)President Donald Trump is suddenly faced on the first day of election year with hot foreign policy crises with Iran and North Korea that put American lives at risk and could weigh heavily on his own political prospects.

TheUS showdown with Iranrocketed to dangerous new levels after protestors burst into the US embassy compound in Iraq as US strikes on Tehran-backed militia forces killed 31 people.

Kim Jong Un meanwhilewarned North Koreawould soon reveal a “new strategic weapon.” If that is code for testing an intercontinental missile that could theoretically deliver a nuclear warhead to the US, his diplomatic“love affair”With Trump could soon dissolve in a dangerous new trans-Pacific standoff.

The developing challenges to the President raise the possibility that the controversial foreign policy choices that he made in the first three years of his administration could return to haunt him as he asks voters for a second term. At the very least, rising tensions will require a steady diplomatic hand and nuanced presidential leadership as he operates on a fine line of showing strength but stopping short of undue provocation.

The President’s first concern is Iran. He is now warning the Islamic Republic that any new threats to Americans or attacks on US targets could trigger an even more serious escalation than the already robust US air raids.

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“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year! ” Trumpwrote in a tweet on Tuesday.And, speaking with reporters later Tuesday as he entered a New Year’s Eve gala at Mar-a-Lago, the President said he doesn’t want war but that if it comes to conflict, Iran wouldn’t last long.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea for Iran,” Trump said.

The administration rushed extra forces to protect the embassy, ​​as a senior administration official told CNN the White House was “very concerned” about what might happen on Wednesday.

Yet Trump is already taking a risky victory lap on Twitter, comparing his leadership to the Obama administration after the storming of a US consulate in northeastern Libya in 2017, and presenting the results of heightened tensions with Iran as a desirable outcome.

“The Anti-Benghazi!” the President tweeted Tuesday evening. There are limited comparisons between the situations in Baghdad – where the US embassy is one of the most heavily defended buildings in the world – and the rudimentary compound used by the roving US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack, in the middle of a civil war in Libya.

In many ways, the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad – which followed US strikes on the militia to avenge the death of a US contractor in the country – is an almost inevitable consequence of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy targeting Iran.

Critics have long denied that showy decisions related to Iran and North Korea apparently made to further Trump’s own political prospects and not a more sober evaluation of US foreign policy goals could eventually backfire.

Trump’s decision to ditch Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal – –with which Tehran was complying– and to crank up sanctions has cau sed a debilitating economic crisis and humanitarian pain in Iran.

Washington says the nuclear deal was one of the worst agreements in history because it did not rein in Iran’s missile program or curtail what the US regards as malicious activity and support for terrorism in its neighborhood. The assumption behind Trump’s strategy is that Tehran’s clerical regime will collapse or that the Iranians will return to the negotiating table to accepta far more punitive nuclear deal.

Despite some of the most intense anti-government demonstrations in decades, many analysts believe that there is no sign the regime is falling. In fact, there is more evidence that Trump’s hardline approach is causing Iran to become more belligerent in its own region – quite the opposite of the US goal.

“While the Trump Administration has touted its maximum pressure campaign against Iran, the results so far have been more threats against international commerce, emboldened and more violent proxy attacks across the Middle East, and now, the death of an American citizen in Iraq, “New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

In response to the US policy, shaped by administration hardliners like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iran has also resumed nuclear activity, even starting up centrifuges in an underground facility dismantled under the Obama-era deal.

Trump’s personal prestige on the line in Iraq

The White House says that it does not want war and hopes that the fallout from the air strikes will soon cool and the crisis will pass. But if it does not, it may face the most dangerous US-Iran crisis in many years.

That’s because the prestige of Trump and the Iranians is now deeply invested in this showdown and uncertainty about erratic decision making on both sides could lead to miscalculations.

And given the hardline position of the Trump administration towards Iran, it does not seem like there is any face-saving option that could quickly limit an escalation once it starts.

The situation tugs Trump between two dueling instincts in his political soul. He loves to look tough – and live up to his own perceptions of a ruthless commander in chief.

But the President is also loath to be drawn into foreign entanglements – one of his few inviolable principles and one that takes on more importance as he runs for reelection.

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