Trump Says U.S. ‘Destroyed’ a ‘Threatening’ Iranian Drone
Still, Benjamin H. Friedman, a policy director at Defense Priorities, said Thursday’s action set the conditions “for a miscalculation that could quickly spiral into a broader war.”
“Maximum pressure has harmed Iran’s economy, but it has failed in its aims—it has encouraged Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program and increase its hardline polices,” he said in a statement.
Besides, the Iranian downing of U.S. drone, Washington has accused the Islamic Republic of attacking tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Meanwhile, Iran has increased its uranium enrichment activity to a level that imperils its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal which the Trump administration withdrew from last year. The deal’s European signatories have been unable to provide Iran with sufficient economic relief.
Those European powers —the U.K., France and Germany—for now remain in lock-step over the need to keep the agreement alive for as long as possible.
On Monday, the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt—one of the two candidates to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister—confirmed that the U.K. continued to support the nuclear deal but warned the Iranians needed to stick to their side of the bargain regardless of the U.S. decision to withdraw.
“There can be no ‘partial’ compliance,” Hunt tweeted. “You are either on path to a nuclearised Middle East or not…” But it’ll no doubt be harder for European powers to insist the pact can be resurrected, as long as military provocations continue and Iran carries on chipping away at its nuclear deal commitments.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said in a statement it was unlikely the shooting down of the drone would lead to “World War III,” adding that Iran’s goal was to get “America to cease its maximum pressure campaign” and … “return to the” nuclear deal.
“While the regime in Tehran will need to recalibrate in the short term, it’s likely that Iran will continue to escalate in other theaters, be it across the Gulf region or in cyberspace,” he said.
Last month Trump considered airstrikes on Iran after it shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, but pulled back at the last minute because of the possibility of civilian casualties. At the time, Trump said killing Iranians wouldn’t be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
The U.S. action today satisfies Trump’s cautious approach to military action. The president, despite some of his more hawkish advisers’ instincts to the contrary, has adamantly opposed any action that could metastasize into a wider conflict. (His major intervention in Syria only came after the Assad regime used chemical weapons on civilians, including children.) In the ongoing tensions with Iran, he has preferred to let sanctions do the talking while signaling he is open to dialogue. Yet, Iran’s continued provocations have become hard to ignore. This week it seized a Panamanian-flagged, UAE-based tanker and accused its crew of smuggling fuel. Last week, the U.K. defense ministry said Iran tried to block passage of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz; that’s after British forces seized an Iranian tanker that they said was headed to Syria in violation of European sanctions against the Assad regime.