Iran is deliberately baiting and provoking the United States in the hopes of starting a military conflict.
The ayatollahs understand that the soft underbelly of the Trump administration is its limited public support.
With the president’s job approval in the mid-40s, they hope that getting the U.S. into a war with Iran would tip the balance against Trump’s re-election.
Iran desperately needs relief from the incredibly strong sanctions the U.S. has imposed. The only way to get it is to change the debate in America from sanctions — that enjoy overwhelming public support — to actual warfare and casualties that would be markedly less popular, particularly among female voters.
So both in its attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and its shooting down an American drone, Tehran is trying to provoke the U.S. into a shooting war.
Beyond influencing public opinion in the U.S., Iran also hopes that a full-scale war will allow it to block access through the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow aperture through which much of the world’s oil passes.
If it can initiate a spike in oil prices or a global recession, the pressure on the U.S. to “normalize” relations with Iran will intensify.
Particularly with 23 Democratic candidates running around vying for the nomination, the left will be vocal in condemning those it will call war hawks in the Trump administration.
Their calls for the scalp of John Bolton, the best of Trump’s advisers, are sure to intensify.
At best, Iran hopes that it can bait the president into an imprudent response, taking advantage of what it perceives to be his hair-trigger temper.
But Iran misjudges Trump.
He is always in control of himself and recognizes the wild flailing of an out-maneuvered adversary to be nothing more than a sign of desperation.
Iran is much like his old real estate competitors, threatening all manner of lawsuits when they fail to get the best of him in a negotiation.
Trump also undoubtedly gets it that Iranian leaders need a war to create a foreign enemy — the Great Satan — to blame for its economic self-destruction.
By mobilizing the nation to fight against the U.S., it hopes it can ride out the storm created by the economic and social repercussions of the sanctions and retain a modicum of public support.
We must all realize the game that Iran is playing and not let ourselves become unhinged or reflexively aggressive.
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