(April 23, 2019 / JNS) Donald Trump has no significant military, diplomatic or political experience. The U.S. president is a businessman and views the world through the prism of economics. Obviously, the United States became the most important global superpower, diplomatically and militarily because of its economic clout. Trump understood that the United States was close to losing its leadership status in the international arena, due to having willfully weakened its own economy through globalist policies enacted by previous administrations and trade agreements within that framework.
Trump’s path to making America great again doesn’t just pass through amending these trade deals, which have hurt American industries, but also through using his country’s considerable economic might against its adversaries. Trump doesn’t plan on launching wars. He is wielding a different type of weapon against countries and regimes that pose a threat to American interests: economic sanctions.
Trump is applying this weapon to varying degrees against Russia, China and the European Union, and with particular fervor against North Korea and Venezuela. Against Iran, he is going all out. His goal isn’t necessarily to topple these regimes. If they do fall so much the better, but officially at least he wants to force these nearly bankrupt regimes to recalibrate their course and start cooperating with Washington.
In the case of Iran, this means forcing Tehran back to the negotiating table to rehash the terrible nuclear deal which the international community co-signed some five years ago; to cease developing ballistic missiles; and stop its subversive activities across the Middle East—or else risk civil revolt amid the country’s deteriorating economic situation.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently told Iranian-American leaders that from the administration’s perspective, “There are no moderates anywhere in the Iranian regime.” Asked if he can guarantee that economic sanctions against Tehran won’t hurt the Iranian people, he replied: “There is no such guarantee.” Indeed, without harming the Iranian people, the internal pressure cannot be created to foster the desired changes in Tehran.
In two weeks, on May 2, the American administration will intensify its economic stranglehold on Iran by canceling sanctions exemptions for the five main importers of Iranian oil.
In Tehran, officials threatened in response to close the Strait of Hormuz to Gulf State oil tankers. Even if the United States doesn’t want to instigate a military confrontation with Iran, in Tehran officials know that Washington will respond to any action against its allies. It’s possible the Iranian regime will have no choice but to escalate matters militarily. But even the ayatollahs know that playing with fire in such a manner, with festering civil unrest at home, could end in losing their grip on power.
Eldad Beck is an Israeli journalist and author.
This column originally appeared on Israel Hayom.