Why Trump is Sending a Thousand More Troops to the Middle East

ABC News is reporting that the United States is sending 1,000 more troops to the Middle East in response to Iranian provocations.

Those moves being conducted by Tehran not only include attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman but also an announcement that the regime has restarted uranium enrichment that will exceed the caps imposed by the Nuclear Weapons Agreement.

“The United States is sending 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The decision follows last week’s attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. blamed on Tehran, with the Pentagon releasing new images on Monday that officials said show Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members removing an unexploded mine from one of the ship’s hulls.”

ABC News went on to note, “The additional personnel is mostly part of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and force protection units.”

The increasing tensions in and around the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil is transported, has sparked a debate on whether or not the United States should respond with military force. Some analysts are harkening back to the so-called Tanker War of the late 1980s during which American Navy units escorted oil tankers through and from the Gulf.

The American military also attacked units of the Iranian Navy when a United States warship came under attack.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has a sharp suggestion about what should be done to Iran.

“What is appropriate is a new set of rules — with swift consequences if Iran chooses to break them. The Trump administration ought to declare new rules of engagement to allow the Navy to engage and destroy Iranian ships or fast boats that harass or threaten any ship, military or commercial, operating in international waters. If Tehran fails to comply, the U.S. should threaten to sink any Iranian naval ship that leaves port.”

“If after that Iran still fails to comply, we would be right to sink its navy, in port or at sea. The world cannot tolerate freelance Somali pirates. Much less should it tolerate a pirate state seeking to hold the global economy hostage through multiplying acts of economic terrorism.”

Others are pushing back at the idea of doing anything in response, including Ryan Cooper in The Week. After casting doubt that Iran is even responsible for the attacks, spinning conspiracy theories going back to the Vietnam War, Cooper states:

“This, in turn, raises the question of the appropriate response if Iran is actually at fault here. It would be one thing if these attacks came out of a clear blue sky. But America is very obviously the aggressor here. Iran was following its side of the nuclear deal to the letter before Trump reneged, and continued to do so as of February. So far the European Union (which is still party to the deal) has been unwilling to sidestep U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to threaten to restart uranium enrichment. So Iran is a medium-sized country with a faltering economy, hemmed in on all sides by U.S. aggression. Backing off the threats and chest-thumping might easily strengthen the hand of Iranian moderates, and cause them to respond in kind.”

Cooper is engaging in an old leftist trope of “blame America first,” a phrase first coined by President Reagan’s UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. He also used the word “Iranian” and “Moderates” in the same sentence. He ignores the analysis that suggests that the nuclear deal was a sham and Iran could cheat on it with impunity.

Cooper also claimed that attacking Iran would be not only dangerous but illegal. How exercising the right to self-defense could be illegal is something that he does not reveal.

Thus far, the Trump administration is pursuing a middle ground between the policy advocated by Stephens and the one suggested by Cooper.

It is tightening economic sanctions even more while augmenting American troops in the region in case the military option is called for.

Trump may be bellicose at times in his language, but he is not trigger happy. He ran for president on a policy of military restraint.

With the exception of the destruction of the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq, he has followed that policy.

Those pundits who raise the example of the runup to the war in Iraq would actually find ready agreement with the current president. Right now, he prefers a diplomatic solution. But realistically he knows that often the best diplomat is a fully armed carrier battlegroup.