Iran should take care not to stoke Trump’s strongman pride

“Iran has made a very big mistake” in downing a US drone – a brief, ominous tweet from the commander in chief.

Shortly after that in the Oval Office, President Trump said the whole thing may have been a mistake – was he attempting to de-escalate the situation? Or perhaps throw everyone off the scent of a planned retaliation?

Second guessing America’s capricious leader rarely yields much.

What’s clear is the Iran situation is heating up. Against a backdrop of closed congressional and situation room meetings, the broad perception is that Trump’s more hawkish advisers are spoiling for a fight and that their boss is not.

Trump campaigned on an anti-intervention platform. Protracted, messy conflicts are not his bag and this could turn out to be one of the messiest.

No one is under any illusion that military conflict with Iran would be clean and simple.

Washington has not had a relationship with Tehran in over 40 years – experts say any attempt at regime change would be ill-advised to say the least.

Trump’s only dalliance with intervention was ‘precision’ strikes against Syria in the wake of a poison gas attack – an entirely different ballgame that simply can’t be compared to what striking Iran could unleash.

When asked recently if there would be military action, he answered: “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t say that at all.”

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He called the attacks on oil tankers “very minor”. We all know that Trump knows better than most how to ramp up the rhetoric – so this all appears to be a deliberate attempt to de-escalate.

While the hawks may be pushing him to take action – others, reportedly Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, are urging him not to.

Trump has a tendency to be convinced by the last person he spoke to – he also acts largely on instinct, which basically makes his actions unpredictable.

While he doesn’t want to enter the 2020 race with a war on his plate – it’s worth remembering that this is also a president who hates looking weak.

If Iran continues to meet maximum pressure with maximum defiance, Trump’s strongman pride could become his driving instinct.

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