German expert: Trump creates dilemma for himsef
Jan Techau, the Director of the European Program and Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, talked about the recent escalations in the conflict between the US and Iran in an interview with Deutschlandfunk.
In an interview with Deutschlandfunk, Jan Techau said that one can only speculate why Trump reversed his decision on conducting military strikes against Iran after the recent downing of an American drone. He thinks that one reason might be that he got cold feet or was convinced by his advisers that the time for military strikes has not come yet. There are also rumors about secret last-minute diplomacy efforts between Washington and Tehran in an attempt to prevent a military escalation. Regardless, Techau's recommendation for the observers is to wait until the situation has been clarified.
Techau describes the current exchanges between Washington and Tehran as a “game for credibility”. In his opinion, the Trump administration faces a rather serious challenge because it quit the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and put renewed pressure on Iran, while at the same time tries to avoid a military escalation. He doubts that President Trump will be able to escape this dilemma that he created for himself.
Therefore, Tehran tests how far it can go after the President's comment that he does not want a war with Iran. Techau believes that Washington is aware of the insufficiency of the new US deployments to the Gulf in regards to serious acts of military retaliation. Yet, he still thinks that there is definately a chance for the situation to escalate. If Tehran pushes too far, it could leave no other choice for the US decision makers but to strike.
When asked about the opinions of other members of the administration, the expert replied that there are tensions between circles within the US government. This is not necessarily unusual but, accoridng to him, it has reached a rather high degree of intensity over the issue of Iran. While National Security Adviser Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo are frequently flouting ideas of regime change, the President himself seems sincerely reluctant to the idea of a full scale war. Others are more cautious as well. Techau identifies the circles of the military leadership in particular as the ones who oppose the idea of escalating the tensions out of a position of weakness.
The expert also states that there is a conflict between Trump's desire to be perceived as a “Tough Guy” and holding on to his campaign promises of ending military adventurism. He believes that this inner conflict is sincere and not an act aimed at confusing and scaring the enemy, how other analysts from time to time have suggested. Still, due to this it is hard to predict if he is bluffing or not. In his opinion, North Korea called President Trump's bluff early in his presidency and made the US look weak. According to Techau, Tehran will continue to push on in an attempt to do the same.