Former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.
The Kushner – Trump ‘Deal’, in respect to the integration of Israel into the regional energy economy seems destined to draw the same skepticism and distrust, as does the ‘Deal’s’ other parts.
The consensus on ‘no conflict’ unfortunately, may turn out to have been overly sanguine. This is not because Trump consciously desires war, but because the hawks surrounding him, particularly Bolton, are painting him into a corner.
The pendulum of power in the Middle East has shifted northwards, as a result of Syria’s defeat of the ‘Wahhabist’ campaign against it. Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon now are both mobilised and energised. By contrast, Syria’s Gulf adversaries are enervated, weakened, and mired in their own internal crises.
The escalation against Iran serves rather as camouflage for a considerably more profound civilizational and metaphysical conflict.
Iran’s calculus implicit in its messaging is that Trump does not want a war, and Iran does not want war either; but to avoid ‘war’, Trump needs to respect Iran’s ‘red lines’. In short, he must react ‘rationally’, and distance himself from Bolton.
Mostly, Trump acts in foreign policy as a New York real-estate mogul, with care only for ‘the deal’ and his image, and with zero emotional or moral engagement. But is this so for Iran?
Has Trump convinced himself that the Administration’s wider bluster is actually winning: Making America Great Again? On this question, hangs our joint futures.
Iran will not necessarily look for escalation: to wriggle through will be to win a major symbolic victory. But if it is pushed to the limit, Iran likely will first respond by pushing back in the region and in Afghanistan against US interests.
Trump’s instincts still remain that a channel with Mr Putin is essential. But the demonization of Russia will not be stilled with the publication of the Mueller investigation. It will just swap to a new narrative.
The Gulf grandees have a right to be edgy, Alastair Crooke writes. They can see that Trump’s ‘war hawks’ are intent on cornering, pressurising and provoking Iran.