With thirteen days left until Trump announces his intention to either certify or decertify the Iranian nuclear deal, an eerie calm has engulfed the Middle East. This calm has been broken only by the new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s whirlwind tour of the region shortly after being confirmed by the Senate.
With no one knowing what Trump will decide on May 12th, the region understands that either decision could in fact draw the Middle East into an intractable conflict. This has been clear given Russia’s stepped up arms shipments to Syria after Trump’s bombing of Syrian chemical weapon’s sites. Add in Iran’s bellicose statements about attacking the US if they decertify the JCPOA and the tension is palpable.
President Trump is clearly in a bind. If he decertifies the nuclear deal he will most surely be propelling the Middle East into a conflict of unknown directions. If he recertifies the deal, he will buy the USA and the world only a short time. Iran thrives off weakness and if Trump decides to stay in the deal, the Iranians will see that as a go ahead to bolster their positions in Syria. Israel, Saudi, Arabia, and other Gulf States will have a choice to make: Go it alone now and risk being embroiled in a war against Iran or wait and most likely face an even stronger enemy.
Picking Pompeo for Secretary of State is a message that Trump is willing to put his foot down when necessary. With the growing Iranian menace drawing closer to Israel, Pompeo’s ascendancy is no accident. To be clear, the USA appears to be set on drawing down their troop levels in Syria if possible, but this means that greater back up will be given to regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Mike Pompeo said this today after meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu:
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.
Regarding the JCPOA, President Trump’s been pretty clear: this deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal. It’s pretty straightforward.
Unlike the past administration, President Trump has a comprehensive Iran strategy that is designed to counter the full array of threats emanating from Tehran.
As part of the President’s comprehensive Iran strategy, we are also working to counter the broad set of non-nuclear threats: Iran’s missile systems, its support for Hezbollah, the importation of thousands of proxy fighters into Syria and its assistance to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. We look forward to working closely with strong allies like Israel in countering these threats and rolling back the full range of Iranian malign influence.”
It is apparent that barring a last minute change that Trump is moving towards decertifying the JCPOA, which would collapse the Iranian nuclear accords. This will put the region on edge. With an America depleted after fighting several wars over the last 15 years, the Trump administration finds itself having to back up its regional allies.
This was clearly why it was necessary for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fly immediately to the Middle East even before he had moved into his office.
The drums of war are pounding away.
The storm is approaching.