Trump Blinks? – The U.S. Slaps New Economic Sanctions After Calling Off A Military Strike On Iran

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Jun 25 2019
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US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that slaps Iran with new economic sanctions. Among those targeted is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The latest move came on top of actions already taken by the administration in April to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy.


Trump said – “Today’s actions follow a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks, including shooting down of US drones. The supreme leader of Iran is the one who ultimately is responsible of the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”


However, the new sanctions, aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries, are seen largely as symbolic. That’s because Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks or use those institutions for transactions.

Donald Trump Anti Iran

This means Trump administration is fast running out of effective weapons to force the Iranian leaders to surrender to American demands in exchange for economic relief. To further prove that the U.S. is increasingly powerless against the Iranians, Trump admitted that he prefers tightening sanctions to launching an immediate military strike to try to alter Iran’s behaviour and force regime change in Tehran.


If there’s one thing that Russia, China and even North Korea can learn from the game of brinkmanship between the U.S. and Iran, it is that Donald Trump more often than not bluffs whenever he faces a country with a military strength capable to strike back with unpredictable damages. If the U.S. had not dared to strike Iran, chances are they won’t dare to attack North Korea, let alone China and Russia.


Last Friday, the Commander-in-Chief  said the U.S. was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran for downing U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk, an unmanned American surveillance drone with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner. The US$180 million drone was apparently shot down by an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surface-to-air missile.

US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk - Drone

Iran claimed the American drone “violated” its territorial airspace, while the U.S. said the missile fire was “an unprovoked attack” in international airspace over the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The drone, which can fly up to 60,000 feet or 11 miles in altitude and stay aloft for 30 hours, was deployed to the Middle East as part of reinforcements approved by President Trump last month.


Trump said the Iranian “had made a very big mistake” and warned that America “will not stand” for the shooting – suggesting that a military strike was imminent. Yet at the same time, the president said – “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, and it could have been someone who was loose and stupid.” Trump’s remarks created confusion over a U.S. response.


The drone downing followed two separate attacks since May on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks which the U.S. blamed on the Iranians but denied by Tehran. Hence, the downing of the U.S. Navy drone, an attack which Iran has admitted, should have provided sufficient justification and a golden opportunity for the U.S. to strike Iran.

US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk - Shot Down Map

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the chief of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, told reporters on Friday that a U.S. spy plane with around 35 crew members was flying close to the unmanned U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk that was shot down, but that Iran chose not to target the manned aircraft. It was a warning to the U.S. that Iran isn’t Syria that can be bombed without retaliation.


Stunningly, President Trump cancelled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be launched. And here’s the president’s tweet as to why he chickened out at the last minute – “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”


The U.S. president argued that those deaths (150 Iranians) would not be a proportionate response to the downing of an unmanned drone. Trump’s statement, however, has raised doubts and questions, including how he could have learned about casualties only minutes before the military operation when such critical information typically would be provided much earlier.

US Aircraft Carrier and War Ship

Besides, since when has the U.S. started putting concern about the number of casualties on the table after millions were killed in their previous wars in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the list goes on? Trump’s tweet was the latest indication that he does not want to escalate the U.S. clash with Tehran, probably because Iran is a different animal that refused to be bullied without retaliations.


After calling off the military strike on Iran, arguably an embarrassment to the Trump administration, the U.S. military said they had actually carried out a cyber attack targeting the Iranian intelligence and radar installations used to down the U.S. Navy drone. However, Iran said on Monday that the U.S. cyber attacks on its military had failed.


It’s highly possible that Trump does not have the stomach for a long and brutal war with Iran as Russia could join the party to further complicate the situation. Trump wanted a fast military strike to intimidate the Iranians. But his administration could be looking at a bigger war, even World War 3, if Russia decides to help its biggest ally in the Middle East.



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