In the latest controversial move, the US President Donald Trump said he authorized navy attacks on the Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf.
“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
The post followed claims by the US navy that on April 15 a cluster of Iranian naval boats harassed six of its warships north of the Persian Gulf several times and moved close to them in a dangerous distance.
The claims drew reaction from Iran which said the US vessels’ unprofessional behavior was the cause of the incident.
There have been a set of speculations among political circles on the goals behind Trump’s threat.
Alwaght talked to Iranian international affairs expert Hussein Beheshtipour, asking him how serious the threats are and what could come next.
Trump seeks to cover up his failures in controlling the coronavirus pandemic
Touching on Trump’s tweet, Mr Beheshtipour told Alwaght that initially it should be taken into account that Trump’s new tweet should not be taken as a bluff or a political game starter. Rather, it should be taken as an alert.
“The main drive behind such a threat should be sought in the US internal conditions. The American administration has so far been a total loser in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. It has failed to present a positive performance. As a result, serious anti-Trump criticism for his poor response and performance have been appearing lately. Now he seeks to build a foreign crisis to cover up his failure in handling the pandemic crisis. So, he raised possible confrontation with Iran and threats against Tehran as a hot topic of the day to distract the public criticism from his administration.”
Trump’s adventurism must be taken seriously
Mr Beheshtipour further said that the coronavirus is not just affecting the US at home. It is causing trouble for the navy sailors serving on vessels in West Asia and elsewhere. There have been words about the navy’s plan to introduce social distancing on the warships.
“We need to know that so far some 1,000,000 people in the US tested positive for coronavirus and over 50,000 died of the infectious disease. Also, the US oil prices fall below zero for the first time ever as the WTI, the US benchmark, finished at -$37.63 a barrel on Monday.”
The Iranian analyst added that when these factors are juxtaposed, it can be said that Trump seeks to escape them. So, he said, his adventure should be taken seriously. “In this situation, an enemy or foreign threat may help Trump mend his largely destroyed position at home.”
The Twitter threat to attack Iranian naval boats a continuation of Trump diplomacy
Mr Beheshtipour continued that the reason behind Trump’s use of Twitter to share his threat is completely normal. Trump’s tweets are his specific diplomacy. Since his arrival at the White House as a president, Trump passed to public all of the big and small home and foreign issues using Twitter. So, announcing instructions to the navy commanders to attack Iranian boats is not unordinary.
Anti-Iranian adventure could mean the end of Trump’s presidency
The international affairs expert further said that the possibility of military confrontation between the US and Iran is precedented. It has been in place for decades. Sometimes the risk has been low and sometimes high.
“The two sides need to show further restraint because the coronavirus pandemic has involved all and to fight it the sides need to avoid crises and military adventures. It needs to be considered that any Trump military adventure will not be only detrimental to the US and Iran. Rather, the whole region will be damaged. Furthermore, the US military confrontation with Iran cannot be limited and without casualties. Large-scale clashes are not impossible. Such a possibility not only cannot bring him victory but also can stand as a factor for his loss in the presidential election.”