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Analyst: War against Iran could haunt Trump

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

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Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. He will speak to the Albuquerque International Association on Friday. (Courtesy of the Middle East Institute)

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall believes the Trump administration is gearing up for a war against Iran.

And an analyst who focuses on Iran believes such a move could come back to haunt President Donald Trump on several fronts.

Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., said the threat of military action is red meat for allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but it runs counter to promises Trump made to reduce America’s footprint in the Middle East.

Vatanka, who will be speaking to the Albuquerque International Association on Friday, said war with Iran would do just the opposite.

“It would open things up across the board in the Middle East for Iranian retaliation,” he said. He said Iran and its proxies in such places as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon would not only attack U.S. forces in the region, “but U.S. interests and its allies.”

The U.S. is sending the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and B-52s to the region to confront threats by Iran and its allies. But Trump labeled as “fake news” a report by The New York Times that his administration was reviewing military plans and planning to send 120,000 troops to the region if Iran or its proxies attacked U.S. interests.

Vatanka said conflict with Iran would require at least “a half a million to a million troops.”

Udall introduced legislation earlier this year to prohibit the U.S. from using money that could lead to war with Iran without approval from Congress.

“The calls for war with Iran are ripped straight out of the same playbook that launched us into the failed invasion of Iraq, and Congress must assert its constitutional authority to halt the march to war,” Udall said at the time.

Vatanka said it wasn’t clear what the Trump administration wants from the Iranian government.

“If they want to talk to Iran, they’re going about it the wrong way,” he said. “They’ve left the Iranians very little room to maneuver.”

He believes the U.S. may have “maxed out” its options after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and again placing sanctions on Iran. He said trying to get Iran to reduce or eliminate its nuclear program, stop its missile program and cut ties with its allies, including terrorist groups, “appears to be unrealistic.”

He wonders if the effort to isolate Iran is meant to cause the Iranian people to rise up against the government in revolution.

If it is, he said, that’s also unrealistic, even though the Iranian regime is not well liked by the people.

Vatanka said Iran is losing $100 million a day in oil revenue since sanctions were reinstated, but “they don’t have mass unrest yet.”

And he said the world hasn’t rallied to the U.S. side, with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

He believes the Trump administration might be better served by returning to the Iran nuclear agreement and then applying pressure on Iran to distance itself from its allies.

“I wonder what would happen if the Ayatollah offered to come to the White House for talks,” Vatanka said. “I wonder what they (Trump administration officials) would do then.”

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