Here is Tehran’s conundrum: They just want to wait President Trump out, but they live in a tough neighborhood. If you are not threatening your neighbors, you are on the menu. They want to make trouble in the Gulf, but not provoke World War III.
Trump beat them to the punch, putting a military force with real muscle in the region. Tehran continues to struggle with how to push back.
So on Thursday, they shot down an unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance drone from the United States. They said it was in their airspace. Well, Global Hawk doesn’t have to fly in their airspace to do its mission. And Global Hawks don’t get lost. So … they’re lying.
Who knows why they did this. Maybe Trump is right. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe they were poking the president. All they did was give Trump the green light to squeeze harder.
Iran violated international norms. But that doesn’t mandate a military response. First, the US doesn’t need to respond with an armed attack to keep performing the mission of keeping the straits open.
We can also do a better job of managing our Global Hawks so this doesn’t happen again.
The president can use this incident to help garner additional international support to isolate and punish Iran with sanctions and cracking down on their finances. In short, Iran could end up in a tougher place than when it started.
Worst-case scenario is Iran doesn’t quit. In that case, the US can switch to Phase II — a prolonged, sustained military presence in the Gulf to keep the straits open.
The Pentagon can follow the playbook from the tanker war of the 1980s. At that time, the US put forces on oil platforms in the Gulf and used them to patrol the waters. That’s a sustainable presence that can work for a long time.
If anything came out and threatened ships, it got zapped. If anything tried to threaten the platform, it got zapped. The Gulf calmed down pretty quickly.
Iran is stuck on stupid, and it knows it. As long as Trump doesn’t overplay his hand, he can keep Tehran on the run for a very long time.
This piece originally appeared in The New York Post