President Trump's Mistake: Maximum Pressure Is a Path to War with Iran

Daniel L. Davis

In the aftermath of averting a war between the U.S. and Iran, the maximum pressure campaign has gone full steam ahead, with new sanctions announced last week on Iranian officials. Proponents of the maximum pressure campaign against Iran argue that it avoids war with Iran. However, viewed with clear eyes, the deliberate strangling of Iran’s economy is a path to war.

Maximum pressure was supposed to moderate Iranian behavior and force the Islamic Republic to capitulate to a litany of demands. Instead, it has made them more belligerent, as realists have long predicted, and brought us to the brink of war this month. Close calls aren’t a bug in maximum pressure—they’re a feature.

Consider just this one series of escalating actions and reactions that almost resulted in war.

On 27 December, a U.S. contractor was killed and three American service members wounded in a rocket attack at an isolated base in Iraq. Though no group claimed responsibility, American jets pounded five separate bases of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi government-sanctioned militia of the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), killing 25 and wounding another 51.

Outraged members of Kataib Hezbollah and other PMF groups stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad for two days, causing damage to the perimeter but no harm to Americans. By January 1st relative calm had returned.

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