With U.S. officials having accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the Trump administration is moving forward with some rather provocative plans. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced yesterday, for example, that the Pentagon is sending a thousand troops to the Middle East following what he described as “recent Iranian attacks.”
That announcement came just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scheduled meetings with U.S. military commanders to discuss the purported evidence connecting Iran to the tanker attacks.
And while that was unfolding, Donald Trump sat down with reporters from Time magazine and sent a very different signal about the importance – or lack thereof – of recent developments.
Last week, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacks against Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Trump described those and other recent attacks attributed by administration officials to Iran as limited. “So far, it’s been very minor,” Trump told TIME.
Trump’s comments, made in a nearly hour-long interview with TIME, struck a different tone than the public stance of the Pentagon and other Republicans in Washington. They also cut against a series of recent diplomatic and military moves that his Administration has made amid escalating tensions with Tehran.
Much of the world already finds it confusing when the Trump administration careens between competing foreign policies, and when the president and his team take contradictory stances, it only makes matters worse.
Complicating matters, of course, is the fact that this wasn’t an isolated incident.
Just last month, the Trump administration warned of increased dangers posed by Iranian-backed forces, while the White House’s Republican allies in Congress insisted that Iran had recently created “threat streams against American interests.”
Soon after, the president himself told reporters, in reference to Iran, “We have no indication that anything has happened or will happen.”
At this point, the world has a choice: listen to Trump or listen to those around Trump. When it comes to matters of national security, they’re clearly not saying the same things.