Donald Trump has found a way to make an even bigger mess of the Iran debacle

You might be happy to hear that in an act of goodwill for the humans of earth, Trump has decided, for now, not to start a thermonuclear war with Iran. Unfortunately, his alternative isn’t the masterclass in diplomacy that you might have been hoping for. On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would be deploying troops and missile defenses to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. History has shown us a few times now what threatening missiles can do to tensions if placed in just the wrong place. That said, I’m not worried about an “Iranian Missile Crisis.” I’m worried about something worse.

Iran, technically, did not bomb the Saudi oil refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais; Yemeni Houthi rebels who are allegedly funded in part by the Iranians did. A president with some serious interest in preventing a war would probably get serious about engaging in multilateral talks with and probably sanctioning the Iranians. Instead, we have Trump.

Yes, sending troops to the Arabian Peninsula will aid in defending assets. In almost any event, US presence is a powerful repellant for bellicose rebels and nations alike. The problem is if US troops are attacked. Trump placing the troops on the Peninsula makes justifying further military involvement much, much easier. Instead of pouring water on the flame, he’s putting more kindling around the edges.

The Guardian reports: “The US defense secretary, Mark Esper, told Pentagon reporters this is a first step to beef up security and he would not rule out additional moves down the road.”

Let me reiterate that Iran did not perform the attacks. Again, per the Guardian: “The US has not provided any hard evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, while insisting the investigation continues, but Esper on Friday said the drones and cruise missiles used in the attack were produced by Iran.” This tactic smells of a certain WMD-related assertion that got us involved in the longest military intervention in US history.

Whether this is Trump’s doing or just something he’s letting slide by, he’s on watch and people will rightfully hold him accountable for anything that goes sideways. Congress needs to rein this in and assert control over their constitutionally-endued right to declare war.

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