In a surprise move not recognized by many, President Donald Trump has turned a corner in his presidency.
This latest confrontation with Iran has slowly been building with the United States over the past few weeks, culminating in the shooting down of a U.S. drone over international waters.
According to all reports, the United States was within minutes of striking back at a handful of Iranian military targets when the president made the decision not to give the final order of approval.
The president said there were two factors in his decision not to move forward. First, since no one was killed in the attack on the U.S. drone, the president thought a counterattack in which around 150 Iranians would be killed wasn’t a balanced response. The president also noted that he believed the decision to attack the U.S. drone wasn’t made by the central Iranian government. This has been confirmed in separate news reports.
Interestingly, there are also many reports that the president was receiving advice to approve the attack from the military and from national security adviser John Bolton, and perhaps others. Bolton has often publicly urged stronger pushback against Iran, with a goal of regime change; and everybody knows the military doesn’t like its aircraft shot out of the sky.
Instead, the president chose to increase sanctions against Iran. Iran destroyed U.S. property worth a great deal of money but didn’t kill any Americans. The sanctions are going to end up costing Iran a lot of money and not take any lives along the way. A perfectly balanced response, but one with teeth.
The president used the opportunity to draw a red line. He was perfectly clear that this carefully controlled response by the United States was predicated on the fact that no Americans were hurt. The president was most specific that his response would have been much different if an American had been killed. We all know he means it, and let’s face it—he looks very presidential, and the U.S. public is going to agree.
A Cool Head
When Trump made the decision not to make the military strike, he accomplished a combination of other important things. He has been relentlessly criticized by the left for being a loose cannon and always needing the supervision of advisers with cooler heads. In this case, the president has shown himself to be the cooler head and fully capable of calm consideration of the right way to respond to a difficult situation and act appropriately.
The left will find a reason to criticize this turn of events, but they are just simply incapable of judging the president fairly, so their opinion is really of no importance or much interest.
Where this is going to have an important effect is with the people of the United States. They have heard the steady drumbeat from the mainstream media about how the president is guilty of collusion with the Russians and obstruction of justice, which both turned out to be false. In fact, the whole collusion stunt is probably going to end up putting some senior left-wing government officials in jail. Under the current circumstances, the public sees Trump being cool, calm, and collected when they have been told for years that it’s not possible.
Trump is going to get a solid positive bump in the polls that come out over the next few weeks and will, for the first time, move into higher positive numbers than negative numbers. I think he will never look back, particularly with the strong economy. He has turned the corner from Trump, the man, to Trump, the president of the United States. It will take a minor miracle for the Democrats to stop him in 2020 now.
The Real Problem
That’s only the surface story, though. There is more going on here than meets the eye, and more important than what we have discussed so far. It’s clear that the president gets it. Iran is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The real problem is the power behind Iran, which is China.
All the talking heads on the news programs wonder why Iran is acting up so much. The answer is China. They are looking for ways to pressure the United States because the tariffs are working and they are running out of options.
An intelligent foreign policy strategy is taking place behind the scenes, and we are catching a glimpse of it here.
The administration’s focus is on the real problem, China, and not the surrogates in Iran. The limited response against Iran, which includes a red line that will be enforced if broken, has checked Iran at least for the moment. Iran is already on the ropes from the sanctions imposed on it, so hitting them with more sanctions is masterful.
Trump understands the situation and is winning on the world stage, and I, for one, am not getting tired of it yet.
Brad Johnson is a retired CIA senior operations officer and a former chief of station. He is president of Americans for Intelligence Reform.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.