Avoiding War With Iran

In Military and War On
- Updated

The last thing the United States needs is another war in the Middle East. Yet a drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.

Tehran invites some of this hostility with moves like detaining Xiyue Wang, a Princeton scholar, and supporting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. And for many American politicians, Iran — estranged from the United States since 1979 — deserves only punishment and isolation. But Iran and the United States also share some interests, like fighting the Islamic State. So why not take advantage of all the diplomatic tools, including opening a dialogue, used before to manage difficult and even hostile governments?

It is useful to recall the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War, arguably America’s biggest strategic blunder in modern times. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the country was riveted on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. But in Washington, the talk turned almost immediately to Iraq and the chance to overthrow Saddam Hussein, even though he had nothing to do with Sept. 11 and had no nuclear weapons, as President George W. Bush alleged. Mr. Bush decided to fight a pre-emptive war without a solid justification or strategy.

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