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How can the U.S. avoid war with Iran?

 

What’s happening: Over the past two weeks, long-simmering tensions between Iran and the United States have nearly boiled over. The two nations had been engaged in back-and-forth tough talk and subtle adversarial moves for months. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, each day the news was filled with stories of escalation by one side or the other that brought the countries to the edge of military conflict.

The relationship between the U.S. and Iran has been at a tense stalemate since last year, when the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and began imposing sanctions. An attack on two oil tankers on June 13, which the U.S. has blamed on Iran, set off a sequence of retaliation that appears to have brought the nations to the brink of war. On Friday, President Trump said he called off a planned bombing of Iran shortly before it was set to launch.

A poll taken before the recent rise in tensions showed more than half of Americans expected war with Iran.

Why there’s debate: Despite the recent escalation, there is reason to believe that war isn’t a foregone conclusion. President Trump has said he doesn’t want one, as have Iran’s leaders. Some believe new sanctions and threats of military action may induce Iran to go back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new treaty that would prevent it from building nuclear weapons.

But there are worries that the next aggressive move by either side could lead to a domino effect of escalation, leading to a war that neither nation wants.

Trump’s critics fear his bold rhetoric and confrontational tactics, including pulling out of the nuclear deal negotiated by President Barack Obama, have locked him into a position where taking steps to de-escalate the situation would make him look weak.

Some also believe that de-escalation is not the administration’s goal at all. Skeptics say recent U.S. actions echo the spotty intelligence that was used to sell the invasion of Iraq and, earlier, involvement in the Vietnam War. Some have accused members of the administration of provoking the Iranians in order to manufacture an excuse for a war that many on the right have been wanting for years. National security adviser John Bolton has been publicly calling for an attack on Iran for more than a decade. Read more

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