But make no mistake, the seeds of this crisis were planted by President Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up
the Iran nuclear deal against the advice of his own top national security advisers
, turned his back on our closest European allies and decided it was more important to him to destroy progress made by the Obama-Biden administration than build on it to create a better and safer world.
The Iran deal verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed
Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies
. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security — a nuclear-armed Iran — was greatly reduced.
When the Iran deal was in force, we did not have the dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response with Iran that we have watched unfold in the Middle East over the past year, and there was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s destabilizing actions throughout the region. The deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for — it was creating an environment where diplomacy was possible.
In tearing up the deal and re-imposing sanctions
designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime, Trump claimed we would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” In fact, exactly the opposite happened: No “better deal” materialized and Iran became more aggressive
, not less.
All of this was utterly predictable. Yet the Trump administration had no strategy to prevent, mitigate or deter Iranian provocations — or stop the ever more dangerous cycle of action and reaction that led us to this moment.
Of course, Iran would seek to demonstrate that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well — beginning again to enrich uranium
beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal, allegedly attacking oil tankers
in the Strait of Hormuz, shooting down
an unmanned US surveillance drone.
Ultimately, Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases, and one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk
, killed a US citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.
In response, Trump bombed five sites
in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25. Then, Iraqi protesters, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted the US embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burned-out reception area.