The act raised the stakes in the regime’s confrontation with the West. After the last round, when the Iranians shot down a U.S. drone, President Trump order a retaliatory strike that he abruptly cancelled, citing his fears of disproportionate casualties. Our natural instinct would to hit Iran hard for its depredations and to establish a deterrent against such attacks before they get worse. But in this case, Iran clearly wants to provoke a reaction, which suggests the administration’s more cautious, “rope-a-dope” approach may be the right one.
Skeptics doubted that the administration’s unilateral sanctions could truly bite after the nuclear deal opened Iran for business with Europe. They were wrong. The oil embargo and banking sanctions, imposed after Trump pulled out of the deal, have been cratering the Iranian economy. The regime’s aggressions are an attempt to find a way out of the economic punishment.
The mullahs hope to exploit daylight between the Europeans and the United States (although poking the British won’t advance that goal) and to send a message to the White House that its pressure campaign doesn’t come without costs.