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Trump’s Blind March to War

US President Donald Trump says he ordered the drone strike that killed General Qassem Suleimani, Iran's second most powerful leader, to “stop a war.” It is far more likely that he has stumbled, one flawed assumption at a time, into starting one.

WASHINGTON, DC – Before US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw his country from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and the nuclear agreement’s chief Iranian architect, was the most popular public figure in his country. A year after the withdrawal, a University of Maryland poll shows, Zarif’s popularity was far surpassed by that of General Qassem Suleimani, the hardline Revolutionary Guard commander who was just assassinated in Baghdad on Trump’s order.

Trump says he authorized the drone strike that killed Suleimani to “stop a war.” It is far more likely that he has started one – or at least the march toward one.

No leader can be expected to anticipate precisely the effects of their foreign-policy decisions. But their expectations should be realistic, which means that they should be based on credible intelligence and a comprehensive understanding of the economic, political, historical, and cultural dynamics at work. When expectations are not realistic, the results are often disastrous.