Iran Tests Trump

Iran is testing the weight of US President Donald J. Trump’s words with its latest missile tests, said an Atlantic Council analyst.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have been ratcheted up as Trump and his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said they were putting the Islamic Republic “on notice” in response to Iran’s ballistic missile test on January 29 and an attack the next day by Iranian-backed rebels on a Saudi warship off the coast of Yemen. US officials said on February 8 that Iran had tested yet another missile.

“The Iranians are not backing down; they’re already testing this proposition or statement coming out of Washington,” said Bilal Y. Saab, director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “There’s no hiding the fact that they’re testing the intentions and the willingness of the United States to actually follow through on its words.”

Saab joined Owen Daniels, assistant director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative, for a Facebook Live discussion on February 9 to discuss the implications of strained relations between the United States and Iran.

Referring to Flynn’s statement on Iran, Daniels said, “the definition of ‘on notice’… is that [the administration] felt that they were not limited in their actions in going after Iran.” He described how the rhetoric is “notifying [Tehran] that you’re going to take action at the time and location of your choosing in response to whatever the action may be.”

However, he added, “we have to see how they back that up and how it plays out.” Both Saab and Daniels agreed that the United States must establish new rules of engagement with Iran in concrete terms, rather than abstract threats.

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

Image: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes part in a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 22, 2016. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)