Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” Doctrine: A Terrible Miscalculation

Trump represents the height of dysfunction in the US and the negative consequences of blindly pandering to a pro-Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex’s interests.

While the US and Saudi Arabia continue to accuse Iran of creating instability in the region, it would benefit Trump greatly if he turned his gaze inwards to demonstrate some degree of reflection. When one considers the current crisis and its motivations, it is fairly reasonable to reach the conclusion that Trump instigated a crisis in order to carry out his “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran. Trump incorrectly predicted that his move would be successful in causing the Iranians to capitulate to US demands for Iran to stop funding proxy wars and discontinue its ballistic missiles program. A victory of this nature would have boosted Trump’s credibility in the upcoming US elections while showing that a mediation-oriented leftist approach is wrong. However, Trump’s simple-minded plan has clearly failed as Iran has not backed down and continues to challenge the US on an almost equal footing.

Iran has retaliated in response to the earlier seizure of Grace I (by the UK on the directions of the US) by attempting to halt a UK ship and then by towing the Panamanian-flagged tanker, Riah, to its port for technical repairs in response to a distress signal issued by the tanker. While it is likely that the Riah did not have technical issues, Iran is coating its retaliatory efforts in strategic statements in a similar vein to those of the British who claimed that the reason for the seizure of Grace I was due to EU sanctions against Syria. It is worth noting that the EU sanctions have been placed on Syria since 2014 yet it is only now in the midst of tension that they seem to be remembered in the case of Iran exporting its oil.

Recently, Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to justify their moves by stating Iran was now willing to negotiate over the development of its missiles which was promptly denied by Iran’s representative to the UN who strictly affirmed Iran’s missiles were a non-negotiable issue as they were needed for defence purposes.

Iran had already ceased the development of nuclear weapons and to ask it to give up its missiles was, is and always will be an unrealistic demand.

Almost every state including the US continues to upgrade its missile systems and military technology as well as sell arms to other states for national security reasons so then why is it that Iran’s national security concerns are ignored? It is both unfair and unrealistic to expect any state in a conflict-ridden zone to give up its weapons.

While the UK may have acted on orders from the US, they too are becoming exasperated with Trump as evidenced by the recent leakage of Kim Darroch’s, the British ambassador to the US, messages which referred to Trump as “inept” and insecure. Trump’s immature response to Darroch has led to a very capable diplomat’s resignation and is evidence of personalized politics that disregards objectivity. The UK has tried to distance itself from US hostility towards Iran by publicly reaffirming that the Grace I was seized because it was delivering oil to Syria- the problem was with the destination not Iran. Furthermore the EU has made attempts to carry out limited trade via INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges)-an act that itself speaks of the EU’s disagreement with Trump’s sanctions and withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Nevertheless as the situation stands, Iran has already begun enriching its uranium beyond levels agreed in the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) much to the alarm of the West and will continue to do so until a satisfactory agreement is reached. If a deal is now to be brokered between the two states, Iran may very well walk out with greater credibility than Trump and with a larger amount of enriched uranium at its disposal than before. It is worth noting that almost all of Iran’s actions have been defensive in nature as opposed to the US’s more aggressive actions. There is little excuse for Trump’s behavior as he should have learnt his lesson in the case of North Korea where he escalated tensions only to return relations to “normal” levels of a stalemate.

Trump is increasingly losing any ounce of credibility; it is obvious he never prepared a plan B in the case of “maximum pressure” failure and is trying to rally support at home by making vitriolic statements against migrant Congresswomen, with a particular focus on the Muslim Ilhan Omer, asking them “to go back to where you came from.” Trump represents the height of dysfunction in the US and the negative consequences of blindly pandering to a pro-Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex’s interests. One can only hope that by bringing to the forefront what a man as volatile as Trump is capable of, the large majority of American citizens will choose their next leader very carefully.

The author Urooj Hanafi has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with a major in Political Science from IBA, Karachi. She is soon to enrol in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in the University of Washington as a Fulbright scholar. Her views are her own. 


Iran hits back at US demand on ballistic missiles (2019, July 17). Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

Iran says it towed foreign tanker with technical failure (2019, July 17). Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

Iran: World powers won’t get a better nuclear deal (2019, July 9). Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

Iranian official threatens to seize British oil tanker (2019, July 5). BBC. Retrieved from

Iranian tanker will be released if oil isn’t going to Syria, says Hunt (2019, July 14). BBC. Retrieved from

Lucas, A. (2019, July 14). Trump tells progressive congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from. CNBC. Retrieved from

Trump says he would ‘no longer deal’ with UK envoy (2019, July 9). Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

UK may help release Iranian oil tanker if it gets Syria guarantee (2019, July 13). The Guardian. Retrieved from


Leave a comment

Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Iran, Politics, Syria, The Middle East, Trump, United States

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s