Trump vs Iran: Is it for Real?

David and Helen talk to Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor at the Economist, about the fallout from the killing of Soleimani and the future of American power. Is Trump a madman or is he a realist (or is he neither)? What sort of threat does Iran pose to American interests in the region and the wider world? And what has all this got to do with oil and climate change? Plus, in the week Trump's impeachment trial gets underway, we ask who or what can limit the power of the presidency.


Talking Points: 


The narrative on the killing of Soleimani has changed: was this a victory for the United States?

  • The shooting down of the Ukranian plane has put the Iranian leadership on the back foot and constrained their ability to weaponise the outrage against the United States.
  • But when the dust settles, it might not play to America’s advantage.
  • The Quds Force will carry on.


There is a tension between the need to reassert American power in the region and the problem of Iraq.

  • The Americans may be more disliked in Iraq now than the Iranians.
  • The Americans are playing with a handicap; the Iraqi political class shields Iran, but not the U.S.
  • Iran will always be in the region; America won’t be there forever. 
  • If the U.S. does withdraw, the Chinese and the Russians will get more involved. 


Trump wants to get out, but the collapse of the Iran Deal is pulling him back in.

  • This is not unfamiliar: Obama wanted to pivot to Asia and get out of the Middle East, but he couldn’t do it.
  • Americans have been obsessed with the Persian Gulf for decades.


Executive power vs. American power: which one dominates?

  • Executive power enables this kind of American power. 
  • Bush, Clinton, and Obama have all increased executive power.
  • A key difference is that in the Trump administration there are fewer checks on the use of this power within the executive branch. 


Mentioned in this Episode: 


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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