Though President Donald Trump’s showdown with Iran mercifully ended short of a full-blown war, the near-miss did nothing to defuse a confrontation almost certain to boil up again soon.
While both sides can claim strategic advances and political payoffs, the riskiest standoff between the enemies in decades may have transitioned their confrontation to a new, more dangerous phase.
That’s because the structures of conflict and the diplomatic disconnect between revolutionary Iran and a nationalistic US administration that tore up the nuclear deal involving both countries are still in place.
The showdown uncorked a fierce controversy in Washington, where there’s a widening partisan dispute over Trump’s rationale for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which sparked the crisis.
The week-long scare also left a chilling memory of how the impulsive choices of a seat-of-the-pants President brought his nation to the cusp of another war in the Middle East. It’s possible Trump might learn the wrong lessons from his brinkmanship.
And the drama exposed the failings of a gutted national security team staffed largely by inexperienced or deeply ideological officials apparently prone to confusion and mixed messages.