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Was the Failure to Strike Iran Trump’s “Red Line” Moment?

Was the Failure to Strike Iran Trump’s “Red Line” Moment?

Or is it part of a larger Trump strategy?

One way of looking at President Donald Trump’s reversal of striking at Iranian targets at the last minute is that it was Trump’s “red line” moment.

This was articulated by a Wall Street Journal editorial on Friday.

After Barack Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria in 2013, adversaries soon took advantage. Vladimir Putin snatched Crimea from Ukraine and moved into Syria, China pushed further into the South China Sea, and Iran expanded its proxy wars in the Middle East. Will they draw similar license now from Mr. Trump’s stand-down?

Here’s Benham Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies speaking to CBS explaining that the failure to strike may give Iran the impression that the U.S. will not use military force and will be encouraged to continue its mischief.

Trump, however, did get support from some surprising sources.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D – Calif.), for example, tweeted:

Dear @realDonaldTrump: I agree with your decision to not use military force against Iran. In the future, you should ask questions about how many people will die before you order a strike in the first place.

To be sure, Lieu got in a dig at Trump about how he arrived at his decision. But his response was in line with other Democrats.

There was another approach to Trump’s abrupt reversal, one that has been put forth by former White House official Michael Doran.

Doran, in a series of tweets on Friday, argued that Trump’s decision not to launch attacks on Iranian targets was not at all comparable with Obama’s failure to enforce his red lines with regard to Syria’s chemical weapons usage.

“Tit-for-tat over a drone is minor by comparison,” Doran argued. But he added, “some military response is warranted.”

Overall he assessed that Trump was prudent not to attack right now, with the expectation that Iran will continue with its “outrageous” provocations, which will help build support for action—both domestically and internationally—in the future.

Doran summed up his views on CNN to Anderson Cooper.

Former naval intelligence officer J.E. Dyer came to a parallel conclusion:

Could we have retained control by agreeing to Iran’s escalation with the drone shootdown? I think Trump judged correctly that we couldn’t.

That doesn’t mean Iran would have immediately leaped into concerted military action of some kind. That’s not the point.

The point is rather what a lot of people have been saying for the last 24 hours, but without it really registering. We have a strategic plan underway with the sanctions. They are having a serious and meaningful effect, which is why Iran is trying to knock us off course with provocations.

Having the desired effect with the sanctions requires holding other key factors in stasis for the time being. A strike against Iranian territory would have loosed at least one of those factors, and that’s Russia’s willingness to remain effectively on the sidelines, not actively, aggressively opposing the U.S. program. There are other conditions that would have been affected as well.

While the U.S. did not strike Iran militarily, over the weekend it was reported that it launched cyber attacks against Iranian assets. The Washington Post reported:

President Trump approved an offensive cyberstrike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its downing Thursday of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cyberstrikes, launched Thursday night by personnel with U.S. Cyber Command, were in the works for weeks if not months, according to two of these people, who said the Pentagon proposed launching them after Iran’s alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.

Do we know for certain if Trump’s strategy will work?

Of course not.

But what was clear was that the appeasement of Iran by his predecessor only fed Iran’s aggression.

[Photo: CBS Evening News Screenshot ]


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In the future, you should ask questions about how many people will die before you order a strike in the first place.

When in doubt, think, “What would that old Democrat Harry Truman do?” Then do it. And do it again, just for good measure.

    Connivin Caniff in reply to tom_swift. | June 23, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    On the news shows, pundits criticized Trump, because, they said, the probable number of fatalities would have been disclosed to him at the the original intelligence meeting about possible retaliation, and therefore it was surely untrue that he would have only learned that at the last minute. But then I was thinking, what if his disloyal, self interested neocon advisers (read John Bolton et al.) intentionally withheld that negative information in order to get their coveted “Go Order”, and the President only learned the truth when he fortunately asked that specific question. I no longer doubt the treachery of the Deep State.

    SpaceInvader in reply to tom_swift. | June 23, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    Go cry with other war mongers.

OwenKellogg-Engineer | June 23, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    That Scott Adams guy is pretty sharp.

    Let’s put cartoonists in charge!



      Let’s put cartoonists in charge!


      Because our politicians have done such a GREAT JOB !!!!
      Right…??? Huh…????? Huh ????? NOT !!!!!!!!!!!

      To be a good cartoonist you have to be smart and creative.
      (To write the jokes/story lines.)
      You have to be able to look at situations from different viewpoints.
      (Would this joke be funnier from another perspective?)
      AND…you need a sense of irony…
      (Sense of irony ? Politicians…? HA HA HA !)

      I will say that many of our law makers are really good at faking serenity…

I wanted to make a larger point but… I think it’s best to keep it small. A strike that would kill only 150 Iranians, mostly or all military personnel, would have to be pretty small overall. Either a provocation should be of a level that the strikes are much larger and meant to truly cripple Iran’s military, or the provocation is not, and the only reason to make a small strike is out of defensiveness, bruised ego, and fear. I know Trump is accused of all three routinely, but I’m glad he’s not a hothead with lives.

It’s fine to concede for one day if that concession puts you in a better position for tomorrow. Totally fine. The WSJ will not see it that way, of course. But so what.

Close The Fed | June 23, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Not to put too sharp a point on it, but when are we going to war with Mexico?

    SpaceInvader in reply to Close The Fed. | June 23, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    Isn’t it clear? We surrendered to Mexico. Now they are moving their people in to take over our territory.

    Valerie in reply to Close The Fed. | June 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Obama already tried that. Remember the gun-walking scandal?

    DJT is not going to make war on Mexico. He’s going to make a deal, and there will be something sweet in it for Mexico (that is how deals work).

      Close The Fed in reply to Valerie. | June 24, 2019 at 7:14 am

      They’re already colonizing us. So there’s nothing more to get than what they’re getting, which is EVERYTHING.

      It’s time for War with Mexico. All the central American countries. Wrap ’em in a bow.

LOL, anyone who equates this with Jugears announcing a “red line” and then failing to act after a WMD attack is a blithering moron or a gaslighting hack. Maybe both.

Don’t worry folks. When the time comes the Iranians won’t lose so few.

Iran uses mines to damage two tankers. There aggression is filmed by US Drone and released to the public. In retaliation the Iranians shoot down a US Drone. Trump goes through all the steps of ordering a retaliatory strike — even letting the Acting Defense Secretary be photographed with a briefing book. Nancy and Chuck are briefed. The media readies the war monger meme.

Then like Lucy with the football Trump calls it off. I doubt he was going to do it in the first place. Just another chess move.

Now if it were the team of those great minds, Obama, Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Brennan and James Clapper I’d wonder what was going on.

But with Trump these are all chess calculations.

    rabidfox in reply to dystopia. | June 24, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if our ‘intelligence’ network wasn’t watching the Iranian response to the anticipated attack and scooping up mucho intelligence. Of course, this IS the same CIA that was involved with the dossier, so there is that…

Kevin Smith | June 23, 2019 at 8:57 pm

0bama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria, but what 0bama did next by outsourcing the problem to Russia was far worst. As expected by 0bama whose “leadership” style is to lead from behind Putin and Russia.

So while Iran was waiting for an airstrike, the US launched a cyber attack. I bet Sun Tzu would approve.

I think this was a surgical strike against Kerry.

If Kerry visits Iran again, he will be accused of treason.

JusticeDelivered | June 23, 2019 at 9:17 pm

I don’t see any major downside to waiting, as long as if Iran pulls more dirty deeds, and I expect they will, Trump kicks the living crap out of them.

    Never let your enemy determine your actions. It is plain that the Mullahs wanted us to strike. the downing of a drone which was running the same route drones have been running for about a decade made that pretty clear. Right now the Mullahs have a problem with the Iranian people blaming the government for the financial situation they find themselves in. It would be far better for the Mullahs if they could cause the people to be in “defend the nation against the evil American attacks” mode. As a bit of lagniappe, if the President attacked over the unmanned drone (a not inexpensive piece of equipment) he would lose some support among the people and hand the Socialist-Democrats an issue which is far better than their average issues with which they attempt to beat him about the head.

OwenKellogg-Engineer | June 23, 2019 at 9:46 pm

Free Intel on how they reacted anticipating a strike that never came. Their defense network was lit up for all to see.

Will you neocons quit trying to get us into another war? Haven’t we bled enough in the region? Just stop.

These are the same group of guys that sent children into mine fields to clear the way. They flew a civilian airliner into harms way and we nailed it… look who got the blame? They believe that war will usher in the 13th Imam. The US dusts off a radar station and the Iranians get world sympathy. Do they really care about those 125 or so ?…. not really.

In tit for tat…. we really will need to go with a really BIG TAT. But it has to be for something very tangible done to US. For now, just keep a tab of paybacks needed. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle and we would be fooling ourselves if an opponent like Iran doesn’t have a suitcase or two around. There was plenty of cash delivered to the mullahs to go shopping again.

“In the future, you should ask questions about how many people will die before you order a strike in the first place.”

Too bad Hillary and Barack didn’t ask that question.

I read that Iran was “furious” with the general in charge of the attack. If that information came from Iran, it suggests a signal to DJT was sent by the Iranian government, that the attack was indeed a mistake.

Right decision.

Unmanned drone … no American lives lost. eluding to some errant guy launching the missile gave Iran and out. An American attack that would kill Iranian’s would have been wrong. But … Iran will see this as a weakness.

But next time … if Iran strikes first and kills Americans … such as shooting down one of our fighters … then game on. We’d have to respond.



The question is devoid of all the considerations which have to be taken into account.
And it begs a simple yes or no answer.
Ok, if that is the way it is presented…
If further explanation is required.. a more well thought out inquiry is due.

Every military strike has a built in casualty analysis. Do you really think any President calls a strike on a target without that assessment? Get real. He knew before hand how many might be injured or killed.

He used this to (a) freak out the mullahs, by not engaging, they’re left wringing their hands (with heavier sanctions); (b) prove that both Dems and Repubs wanted a new war, for their lobbyist enrichment; (c) prove that he won’t sacrifice our sons and daughters over a drone.

He completely f’d with all of the elite’s heads and I’m lovin it.

    Plus I’m thinking the “150” number was put out there specifically for Iranians to see. Every person who works in one of their oil/defense companies sees that number and reads it as “Me and 149 other people”

Was the Failure to Strike Iran Trump’s “Red Line” Moment?

Simple answer: Of course not. There’s no comparison at all. Trump did not threaten something and then walk it back. He didn’t announce the strikes and then call them off; the public didn’t know anything about them until after they were called off. And I think this was his plan all along; the message to the mullahs is “We could have hit you, we were all set to do so, and the only reason we didn’t is that at the last minute I decided not to. Don’t mess with me or next time I might not be so restrained.”

Saying Trump had a red line moment is like saying the following:
Football announcer 1 say he thinks they are going to run on the next play.

The team runs a sweep. This is a play ( for those who do not know ) where the play starts out as if it is going to be a run to one side, but then the quarterback does not give the ball to the runner, but to some player running to the other side.

Announcer 2 says that Announcer 1 was wrong.

That ‘s not the fact. It was still a run, just nopt the kind that everyone generally thinks about.

Trump has responded, but it’s not the response everyone expected.
As has been pointed out, it was not the response that everyone expected. The fact that it was not the response that everyone expected is good on two levels,

First, the Iranians have basically shown how they will react to a military threat. Second by going into a heightened state, they exposed their systems somewhat to make the cyber attack easier.

smalltownoklahoman | June 24, 2019 at 7:30 am

I don’t know if we should have struck Iran militarily or not. What I do know is that I don’t want us involved in another major war in the Mideast or anywhere for that matter without some protections against one president essentially throwing away damn near everything we gained like what Obama did in Iraq. All that work, lives, and money expended into ousting Sadam and stabilizing that country was rendered damn near meaningless because of that fool! That must be well guarded against should our nation have to start something while Trump is in office and it is finished under another president!

VaGentleman | June 24, 2019 at 8:05 am

Trump Dodged An Ambush By Avoiding War With Iran

But leaving aside the politics, which adults understand you cannot do, was this a bad purely strategic decision?

At the Army War College, before it disgraced itself by cowering before SJWs and when we weren’t reading Clausewitz, we learned about the elements of national power: DIME – diplomatic, information, military and economic. There are lots of tools in the toolbox. The Iranians publicly shot down a US drone, which was a military action but was arguably more of an information (i.e., propaganda) operation. Why do we have to reply in kind? No practical military option exists to defeat the mullahs, since we’re not marching into Tehran unless Max Boot and Bill Kristol start getting their phone calls returned by the White House again. So, an attack would have been a one-time punch to show our resolve with no lasting effect on their strategic capabilities. In other words, an information operation, and not much of one since no one actually thinks Trump won’t unleash hell if the baddies do something really bad.

War is what the mullahs wanted because they know they can’t lose strategically in a military context – only Trump can. But they can only lose strategically to our diplomatic and economic power – if we choose to ruthlessly employ it.

Oh, the military option is still there. And the patience to await the right time to use it instead of reacting precipitously is a combat multiplier. We need to set the timetable, not our opponents.

It’s clear that Iran and certain domestic political actors – the Democrats – share a common interest in seeing Trump defeated politically. Their interests were therefore aligned in favor of the strike Trump called off. Why again would we do what our opponents want?

The nice thing about Trump is that he has no intention of being played for a sap.

2smartforlibs | June 24, 2019 at 8:41 am

Interesting how the low life left has to attempt to equate this to Obama but they refuse to equate anything else Trumps done. I don’t really think we need to have boots on the ground on this when there are other ways to end this. Obama redline in the sand was later determined by Obama no line at all.

Obama turned his back on tens of thousands of innocent people when he allowed al Bashir gas his own people after Obama drew the line at doing just that. Trump had no red line and shooting down an unmanned drone is not the same as the death and maiming of thousands.

Iran and the Democrats both need the same thing. Iran needs a war to energize his people who are on the verge of overthrow due to dismal economic conditions and the young age of the population. The Dems need a Trump war too. They didn’t get him on collusion. The economy is showing no signs of letting up before the election. The only thing left that can take down an incumbent is an unpopular war.

The Dems thought they could goad Trump into a war and they almost did. His decision certainly had no political motivation either way, but the Dems came up empty again and now they are in the uncomfortable position of appearing to support a conflict. They were out-Trumped once again.

Well, America can keep on killing Eye-raaaanians (and Russians) in Syria at will as well as helping Israel do the same (so its a win-win).

As Ive said previously, people need to sort out what exactly they want. Do they want a war or do they not want a war or is this all just dependent on who the President is???

The gateway pundit had a video of Schumer and Pelosi exchanging ‘hi-fives’ outside the White House after their were briefed before the attack.

Made me wonder if shooting the drone was something that John Kerry May have suggested to the Iranians.

Commonsense64 | June 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Brilliant Move: It kills the “war monger” comments, Cyber strike eliminates the no response red-line issue and now if Iran does something foolish again allows for a much larger non-proportional response as he can always say “I warned them the first time and held back, now they need to learn a lesson”

This article is utter nonsense.

The red-line comparison is utter nonsense.

The actual red line was implicit in the fact that the President said he didn’t strike because there were no American casualties; ergo – the red line is American casualties, and Iran didn’t cross it.