The United States is missing a golden opportunity to reassert its global power by standing up to Iran. the Iranian front is the ideal arena for showcasing American strength with limited consequences while the US faces more dangerous rivals elsewhere.
At this time, the US is challenged by China in Taiwan, Russia in Ukraine, and Iran on the nuclear front. While all pose complexities, the Iran issue offers the best potential for success via an assertive and forceful American stance.
The Iranians are extremely vulnerable to US air and naval power and stand no chance in a military clash, which they strongly wish to avoid. This was clearly demonstrated after Tehran barely retaliated for the killing of Qasem Soleimani, its most important military chief.
While Iran can cause some damage to the US and more so to its regional allies, American retaliation would be much harsher and more devastating. Tehran has no desire whatsoever to enter such punch-up, which would severely erode strategic assets and could critically weaken the regime.
But instead of American toughness, the Iranians (and the world) see US softness. This is evident in the muted response to Iran’s attacks, and in the dynamics of the nuclear issue.
The Israeli media has been increasingly critical of the US position and president. But this goes well beyond Israel’s interests and has a direct bearing on America’s own global status.
The contrast between US desperation for a nuclear deal and the hardline Iranian positions highlights the American weakness and loss of deterrence, journalist Ronen Bergman wrote in Yediot Aharonot daily. Even if the US wishes to pivot away from the Middle East, it would be best to do it from a position of strength.
The bottom line: The US clearly wants to avoid a war with Iran and focus on China, and this is understandable. But if America keeps backing off, it will only make old and new rivals bolder and more likely to challenge its power.