June 15, 2019

The Goal for Now Is Not Diplomacy With Iran, But Avoiding War

Featuring Ilan Goldenberg

Source: Bloomberg

Journalist Tobin Harshaw

So, is America going to war?

For the first time in over 15 years, perhaps, that’s a very sensible question. The answer is: likely not. At least not in the Middle East.

Ships have been attacked in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians have denied responsibility. The Trump administration says it has videos proving otherwise. I was at a conference Friday and ran into Ilan Goldenberg, formerly a top aide to Secretary of State John Kerry (the guy who signed off on the Iran nuclear deal, for better or worse) who now directs the Middle East program at the Center for a New American Security. Here is a (lightly edited) transcript of our chat:

Tobin Harshaw: Let’s start with the latest tanker bombings. The U.S. started issuing warnings weeks ago about exactly this sort of thing. If the video can be believed, Iran was behind it. Were the Iranian actions planned long in advance, or was it a reaction to our warnings that Tehran was going to act?

Ilan Goldenberg: I think it's fundamentally a reaction to the U.S. maximum-pressure campaign of the last year. The Trump administration has been saying, “We're going to apply pressure, we're going to strangle Iran economically.” And in early May, it made the decision to try to cut Iranian oil sales to zero. And so Iran, for a year, has had a strategy of trying to be restrained but also to split the U.S. away from the international community. And that wasn't getting them anything. And I think they've finally decided they need to demonstrate to the other side that there are costs for continuing to pursue this.

Read the full conversation and more in Bloomberg.


  • Ilan Goldenberg

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

    Ilan Goldenberg is the former Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is a foreign policy and defense expe...