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Strike Canceled: Inside the Decision-making Mechanism of the Trump Administration

The Iran crisis shows that the national security decision-making mechanism of Trump's White House is malfunctioning, a situation that will last for some time, says researcher

By Xu Mouquan Updated Jul.11

US President Donald Trump said on June 21 that he walked back his order of a military strike against Iran for shooting down a US drone at the last minute. 

A prominent issue stood out from the crisis: a US president took to the media to reveal his differences with subordinates over Iran policies, and say that, even though he didn’t want a retaliatory strike, he was “pushed” by his subordinates into issuing an order, Xiao He, associate researcher at the Institute for World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in news portal The Paper.

While all supported the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and maximum pressure on Iran, Trump differed with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton over whether to go to war with Iran – Trump doesn’t want a war. 

But the latest crisis underlines an issue more severe than different opinions – the dysfunctional national security decision-making mechanism of Trump’s White House, Xiao wrote. 

With the equilibrium of international power turning against its favor, the US is seeing its strategic space shrink; mistakenly going into war with Iran will cost it the ability to deal with more important issues, Xiao cited the worry from US policy community.

And the crisis also shows that after Rex Tillerson, James Mattis and H.R. McMaster left the White House to right-wing hawks, Trump has few rational advisers to consult. 

Nevertheless, given the 2020 presidential election is drawing near, Trump won’t replace Pompeo or Bolton, for they can get him the votes from hawkish voters and give him confidence to maintain the maximum pressure on Iran, he noted.  

Therefore, the chaos in the US national security decision-making mechanism will continue, and will not bottom out any time soon, Xiao said. The good news is Trump is still at the helm. And the world can only hope for this delicate balance to be maintained.