President Donald Trump’s first formal remarks since the targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani underscored the strange reality of the moment’s crisis: After a chaotic and often terrifying week, it’s not clear that anything has changed.
“As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said today before he’d even offered a “good morning” to an audience at the White House. But he didn’t offer a plan for how he would keep that promise.
“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” the president also said. It is a good thing, and dire predictions of a massive regional war seem (so far) to have been baseless. But Soleimani’s death leaves the same stalemate that preceded it.
Removing Soleimani didn’t address the central problem: Trump wants to rein in Iran, but he doesn’t want to fight a hot war to achieve that objective, and he also doesn’t want to negotiate a new nuclear deal that involves significant American concessions.
In a disturbing spectacle of the type that is characteristic of the Trump administration, Trump used the top generals in the Army and Marines, positioned behind him, as props for a political broadside. The president lambasted his predecessor, Barack Obama, for signing a “foolish” deal with Iran in 2015. Trump placed special emphasis on money that the U.S. released to Iran as part of the agreement, which limited Iran’s ability to enrich uranium.