We’re trying something new: a once-a-week national-security-focused edition of The Atlantic’s signature politics newsletter.
The Top Story
(ISNA / Handout / Reuters)
Response and Responsibility
After weeks of heat between Washington and Tehran, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman this week, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was to blame.
The escalation doesn’t just involve the United States and Iran, Kathy Gilsinan reports. Thursday’s attack—which appeared similar to an attack on Saudi, Emirati, and Norwegian tankers last month—showed how the conflict is growing and ensnaring many more countries. There’s Panama and the Marshall Islands, where the tankers are chartered; Singapore and Taiwan, where the ships were bringing their cargo; and Japan, which is home to a company that owns one of the tankers.
At the time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Abe said Khamenei told him that he has no intention of making or using nuclear weapons.
Pompeo said “Iran is lashing out” because it wants Washington’s “successful maximum-pressure campaign lifted.” But despite the severity and the clear economic effect of sanctions, Ali Vaez argues the campaign won’t work: “The one thing Tehran would find more intolerable than the crushing impact of sanctions is raising the white flag because of them.” But even as Pompeo called Iran’s attacks a threat to international peace and security, he still emphasized diplomatic and economic options—rather than military options—as the path forward.