Kelly Magsamen, the VP of National Security and International Policy for the Center for American Progress explained during an MSNBC interview Thursday that the president is causing his own problems with Iran.
Speaking to host Ali Velshi, Magsamen said that it was Trump who "lit his own house on fire" when he breached the Iran treaty known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"I think we are definitely in the middle of an escalatory (sic) cycle, and how do we get out of it," Magsamen told the host. "And unfortunately, the White House has left itself very few options in terms of escalating or de-escalating and same for the Iranians, frankly. [The Iranians] probably perceive this as an attack from their perspective."
She explained that this wasn't the first time Iran has shot down an American drone, they did so in 2011.
"So, this is not necessarily a new escalation on behalf of Iranians," she continued. "So I think both sides right now are trying to figure out how to re-establish deterrence without looking like they have backed down. I think for the United States it’s a very hard needle to thread in the region at this particular moment in time."
Velshi recalled that this morning that "Iran made a big mistake," but when asked about it during a press availability, Trump tried to play it down and deescalate tensions. On Capitol Hill Wednesday, White House staff worked to try and ease tensions with key officials fearful that the president was headed into a war. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was shoving the president in another direction.
"Well, the fact that the president of the United States is all over the map with his strategic messaging is a very bad sign, frankly, in terms of what I see as an incoherent Iran strategy," Magsamen noted. "I think Hans [Nichols’s] point earlier about what is our purpose at this point? Are we trying to get back into negotiations? Are we trying to maximally pressure the regime so that it falls? Are we trying to contain them? I don’t think the president knows where he’s headed on this."
Velshi remarked that it all comes at a difficult time for the administration because it's unclear who is running the Pentagon.
"It very much troubles me," she agreed. "We have now not had a confirmed Secretary of Defense for almost a year. We haven’t had an on-camera defense department briefing until today. Today was the first day in over a year. So, there’s a lack of civilian leadership at the Pentagon which I think is troubling at this particular moment in time."
She said that at the very least Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, is more cool-headed than the likes of war-hawks like John Bolton.
"But certainly the president has surrounded himself by a series of hawkish advisers who have essentially backed him into a corner with very few options," Magsamen continued. "When they pulled out of the JCPOA, they essentially lit their own house on fire. So now they are trying to rebuild their house, but there’s not much left to build. So, you know, I think that John Bolton has done the president a huge disservice, and hopefully, the president is seeing the scene now as it stands in making some different decisions."
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