In what appears the first significant US foreign policy alteration due to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump reportedly nixed plans for a large-scale attack on "Iranian proxies" in Iraq last week amid a tit-for-tat following rocket attacks on a US base there, which killed two Americans.
The Commander-in-Chief specifically cited coronavirus as reason for holding off on such a major attack, which would surely bog American forces down further in an ongoing battle against Iran inside neighboring Iraq, which Washington fears has long come under the control of the Shia clerics in Tehran. More importantly, the president thought it would "look bad" at the moment of a global pandemic.
NBC reports: "President Donald Trump told his top national security advisers last week that because of the coronavirus pandemic he didn't think an aggressive response to new attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias was the right move, according to one former and four current senior U.S. officials."
He was reportedly being pressed by Iran hawks in the cabinet, of which there are plenty, for a much more muscular attack. Instead US airstrikes on Kataeb Hezbollah locations across southern Iraq on March 12 were limited to to just five militia weapons depots.
Trump rejected the proposals, and stunningly in a rare moment of White House common sense decision-making under pressure, NBC reports:
Trump expressed concern that hitting back hard at Iran at this time would make the U.S. look bad given the extent to which Iran and the rest of the world are struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19, the officials said. They said the president made the comments during a meeting at which his advisers briefed him on possible military responses to the attacks.
If only such concerns of "looking bad" in front of the rest of the world would be even a remote consideration in more normal times, perhaps Washington's constant foreign policy adventurism could finally be reigned in.
The US has come under intense criticism from Europe and allies across the globe for its severe sanctions on Iran at a moment the pandemic threatens millions inside the economically devastated country.