More than seventy former senior national security officials, including retired admirals, generals and ambassadors, have written an open letter to President Donald Trump urging restraint towards Iran as tensions ratchet up again in the Middle East.
The letter, which was first published on the website War on the Rocks and was coordinated by the American College of National Security Leaders, said that the accelerated deployment of troops and weapons to the region raised the potential of a deadly confrontation, either done on purpose or by accident.
“A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East,” the letter read. “[It would] drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost.”
“Crisis de-escalation measures should be established with the Iranian leadership at the senior levels of government,” the letter continued. “The protection of U.S. national interests in the Middle East and the safety of our friends and allies requires thoughtful statesmanship and aggressive diplomacy rather than unnecessary armed conflict.”
In the last two months tensions with Iran have ratcheted up significantly. Earlier in April the U.S. designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization — prompting Iran to retaliate by labeling all U.S. forces in the Middle East as part of a terrorist organization.
This week the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier was ordered to the Gulf, and on Friday the White House announced that they would be sending an extra 1,500 troops to the region to guard against perceived Iranian aggression. Over Congressional objections, the Trump administration has also moved forward with plans to sell $8 billion worth of weapons to Iranian adversaries Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — despite the fact that US-sold weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia in its prolonged military campaign in Yemen where thousands of civilians have died.
The administration itself has also decided to ratchet up its own rhetoric in regards to Iran. Last Sunday Trump tweeted that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” Earlier in the month National Security Advisor John Bolton — who has frequently advocated a hardline approach with Iran — said that the US military buildup in the region was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” GOP Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) also recently boasted that it would only take “two strikes” for the U.S. to defeat Iran.
The bellicose rhetoric from the White House, however, contrasts with intelligence from U.S. allies. Earlier in May, Major General Christopher Ghika, the top British general in the coalition against ISIS, explicitly said that there was no increased threat from Iran in either Syria or Iraq. His assessment however was quickly disavowed by US Central Command, who said they “run counter to the identified Credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”