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“The enemy gets a vote.” U.S. military leaders are fond of using that line. Gen. Jim Mattis used it so often that it is sometimes attributed to him. In fact, it is a nugget of wisdom dating back to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist, who counseled that one must “know the enemy.” It describes the central mistake of President Trump’s Iran policy.
In confidential 2018 cables that were leaked this summer, Britain’s then-ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, wrote something that was obvious to most observers: Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal largely because “it was Obama’s deal” and had given little thought toward a “‘day-after’ strategy.” Darroch also noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to put some distance between himself and Trump on this issue, privately referring to the move as “the president’s decision.” But while the decision might have been made for domestic political reasons, it has unleashed serious geopolitical consequences.