Best Defense

Flynn calls out Iran

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn just called out Iran in the White House briefing room.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn just called out Iran in the White House briefing room. He said that the Barack Obama administration had failed to respond adequately to Iranian actions in the Middle East.

“Iran is now feeling emboldened,” he said. He said the U.S. government is now putting the Iranian government “on notice.” This is pretty much saying: Try it again, and we will pop you.

This is a fairly bellicose stance to take. I think there are several possible actions. One would be to attack Iranian speedboats when they come out to harass U.S. Navy ships. Another far more controversial step would be to actually bomb Iranian ballistic missile launch sites. That sounds extreme, but we are in uncharted waters here, especially with President Donald Trump at the helm, Flynn acting as XO, and no secretary of State in place.

I and others have written about how Defense Secretary James Mattis might act as a restraint on Flynn, but I don’t think that’s the case with Iran. One reason Mattis was on the outs with the Obama administration is that he supported tougher responses to Iranian mischief in the region. That said, Mattis also is a strong proponent of thinking through actions — if you do this, what might be the response, and what do you do then?

There is a background briefing at the White House for reporters at 4 p.m. on this. My guess is that they will be told that the administration is planning additional Navy deployments to the region and loosened rules of engagement.

Trivial postscript: @cao_đẹp1, a Best Defense reader who predicted that Trump’s first foreign policy crisis would be Iran in February, is now in the lead in that prediction contest.

Photo credit: ALEX WONG/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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