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Engaging in high-stakes brinkmanship

Jun 22,2019 - Last updated at Jun 22,2019

Iran was practicing high-stakes brinkmanship when it shot down a US spy drone on Thursday over the waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

Coming as it allegedly did after last month's attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and in the wake of last week's attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the downing of the US drone must be viewed as deliberate to signal Tehran's determination to bring its standoff with the US to a more dangerous level.

President Donald Trump reacted angrily to the downing of the US drone, and was reportedly on the brink of ordering a limited military strike against Iranian forces deployed in the area, only to cancel his orders at the last minute.

Trump is maybe crawling back from escalating tensions with Iran, at least for the time being, by calling the Iranian attack a possible "mistake" and perhaps unintentional, thus giving Iran the benefit of the doubt that it did not mean to provoke a war situation with the US.

No matter what all sides may think of the downing of the US drone, it would be irresponsible to describe it as a "mistake". Iran is a sophisticated country, and its policies are carefully measured before they are executed.

To think that the downing of the US drone is a mere mistake or perhaps unintentional is simply naive to say the least. What caused Trump to back down from attacking Iranian forces at the last minute could be attributed to several reasons, one of which could be that any limited attack would not cause much harm to Iran anyway, but may only provoke the Iranian authorities to retaliate with painful actions in the region, either directly or through its surrogates in the area.

It would be safe to conclude that the international community has not heard the last word from Trump on the Gulf conflict. The tension in the area is still there and is projected to remain there as both sides to the conflict seek to settle scores with one another.

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