Trump has ‘more or less prevailed’ with this week’s Iran tension, says former US ambassador

Business

US President Donald Trump arrives for a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, on January 9, 2020.

SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump scored a “modest win” this week in the way he handled escalating tensions with Iran, according to a former American ambassador to Singapore.

“It’s not over yet, but I think Trump has more or less prevailed this past week,” said Frank Lavin, who is currently the CEO and founder of business consultancy Export Now.

“I think it is a modest win, but look, Iran’s not going away,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” Friday. “Iran’s been in this business of … mischief and wars and terrorism for 40 years now, so they’re going to have another time, another go at this as well.”

Simon Baptist, global chief economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, agreed with the sentiment. “Iran is still pushing toward a nuclear bomb in the same way as North Korea,” he said. “They can get there, and it’s going to be tough to stop them in a confrontational way.”

“Without negotiations, I see that conflict simmering for now, but probably boiling over in the future,” he added.

Relations between the two countries were thrown into crisis last week after an American airstrike killed Tehran’s top commander. Iran responded by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq, but the situation appeared to ease when Washington chose to impose more sanctions, instead of taking further military action.

Lavin said: “My suspicion is (that) what Trump did, his actions were popular and I think they’re going to be proven to be the right set of actions.” That, however, may put Democrats in “a little bit of a difficult spot,” he said.

Just two days after Iran’s retaliation, the Democrat-held House passed a resolution to limit the president’s war powers against Tehran.

“The Democrats and the House have trouble endorsing or supporting him … that’s sort of understandable, but I think they’re overcorrecting a bit by saying we’re going to formally chastise or formally reproach what he’s doing,” he said.

Iran’s military may be subdued

Separately, the ambassador weighed in on reports that an Iranian missile may have shot down a passenger plane headed for Ukraine from Tehran. He said that, if confirmed, it would not cause tensions to escalate.

“But if anything, it creates this image of the Iranian military being trigger happy and not being overly concerned about deaths of civilians,” he said of the tragedy that left 176 people dead.

“I think … it’s going to subdue the Iranian military for the short run, to say … think twice before you pull the trigger.”

—CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

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