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U.S. Navy ships moored at the 5th Fleet command center in Manama, Bahrain. Photo: Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

After the U.S. accused Iran of carrying out drone attacks against Saudi Arabia over the weekend, President Trump has ramped up his rhetoric rather than seeking to ease tensions — including the "locked and loaded" proclamation that echoed his "fire and fury" threats against North Korea 2 years ago.

Why it matters: Airstrikes or any other form of military retaliation against Iran would require not only congressional authorization but a thorough strategy for a sprawling web of security issues that would affect American troops, regional stability and global energy markets.

Between the lines: The prospect of a military strike raises a cascading series of risks.

  • The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in the Persian Gulf, plus another 14,000 in Afghanistan and more than 5,000 in Iraq (both of which border Iran). Those forces would need a protection plan and a strategy in place should they be engaged by Iranian proxies.
  • There's no simple military solution to the challenges of Iran's nuclear program short of a massive invasion. But an attack could lend the program legitimacy by strengthening Iran's case for it as a needed deterrent.
  • Military action could amplify ongoing regional conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Countering those escalations would require an even greater commitment of U.S. troops.
  • Global oil flows could continue to suffer. With sanctions already keeping Iranian oil practically off the market, any loss to the Saudi supply makes for a greater hit. Spiking oil prices are likely, as is increased use of the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve.

The bottom line: The serious risks of a heightened military standoff with Iran call for a well-developed strategy from a White House not known for its orderly policymaking.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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