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Trump Pledge to Avoid War Tested by Iran Days After 2020 Launch....

Two days after launching his 2020 re-election bid, President Donald Trump had to confront whether to risk breaking his pledge to avoid entangling the U.S. in new Middle East conflicts.
With his decision Thursday to scrap a planned military strike against Iran, the president stepped away from a move that would put the two nations on a path to a much wider confrontation.
Trump had spent the day deliberating on a response to tanker attacks and the shooting down
of a drone and was advised by aides during situation room meetings to proceed with military action.
But Trump, who regularly criticizes his predecessors for sending troops to the Middle East, remained doubtful, according to people familiar with the matter. He was concerned that an attack could lead to a direct military clash -- precisely the kind of fight he rejects.
Though most advisers -- including National Security Adviser John Bolton -- pushed for the strike, Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not. He underscored the potential consequences and the value of strategic patience.
Ultimately, the risks that Dunford set forth reinforced the president’s skepticism over miring the U.S. in another conflict in the Middle East. As Trump called off the strike, he avoided for the time being a step that could have tipped the nation toward a prolonged military commitment and given rise to a potentially devastating political liability as the next presidential election looms ever closer.
It has become routine for Trump to talk at rallies about bringing American troops home from wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. His advisers say they are well aware of the political consequences of a fresh military confrontation, something that imperiled George W. Bush’s re-election prospects in 2004.
So far, Trump’s handling of Iran probably hasn’t cost him any points politically and may be viewed as a positive, strategists said. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord that was negotiated by the
 Obama administration has been popular with conservatives, and his decision not to carry out the most recent strike shows a level of moderation that could bode well with swing voters.
“In a lot of people’s minds who have always worried about how the president would react to a situation like this, they have been comforted,” said John Brabender, a Republican strategist. “He took a hard line with Iran, but wasn’t ready to rush to conflict with them and was in control and willing to take the decision on his shoulders. Politically, that makes him look good.”
Trump’s allies have sought to frame the recent escalation as an example of the president’s saber
-rattling strategy and an attempt to get Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. The approach arguably worked with North Korea. Trump and Kim Jong Un met after months of escalating rhetoric, including Trump calling the North Korean leader “little Rocket man” and saying the U.S. could bring “fire and fury” to his nation.
It’s unclear whether it will draw the Tehran government into negotiations. And it’s unclear what Trump’s next steps will be.

If he were to enter into a militarily conflict with Iran, he would need to make sure he could make a strong case for why the Islamic Republic presents a threat to the U.S. and back it up with clear evidence in order to avoid a backlash from his supporters and swing voters, Brabender said..................
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted on Friday evening: “I continue to urge @realDonaldTrump to stick to his principles and avoid starting yet another war in the Middle East. The neocons around him are salivating for conflict. Don’t do it, Mr. President