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Iran tries to run out the clock as Trump bears down

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talk as they attend the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw on Feb 14. | Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign Policy

Even as U.S. officials pressured European allies this week to break with Tehran, there was little indication the Islamist regime is worried about survival.


02/14/2019 06:55 PM EST

WARSAW — The Trump administration is warning Iran’s Islamist rulers that, after 40 years, their time in power is almost up. But the Iranian government is betting Trump will be gone first.

Even as top Trump officials traveling in Europe this week threatened to hit Iran with more economic sanctions and pressured allies to break with Tehran, there was little indication that the country’s theocratic regime fears it is in mortal peril.

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In fact, on the same day the Trump administration hosted a conference in Poland unofficially intended to rally global opposition against Tehran, Iran’s president was meeting his Russian and Turkish counterparts, in part to discuss new international financial mechanisms to evade U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, in Poland, Trump’s closest aides and a top ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unfurled unexpected comments that likely left Iran with even more leverage and incentive to run out the clock on the Republican president.

First, Netanyahu set off alarm bells with a tweet suggesting a coming “war” with Iran, undermining the administration’s effort to portray its Poland event as a peace conference. Then, Vice President Mike Pence went off script to demand that the Europeans quit the Iran nuclear deal, a call sure to be dismissed. It also did not go unnoticed that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called for regime change in Iran at a separate gathering in Warsaw.

The developments come as a flock of Democrats have launched White House bids, a probe into Trump's 2016 campaign continues to encircle the president and Republicans wonder if Trump will face a primary challenge or even not run again.

“Both sides are waiting and hoping for regime change in one another’s countries, but the clock in Washington is running faster than the clock in Tehran,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group.

For now, Trump’s top advisers are certainly not willing to countenance the possibility that their boss may be a one-term president. Instead, the administration is doubling down on what it calls a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

But the conference in........

© Politico