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'Maximum pressure' demands diplomatic off-ramps

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By Leif-Eric Easley

With Donald Trump facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and a tough re-election battle, some U.S. rivals see the president as politically weakened, risk-averse in exerting military pressure, and incapable of delivering on diplomatic commitments.

The American drone strike killing General Qassem Soleimani, Iran's proxy warrior-in-chief, may prompt recalculations in Tehran and as far away as Pyongyang.

Trump's supporters will say the targeted strike re-establishes the credibility of U.S. security diplomacy. But it would be unwise to underestimate how nationalism can short-circuit the fear that drives deterrence.

The Iranian and North Korean regimes both maintain superiority narratives sensitive to national humiliation and derive domestic support by exaggerating external threats. They care much more about holding on to power than preventing economic suffering or even mass casualties among their populations.

At the same time, interactive effects between Tehran and Pyongyang are difficult to predict. The Kim Jong-un regime may be too preoccupied with geopolitics in Asia and its own troubled economic situation to be closely eyeing developments in the Middle East.

But one can imagine that rising tensions between Iran and........

© The Korea Times