Acting US defence secretary steps down amidst rising military tensions with Iran

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan steps down today following revelations of domestic violence against his son. Mark T. Esper is

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Photo: Reuters

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan steps down today following revelations of domestic violence against his son. Mark T. Esper is the new acting Defence Secretary and presidential nominee to succeed General Jim Mattis as Defence Secretary.

Mr Esper comes in at a volatile time for the Pentagon. US-Iranian tensions have reached a boiling point after Iran allegedly shot down an American drone, prompting President Donald Trump to reportedly order a counter-strike. Mr Trump then rescinded the order ten minutes before the attack, suggesting that the 150 anticipated deaths at the three intended targets was disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone.

While Mr Shanahan’s views aligned closely with Trump—he easily agreed to Trump’s request to send 2,500 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran—Mr Esper’s views on Iran are relatively unknown.

Despite being better known as a China and Russia hawk, expect Esper to be highly influenced by the Iran hawks in Trump’s inner circle—Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, whom he has strong personal relationships with. This means Esper is likely to strengthen the anti-Iran hawks advising the President. This increases the chances Mr Trump will follow through with a military strike on Iran should a similar incident occur in future.

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