After weeks of drama with Iranian ‘threats’ and having conducted classified briefings with Congress on Tuesday, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by his side, informed a press briefing that:
“There will be no war with Iran” and the US had “deterred an Iranian attack based on our reposturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces” and that now the “focus is to prevent an Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence; not about war. We’re not about going to war.”
And yet Shanahan’s words could not have been more clear and definitive and yet, they have been met with silence by the Democrats and the MSM as if peace is less desirable, less a profitable pr commodity than war. At the same press briefing, Sen. Lindsay Graham, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee added his own piroutte as if there had been verifiable evidence of an Iranian threat:
“We are ready to respond if we have to. The best thing would be for everyone to calm down and Iran to back off. I am hoping that this show of force will result in de-escalating.”
In other words, the US was selling the notion to anyone who would buy that the Iranians would have launched an attack if not for an increased US military build up that forced the Iranians to backpedal. It makes little difference who or what takes credit in the final analysis since peace is of the essence.
Donald Trump very likely won the 2016 election with pronouncement such as:
“Obviously the war in Iraq was a big fat mistake.”
“We should have never been in Iraq.”
“We have destabilized the middle east.”
“We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about.”
In view of the recent escalation of threats to Venezuela and collapse of the summit with North Korea, it has been unclear exactly who is administering US foreign policy given the President’s consistently inconsistent views and with the B Team filling a prominent role in what appears to be a presidential vacuum.
As unconfirmed, undefined “Iranian threats” first surfaced and the President’s closest national security advisors fanned the flames, he told White House reporters:
“It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that. They're not going to be happy," and later tweeting, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"
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Declaring “heightened tensions” as if Iran was out-of-their-minds crazy enough to imminently launch an attack on a US facility, the Trump Administration evacuated non essential US Embassy personnel from Baghdad after two Saudi oil tankers were ‘attacked’ off the UAE coast, a low grade rocket exploded near the Embassy, three mortar shells landed within Baghdad’s Green Zone and a Yemeni drone ‘attacked’ a Saudi pipeline.
Combining an alarming sense of panic with an overly zealous response, all of that confluence of confusion was sufficient for the US to react with its usual belligerence dispatching a B52 bomber task force, an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln aimed for the Strait of Hormuz (where one third of all oil passes through) and the release of a Pentagon “just in case” contingency for 120,000 troops in preparation for Armageddon. History has its irony as it was the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln where President GW Bush grandstanded with his Mission Accomplished strut in May, 2003 announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq, six weeks after the US invasion.
With no moderating voice on the President’s national security team, National Security Advisor John Bolton, also known as the “devil incarnate,” has been aided and abetted by ‘bull in a china shop’ Pompeo to create a neocon foreign policy strategy that was not what Trump campaigned on. While the combative trio is equally obsessive regarding Iran, Bolton and Pompeo organized the recent military buildup in the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a rapid response deployment when the next Iranian ‘threat’ occurred. While Bolton holds dual citizenship with Israel and the US, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have long targeted Iran for a direct military confrontation and would relish the opportunity.
Not surprisingly, there was push back from some of the usual coalition allies with British deputy commander Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika daring to suggest “There's been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria," and Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that he made it clear to Pompeo that a unilateral strategy of increasing pressure against Iran was ‘ill-advised.’ Pompeo’s hastily arranged ‘drop in’ on a European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels did little to instill confidence in sloppy US intel or the administration’s Iran agenda as Pompeo related the details.
The Pentagon helpfully pointed out that 120,000 troops would be insufficient if a ground mission was ordered which led Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to remark that war in Iran would make the Iraq war look like a “cake walk’ referring to the fact that Iran is a cohesive country, four times larger than Iraq and has more than double the population of Iraq. In other words, a recipe for an environmental, humanitarian and military disaster of epic proportions – in addition it should be expected that Russia and China would not be content to sit on the sidelines. Many will recall the 2003 prediction that the Iraqi people would welcome American troops as liberators, strewing roses in their path, just prior to the war descending into unthinkable carnage.
As a result of all the uncertainty, Trump gave up the trash-talk and told Shanahan during a military briefing last week that he does not want to go to war with Iran letting his hawkish aides know that he did not want the “intensifying American pressure campaign against the Iranians to explode into open conflict.” It is worth knowing whether the President directly ordered Bolton and Pompeo to back off.
Trump’s assertion that “I make the final decision” is as if to reassure himself that he is in charge belies a reputation for vacillating and a weak-will that continues to plague his Administration especially on foreign policy.
While Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has refused to negotiate with the US, explaining that “negotiating with the current US Government is toxic,” the Iranians have no interest in bargaining away their ballistic missiles which could reach Tel Aviv or putting limits on their operational range. As with North Korea, Iran is well aware of Libya’s Mummar Quaddafi fate as he laid down his weapons only to have HRC organize a revolt and order his untimely demise.
A recent FoxNews interview added some clarity and further confusion as Trump totally buys the neocon view that:
“Iran has been a problem for so many years, look at all the conflicts they have caused.” Further explaining “I want to invade if I have to economically” to provide jobs. While Trump agreed that “there is a Military Industrial Complex” and “they do like war” and yet complaining that “I wipe out 100% of the caliphate and people here in DC, they never want to leave.”
When asked about his campaign pledges in 2016, Trump responded “I’m not somebody that wants to go into war” offering the assurance that “I have not changed” and yet the belligerent talk comes too easily as if Bolton was the last person he spoke with.
As he has expressed little public reaction to the administration’s ineptitude with North Korea at the Vietnam summit or the fiasco in Venezuela, Trump allows himself to be played like a fiddle, complicit with the neocon’s latest nefarious schemes that reveal him as a second-rate player; deteriorating before the public with a history of clumsy international gaffes. There is no question that neither Bolton nor Pompeo are to be trusted and that Bolton’s over reach of authority is the key driver pushing for confrontation and divisiveness while Pompeo is a more personally shrewd team player and somewhat less of a loose cannon.
Thanks to the high level of public awareness that nailed down the faulty details of this latest kerfuffle and its excessive harangues, Trump needs to relieve Bolton of his keys to the office before the next ‘threats’ take the US to the brink and find someone who better reflects his 2016 campaign promises.