War With Iran? Who Knows?
Looks like John Bolton may get that war with Iran he's always wanted! Ever since he was a little wee mustache in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton has wanted a war with Iran like some little girls want a pony. And now that he's Donald Trump's national security adviser, well by golly, it's time, especially now that troublesome peacenik hippies like Jim Mattis and HR McMaster are gone. (Generals are such pussies!) So how close to a shooting war in Iran are we? That's the wonderful thing about foreign policy in the Trump era -- we may not know until the bombs start falling! Depends who the guests on Fox News are over the next few days.
The administration has certainly been making bellicose noises, what with sending a bunch of bombers and an aircraft carrier battle group to the region -- although a Navy admiral noted the carrier group had already been scheduled to deploy to the Middle East anyway. Monday, the New York Times reported that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed Trump's national security team on a range of options for military action, including a possible deployment of up to 120,000 US troops to bases in the region in case Iran attacks US forces, or if Iran restarts up its nuclear weapons program, or if Iran looks at us wrong.
Donald Trump, as you'd expect, explained Tuesday the Times report was completely fake news, but that he's totally ready to send all those troops if he needs to, and really, "a hell of a lot more troops than that."
As the Times very decorously put it,
It is highly uncertain whether Mr. Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.
It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans. On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Mr. Trump said: "We'll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake."
And there's the familiar Trump dodge -- we'll see what happens, fake news, we'll send a hell of a lot MORE troops.
If the US does deploy troops, ships, and planes in anticipation of trouble, that could, as the Times points out, "give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so," and then John Bolton could jump up and down at the prospect of finally getting his wish!
And our brand new war -- if we have one at all! -- may even have its very own Gulf of Tonkin incident, with Saudi Arabia saying that two Saudi oil tankers and two other vessels were damaged over the weekend in what the Saudis said was an "act of sabotage," although the Saudi Energy minister didn't say who done it. Nor did the Saudis release any photos of the damage, although the owners of the Norwegian-registered ship
said an "unknown object" had created a hole in the hull of one of its ships, the MT Andrea Victory.
A Turkish news outfit tweeted video of two ships that appeared to be damaged, but please ignore the overheated first tweet's text suggesting the Andrea Victory was in danger of sinking -- the ship's owners said there was never any danger.
In short, no, we don't know what actually happened and let's remember, Saudi Arabia has been fighting a proxy war with Iran in Yemen, so it sure would be convenient if we could bomb Iran a whole lot.
So far, administration war hawks like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo haven't had much success selling US allies on the supposed massive threat from Iran. Why, it's almost as if they remember Boilton trying to drum up support for an invasion of Iran following the Iraq war. The New York Times reports,
Privately, several European officials described Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo as pushing an unsuspecting Mr. Trump through a series of steps that could put the United States on a course to war before the president realizes it.
An anonymous US official told the Times Bolton seemed to be making far too much out of far too little intelligence, saying
the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was "small stuff" and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.
That seems to fit pretty well with the assessment of Major General Chris Ghika, the top British general in the coalition fighting ISIS, who said in a video briefing to reporters,
No – there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria [...] We're aware of that presence, clearly. And we monitor them along with a whole range of others because that's the environment we're in. We are monitoring the Shia militia groups.
Ghika wasn't nearly panicked enough, according to the US Central Command, which issued a statement Tuesday night saying that crazy Brit has no idea what he's talking about, of COURSE there's a HUGE MASSIVE THREAT. The CENTCOM statement claimed Ghika's comments
run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.
US Central Command, in coordination with OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS coalition], has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.
That's pretty normal, isn't it? US military commanders insisting an allied commander is completely unaware of the actual alert level in the region? It's so obvious: Allies aren't allies if they aren't fixing for a fight!
As for whether we're headed for a war, it's worth noting that Donald Trump regularly predicted on Twitter that Barack Obama would start a war with Iran for political purposes, so that damn near guarantees Trump will soon shit the geopolitical bed again.
And as Rolling Stone's Ryan Bort points out, Trump just may be stupid enough to think a nice big war would get him reelected.
What political purpose would be served by going to war with Iran? Plenty, but most pressing for Trump is probably the onslaught of investigations Democrats have launched into his administration. You probably didn't think about any of them over the course of reading this article. That's the point.
Or maybe he'll decide fearmongering about caravans and putting a lot of children in cages will do the job. As we say, depends on what Fox News tells him to do.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.