Tuesday, June 18, 2019


We seem to be on the verge of war with Iran:
The Trump administration and its domestic political allies are laying the groundwork for a possible confrontation with Iran without the explicit consent of Congress — a public relations campaign that was already well under way before top officials accused the Islamic Republic of attacking a pair of oil tankers last week in the Gulf of Oman.

Over the past few months, senior Trump aides have made the case in public and private that the administration already has the legal authority to take military action against Iran, citing a law nearly two decades old that was originally intended to authorize the war in Afghanistan.

In the latest sign of escalating tensions, National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Iran in an interview conducted last week and published Monday, “They would be making a big mistake if they doubted the president's resolve on this.” Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday evening that the U.S. was deploying an additional 1,000 troops to the region for “defensive purposes.” And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted to Tampa, home of Central Command, on Monday evening to huddle with military officials to discuss “regional security concerns and ongoing operations,” according to a State Department spokeswoman.
Or maybe not:
... Yet even as the president’s hawkish advisers have highlighted Iran’s alleged bad behavior, administration officials privately stressed that direct military action remained highly unlikely absent an Iranian attack on an American ship or an American citizen. The president, who campaigned against getting the U.S. bogged down in unnecessary foreign wars, is considered the primary internal obstacle to a counterattack, officials said, noting that Trump continues to press for an improved nuclear deal.
I keep thinking about something Yastreblyansky wrote last month, when Bolton was talking about sending 120,000 troops to Iran and Trump was expressing skepticism:
That absolutely fits the Art of the Deal pattern: violent threats against Mexico and Canada provoking the NAFTA renegotiation, "fire and fury" talk on North Korea leading to the Singapore summit, even his behavior over the Affordable Care Act, which is meant to lead Congress to create something like Obamacare only with lots of marble and gold, the design of which is their problem, not his. His fundamental playbook is really that narrow: scream until you get what you want or, more likely, an opportunity to pretend you got what you wanted, and what he basically wants from the presidency is just to get rid of Obama, obliterate him from human memory, and to have some self-esteem.

Trump's been doing the same thing with Iran all along, tossing the Obama-created JCPOA because Obama created it, not because he agrees with all the criticisms of Binyamin Netanyahu and Mohammad bin Salman and Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, or even understands them, at all.... He himself just wants to do his own deal, with his name on it, that will be the best deal ever made.
Bolton and Pompeo
thought [Trump's] violent language about Iran meant he wanted to kill everybody, and salivated over the opportunity, but no, he really wants to fall in love with old Khamenei, take pictures in one of those exquisitely furnished rooms, and sign a document.
That really is Trump's pattern of behavior, isn't it?

Yet I can't quite see Khamenei as the guy Trump wants to negotiate with. Khamenei is old. He's not really the public face of Iran. The original scary mullah from back in the '70s -- Khomeini -- would have been a different story. He was a household name in America. He was once Time's Man of the Year. But even he ruled at some remove from the public.

You know which Iranian leader Trump would have been itching to hang out with? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was a nasty hard-liner and a public provocateur. He was just the kind of pro-wrestling villain Trump understands -- and admires. Trump would have threatened him with death and then fallen head over heels in love with him. Ahmadinejad would have wrapped Trump around his finger, and Trump would have bragged about the relationship.

I never thought I'd miss that SOB, but there's no way Trump would have gone to war with him. The mancrush would have been too powerful.

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