Dodging Another Bullet

The crisis at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad appears to be cooling off.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella organization of several Shiite militias, ordered protesters to leave the embassy “out of respect” for the Iraqi government’s directions Tuesday, according to the newspaper.

Several hundred rejected the order initially until a Kataib Hezbollah official declared victory and told them to depart from the area.

This is good, because the last thing we need is a genuine international crisis while The Cretin is in charge of foreign policy. The embassy has suspended operations, however, so things are still not normal.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong “Rocket Man” Un appears to have given up pretending to be charmed by Trump

North Korea is planning to adopt a hard-line policy toward the United States that involves taking denuclearization off the table amid perceptions that President Donald Trump is vulnerable politically, a source familiar with the North Korean leadership’s current mindset told CNN.

The source said this new policy is likely the so-called “Christmas gift” floated by a top North Korean official earlier this month. It is expected to include abandoning negotiations with Washington and consolidating Pyongyang’s status as a nuclear weapons state.

Pyongyang will also no longer pursue sanctions relief as a means of achieving economic development either in the short-term or long-term, but will instead increase its commitment to the state’s ideology of self-reliance, known as Juche.

David Sanger writes at The New York Times,

The protests in Iraq calmed on Wednesday, at least for now, and Mr. Kim has not yet lit off his latest “strategic weapon.” But the events of recent days have underscored how much bluster was behind Mr. Trump’s boast a year ago that Iran was “a very different nation” since he had broken its economy. They also belied his famous tweet: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Today the most generous thing one could say about those statements is that they were wildly premature. Many foreign policy experts say he fundamentally misjudged the reactions of two major American adversaries. And neither seems to fear him, precisely the critique he leveled at Barack Obama back in the days when Mr. Trump declared America’s toughest national security challenges could be solved as soon as a president the world respected was in office.

As in all things, Trump came into office — and retains — childishly cartoonish beliefs about foreign policy.

Going back to Iraq — I was alarmed when I heard about the military strikes in Iraq and Syria in retaliation of the death of an American contractor. I feel bad about the contractor, but at this point we should have learned that retarliation just encourages more violence.

Max Boot — and I can’t believe I’m quoting Max Boot — wrote,

The only effective U.S. response to the Iranian threat since Reagan’s tanker war was President Barack Obama’s decision to conclude a deal with Iran in 2015 that would freeze its nuclear program. The deal did nothing to curb Iran’s regional power play and may have even fueled it by lifting economic sanctions — which is why I and others opposed it at the time. But it did at least stop Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. President Trump blundered by exiting the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposing economic sanctions on Iran in 2019, even though it was complying with the agreement.

Nice of you to almost admit you were wrong about the treaty, Max Boot.

Pushed into a corner, Iran and its proxies have lashed out by allegedly attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, shooting down a U.S. drone, hitting a major Saudi oil facility with cruise missiles — and now rocketing a compound near Kirkuk, Iraq. The latter attack, which killed an American contractor and injured four U.S. troops on Friday, led Trump to retaliate with airstrikes across Iraq and Syria that killed 25 members of Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia blamed for the rocket attack, and sparked anti-American outrage. The embassy invasion on Tuesday was Iran’s riposte to make clear that it will not bow to American pressure. Your move, Mr. Trump.

Let’s hope Trump goes back to tweeting about Nancy Pelosi. Anything he might do will be wrong.

But Trump shows little interest in either seriously negotiating or fighting. He has waged economic warfare on Iran while doing nothing to curb its regional aggression; indeed, by withdrawing U.S. troops from part of northern Syria, he has allowed an extension of Iranian influence. So we are left with the worst of all possible worlds: Iran is once again waging a low-intensity conflict, and America once again has no effective response.

Some guy at CNN wrote,

Like a modern-day Gulliver, President Trump is metaphorically wandering around a Middle East where he’d rather not be, tied up both by smaller powers whose interests are not his own — and by America’s illusions about the region, perpetuated by Trump who somehow believes he can force Iran to bend to his will. The odds are that the situation for the US in Iraq and Iran is likely to get worse before it gets still worse.

See also At U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Trump’s Middle East Rhetoric Meets Reality.