Did Somebody Blink?

I missed the Creature’s speech today, which is just as well. I might have been compelled to heave large objects at the teevee set. I’m going mostly by Paul Waldman’s five takeaways. The first takeway is:

Trump’s Iran policy has been a catastrophic failure. “The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer,” Trump said. But that in itself is an acknowledgment of his own failure.

When the president came into office, we had a painstakingly negotiated agreement that by the consensus of the entire international community was successfully restraining Iran’s nuclear program. Trump not only abandoned that deal, he instituted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, arguing that if we crippled their economy, they’d become less aggressive in the region and crawl back to the negotiating table, whereupon they’d give us whatever concessions we asked for.

The very fact that we’re in the position we are now demonstrates that this policy has failed.

See also Trump’s deepening Iran morass all started with one big lie, which was “The idea that the Iran nuclear agreement constituted a wretched display of elite failure and American weakness, and that Trump has replaced it with an approach that’s ‘strong.'”

Iran may have given Trump that off-ramp by launching a strike that apparently didn’t kill Americans. If he de-escalates — perhaps by declaring that Iran blinked in the face of his show of strength — that will be great, as far as it goes.

But the larger point here remains this: None of this has to be happening at all.

In brief, the more Trump cancels the diplomatic work of earlier administrations and substitutes his own juvenile notions of “policy,” the messier everything gets.

The second takeway is “Trump desperately wanted to find a way to declare victory and back off.”  Nancy LeTourneau writes that the Trumpers seem to believe that Iran blinked and will stand down. As far as we’re being told so far, no U.S. servicepeople died in yesterday’s missile attack. So the Trumpers think they’re ahead.

The problem is that when your only tool is bullying through threats and violence, all that matters is the body count. Under that scenario, the U.S. wins by taking out a major military figure, while the strikes from Iran produced no casualties.

But if we step back from the body count, we can examine what else Iran achieved from this exchange. Perhaps the most important is that it will probably lead to U.S. forces leaving Iraq.

The Pentagon is denying the letter that offered to prepare to leave. But if Iraq continues to insist we leave, at some point staying will be untenable.

It’s also possible Trump isn’t the one making the decisions. My smart Facebook friend Jeffrey put forward a theory I haven’t seen elsewhere, but which I think is plausible:

In support of that theory, note that Trump had an off-the-official-schedule Oval Office meeting with a Saudi envoy from Mohammed bin Salman on Monday. We only know about it because the Saudis published photographs of the meeting.

Photos of the meeting, which included several senior White House advisers, were tweeted out Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, indicating he delivered a message to Trump from his brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Independent (UK) reported,

Iraq’s prime minister revealed that he was due to be meeting the Iranian commander to discuss moves being made to ease the confrontation between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia – the crux of so much of strife in the Middle East and beyond.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi was quite clear: “I was supposed to meet him in the morning the day he was killed, he came to deliver a message from Iran in response to the message we had delivered from the Saudis to Iran.”

The prime minister also disclosed that Donald Trump had called him to ask him to mediate following the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad. According to Iraqi officials contact was made with a number of militias as well as figures in Tehran. The siege of the embassy was lifted and the US president personally thanked Abdul-Mahdi for his help.

There was nothing to suggest to the Iraqis that it was unsafe for Soleimani to travel to Baghdad – quite the contrary. This suggests that Trump helped lure the Iranian commander to a place where he could be killed.

I am not claiming this adds up to anything, but it might. Along with the obvious value of a military operation to distract the nation from impeachment, it is possible Trump is taking direction from the Saudis, who are trying to manipulate the situation to suit themselves. And it may be that the Saudis don’t want an escalation, in which case Trump will stand down.

Members of the House were briefed today on the “intelligence” that persuaded them that General Soleimani was behind an imminent attack that could be stopped by killing him. Dems walked away unconvinced. The word “sophomoric” was used. Charles Pierce: “The Secretary of State’s version of ‘imminent’ is ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere.'” So unless we hear more I think it’s safe to assume the “imminent threat” was pure bullshit.

The other takeaways are that Trump is still obsessed with Barack Obama and cannot pass up an opportunity to blame his own failures on President Obama, no matter how absurd that is.

“Trump is comically insecure about his manhood.” Yeah, obviously.

And “Trump still has no idea what he wants to accomplish with regard to Iran or how to do it.” Again, obvious. He wants to “win”; he wants to be feared and respected. He wants to be seen as getting the upper hand in all situations. But he has no idea what that means or how to accomplish that in the world of politics, and his flailing attempts just make him look more pathetic.

And if Iraq forces our military to leave, it would be the ultimate humiliation for Trump. I don’t see him blustering his way out of that one.

9 thoughts on “Did Somebody Blink?

  1. IF (that's a big 2-letter word) if Trump intended to 'distract' from the impeachment and if (that word again) Iraq has made their response, I have news. The impeachment is still on and the distraction is over. Iran may be savvy enough to know that if they play their strong suit, international terrorism against civilians, that strengthens Trump's hand and increases the odds of  Trump's re-election.

    Here's the rub. If Trump needs a limited conflict (war without an invasion) to create an issue that the Democrats will take the opposite position of, Trump has to provoke Iraq some more to produce Radical Islamic Terrorism against the only target in easy reach for Iraq – US civilians around the world. 

  2. If US troops leave Iraq, on their insistence, then Trump will say that he kept his promise to end the Iraq forever-war. He won't add: by losing. That's what he's good at.

    • Perversely, this – declaring "Victory and going home" –  is where Trump's "strong" suit (loud BS) is perfectly appropriate.  I would be very happy if Trump pulls US troops out of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, or anywhere else (but don't worry, I'll never vote for him, gecchh!).

      But there's a political problem with this.  If Obama had tried that, the GOP would have howled about weakness, firing up all their WWE fans.  They (GOP) have used this trick since before I was born, and Democrats still haven't found a good way to deal with it.  Their responses have wavered between stupid aggression (Vietnam) and apologetic paralysis (Obama).

      The vote on the Invasion of Iraq is a great example: most Democratic Senators who were planning on running for President (HRC, Kerry, Biden, etc) voted FOR the worst immoral blunder in our country's history.  They were afraid of being branded as "weak"; but what greater weakness is there than letting fear rule one's choices?

      So, too many Democrats are now responding weakly to Trump's crazy actions, challenging details but not the basics.  They start by saying that Soleimani was a Bad Man, and then just complain that Trump didn't consult with them before killing him.

      The basic problem is that our country has devolved into a Rogue State, invading & occupying other countries, overthrowing governments who don't tow our line, and killing people all over the world.  Facing – and fixing – this is the only way Democrats can prove they're not "weak".

  3. I think your man Jeffrey is right. It makes the most sense – that Trump, who ingratiates himself with any strongman is doing MBS' bidding. "Now about that hotel in Riyadh…"

  4. According to the Daily Beast and other reporting, Trump's attack was based on information presented by "top national security and military advisers on gaming out options for an aggressive action that could quickly materialize."


    In other, possibly less reliable, reports the advisers presented killing Soleimani as an option they didn't expect Trump to choose. There are still people around him who can't fathom how abnormal the man's psychology really is.

    During his speech of falsehoods, Trump looked like a deer in headlights, maybe for the first time. His lies about Obama and the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as being obvious, had a ring of desperation. They were clearly meant for his cult. However, he might have realized how big he nearly blew it. Ending the wars his "stupid" predecessors in the White House and military became entangled in, while acting tough and causing a distraction, is a trickier business than he imagined.

    The apparent outcomes so far are that Iran will have even more influence over Iraq and will restart it's nuclear aims. The militias once controlled by Soleimani will continue under replacements. There's no reason to think Trump will stop making impulsive choices.

  5.  Ok, so now that Iran "reciprocated" after tRUMP's stupid attack, it can let its militias pick-off targets: from individuals, to groups, to…  whatever they want.

    Will tRUMP re-reciprocate?

    FSM knows, the Mendacious Malignant Malicious Moribund (hopefully) Mango is liable to do anything!  


  6. Don't forget the retired generals that were all in to sell saudi arabia nuclear technology.  

    If iran gets nukes, the sellers have anot excuse to sell and get approval for the transfer of technology. 

    Some others really want an Iranian war. Bolton giuliani  both on payroll of the Mujaheddin El Kalq.  Lord knows pompeo's angle. But  military industrial complex likes to make money. Republicans like wars for reelection.

    Lots people just love war and profit.

    • MEK are pawns, not playas.  Funded by CIA, Mossad & KSA, maybe some sincere donations from Iranian expats.  Bolton & Giuliani are on the GOP & AIPAC gravy trains.  When Democrats win the White House, Bolton slides back to comfy right-wing think-tanks, Giuliani goes to "prestigious" law firms with similar connections.

      This is a big piece of the larger long-term problem: the US hard Right and the Israel Lobby have spent lotsa money across decades, building an infrastructure of think-tanks, propaganda organs, etc, which support their political projects and groom people for government positions.  (ie, Federalist Society produces GOP Judges).

  7. You know Trump doesn’t do anything unless he can see some benefit in it for himself.  So really, what did he get out of this?  It didn’t stop the impeachment train.  McConnell was unable to say, he’s a president at war and shouldn’t be impeached.  He didn’t get the wartime president bump in approval.   Its becoming clear to an extent that even the most brain dead of his die hard supporters can’t avoid the realization there was no imminent threat.  He hasn’t changed public opinion against the democrats, the insanity of people like Doug Williams saying democrats “mourn” Suleimani notwithstanding.  There is no discernable gain for the US in the region in terms of influence and now Iran is free to develop nuclear weapons.  Worst of all, imagine reservations at Trump properties around the world are taking a hit too, since these places are likely targets, if not of Iran but proxies and sympathizers.  And if “the world is a safer place” now, why are we telling Americans in the middle east to leave and those abroad elsewhere to be watchful? 

    This was lose-lose all around, and I believe this is why Trump is on a tear blaming Obama for everything he can think of as the only salve to his fragile ego, knowing that HE is the loser here.  He knows he screwed up, bigly.

    This came about because, instead of acting as “the most powerful man in the world,” Trump was the world’s biggest chump, an abject fool in the hands of Putin, MBS, Netanyahu and maybe even the Iranians, who now have an acceptable excuse for developing nuclear weapons for defensive purposes.  The biggest winner in the region?  ISIS.

    If I were the democrats, I wouldn’t waste time in the War Powers Act and dutifully repeating the requisite Suleimani was a “bad man.” I’d be talking loud and long about what a loser this president is.


Comments are closed.