One of the many damages Donald Trump inflicts on the country is the inability to focus on events elsewhere in the world. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo uses Trump’s distractions to move closer to war with Iran.
Pompeo’s diplomacy begins by presenting a list of impossible demands to establish leverage for his next moves. In the case of arms control, the next move has been to pick up his marbles and go home. The US believes that Russia has been violating treaties. Instead of using the treaties’ mechanisms to bring Russia back into compliance, the US representative insisted that Russia publicly admit to its violations. When it didn’t, the US withdrew from the intermediate-range missile treaty and shot off a missile that would have violated the treaty. They are using the same strategy now to allow the New START Treaty, the last of the big arms control treaties, to lapse.
In May 2018, Pompeo presented a list of twelve demands to Iran. Iran has ignored those demands, which amount to Iran’s giving up its sovereignty. Pompeo and a number of allies, including Republican legislators, have long wanted a war with Iran. In addition to the twelve demands, they pressed Trump to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the carefully negotiated agreement that contains Iran’s nuclear program. Explicitly in response to that withdrawal, Iran has taken a number of steps in violation of the JCPOA which can be reversed if the United States returns to compliance.
Pompeo has used those Iranian violations an excuse to argue to the United Nations that “snapback sanctions,” a part of the JCPOA, should be imposed on Iran. The other members of the agreement correctly rejected this proposal by a non-party to the agreement.
Earlier this year in Iraq, the United States assassinated Qasim Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force. In response, Iranian militias in Iraq have targeted Americans. I have not kept up fully with the back and forth except to note the absurdity of the phrase “restoring deterrence,” which is what Pompeo says he would like to do. Deterrence is a state in which action is not taken because of fear of retribution. Clearly the Iranian militias lack that fear. A reciprocal attack is probably within their calculations; “restoring deterrence” would require more and is a recipe for escalation.
But now Pompeo has found another path the could lead to war. He is pressuring the Iraqi government to get the Iranian militias under control. Yes, that is Iraq with a “q”. He says that the US will withdraw its embassy from Baghdad, possibly to Erbil in northern Iraq. Some American troops were recently withdrawn. A complete American withdrawal from Iraq would be a major victory for Iran.
After the 2003 US war against Iraq, the government crumbled, and it’s been difficult to build it back. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of Iran – Iraq and Iran fought a war through most of the 1980s. Removing the government of Iraq disrupted that power balance and allowed Iran to infiltrate its sympathizers into the new Iraq government.
Withdrawing the American embassy from Baghdad would not be a total withdrawal from Iraq, but it would make interactions with the Iraqi government more difficult. It would be a vote of no confidence in that government, weakening it among the Iraqi people. The Trump government has declared it will nearly halve its troops in Iraq to 3000 by the end of October.
Iran would flow into this vacuum. It’s possible that Pompeo’s threat is empty and he will not carry through, but empty threats indicate weakness and invite intervention. Iran has declared its desire to remove the United States from the region, and Pompeo may do that for them.
Today additional sanctions go into effect on Iran, in defiance of European allies protests. These sanctions are likely to limit Iran’s access to medical supplies, and other necessities to deal with the pandemic. Previous US sanctions on Iran have devastated its, but Iran has not budged on American demands.
Also today, Trump threatened Iran with nuclear war once again.
Iran responded to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in measured and reversible fashion, giving little basis for war. Now that it looks like the Trump administration will be voted out of office in November, Pompeo is stepping up the actions he hopes will provoke Iran into a move that can be responded to with war.
A cause for Pompeo’s longed-for war is unlikely to show up in the next month. If Trump wins, Pompeo can continue his destruction and perhaps get that war in another year or two. If Joe Biden wins, he will attempt to mend the damage and bring the United States back into the JCPOA.
A lot of what Pompeo is doing may be to salt the earth in anticipation of Biden.
Yup another winning closing argument from trump
“If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before.” — the President of the United States
Since trump is hosting hundreds of people at the WH tomorrow, maybe he’ll flip out and they will have to take him away in a straitjacket.
Gonna need a bigger bingo card.
Pompeo’s also an ardent evangelical Zionist who thinks the Book of Revelation is a policy blueprint for the Middle East. That not…good.
@Baud: That’s likely part of his thinking. But the other JCPOA parties are holding together, and Iran has been quite moderate in its responses.
Biden wants to get back to the JCPOA. The other parties may insist on some conditions, but it looks like it can be done.
@JPL: This is not the first time Trump has openly threatened nuclear war.
The official position of the United States is that it will not attack a non-nuclear nation with nuclear weapons. Trump doesn’t know that and doesn’t care.
Trying to bait Biden into the kind of “wait till I get in” message with Iran that GOP elects have been known to use? Because I’m sure that even well-intentioned State employees can’t actually move an embassy in a couple of months. And a hare-brained scheme like this could poison intentions in odd places.
@jonas: That’s something that bothers me a lot.
We have to find a way to reconcile freedom of religion with protecting us from dangerously extreme ideas dressed up as religion. That’s not going to be easy, but we have all sorts of indications it’s worth doing.
One thing I’ve honestly been (pleasantly) surprised by is that Donnie hasn’t started an actual war (as opposed to proxy-type stuff) with Iran yet.
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/james-mattis-iran-secretary-of-defense-214500 (from 2016):
Mattis was Donnie’s first SecDef.
Fortunately, he, and Bibi, haven’t gotten their wish. Yet…
We have to vote the monsters out!!
Adam L Silverman
I’ll just leave this here.
Also, that’s a bespoke map I did just for that article.
@Another Scott: Assuming that holds, it’s the one nice surprise of the last four years.
Here’s Biden’s Iran policy.
Adam L Silverman
@Another Scott: And Mattis also, to his credit, was one of the people pushing on the President to stay in the JCPOA and not to get into a war with Iran. Which pissed the President off no end, as well as Pompeo and gave Pompeo an opportunity to undermine Mattis with the President. Doesn’t make him a saint. Doesn’t make him perfect. But he was able to rise above his priors on this issue.
@JPL: Does he know that the US has already nuked another country? Do we think he means MORE nukes or what
Why does Mattis hate Iran so much ?
Adam L Silverman
@ed_finnerty: The Iranian backed attacks on the Marines in Lebanon in the early 1980s. For Marines of Mattis’s generation it was a seminal and formative event.
Strangely enough, I think that Trump will restrain any hawks hot for war. Trump talks tough, but he is afraid of looking bad, and it looks bad when too many soldiers die and leave grieving and angry survivors. Also, Trump hates looking like a loser and a quick victory is not guaranteed.
It’s really not hard to reconcile. The Constitution gives us the roadmap. What religious fundamentalists (and I’m related to a bunch) actually want is to project their specific religious beliefs into the public sphere as policy. Upholding the bright line between church and state solves most of these issues. What they want to do is erode that line. They are losing on the domestic front with rulings like gay marriage. And long-term they will also lose on abortion but it may be bumpy getting there. I expect they will also lose on foreign policy as well
Actual war requires extensive planning and logistics. Something they aren’t doing or have the capacity to do. And certainly not within this timeline. What they can do is blow up shit with drones and air strikes. Which wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to do another Soleimani type airstrike against an Iranian target in late October as part of a flop-sweat effort to change the subject. Maybe against an Iranian reactor or something. Who knows.
Obviously the Iranians and Europeans are going to wait out the election before doing anything. It’s only what…25 days away?
Adam and Cheryl: Have you seen this whackaloon story, reported by the WaPost today?
Former Special Forces sought by business group to guard polling sites in Minnesota, company says
This was alarming news to Minnesota authorities, who first learned of this through the Post reporter, and who say they need no nonsense of that kind; they have police who can deal with polling site protection. Note that the concerned businesspeople pantswetters are anonymous, and employed an intermediate and also anonymous company to contract with Atlas Aegis. Antifa!
These people lead a rich fantasy life. They cannot distinguish between riots/protests sparked by the murder of yet another unarmed black man, and Minnesotans voting in a presidential election. (MN is already early voting.)
And the idea that antifascists … exist to prevent people from voting? Projection much, pantswetters?
Sound like grift to you two?
West of the Rockies
I loathe Piggy Pompeo. He is so arrogant and dishonest. I hope his career goes down the drain once we disinfect the White House.
@Cheryl Rofer: And this time Congress has to endorse it.
@Adam L Silverman: as an Irishman I feel the same way about the Battle of the Boyne.
@Another Scott: So he was okay with Jared’s relationship with Saudi, even though they funded terrorists who killed thousands on our soil on 9/11?
@West of the Rockies: Several connected with West Point are probably deeply embarrassed that horrible Pompeo was first in his class. So much for ethics training. (Although with him, it was in one ear — for the test, out the other.)
@Elizabelle: @Adam L Silverman:
Thanks, Elizabelle. This caught my worried eye earlier as well. Is there a relationship between Atlas Aegis and the former Blackwater?
If you’re wondering why war against Iran would be a worse idea than the 2003 war against Iraq, Adam’s link at #11 will answer your questions.
@Adam L Silverman: So what is stopping him now from making a statement on trump’s incompetence?
@Kent: All we have to do to avoid infusing religion into foreign policy is not elect fanatics and ignoramuses to office. Hopefully that will improve this election cycle.
Wasn’t Trump badmouthing Pompeo just the other day?
Any pro-war faction would have to convince Trump that Iran either would not or could not respond. I am not sure that Trump is that stupid.
@Elizabelle: State laws on protecting polling areas vary a lot. I don’t know Minnesota’s, but I’ve been a poll worker in New Mexico. Our election laws set a high standard, but I would expect Minnesota’s to be similar.
Hopefully, Minnesota state officials are talking to these people now to head off problems on November 3.
@Benw: Does he know are words that should not be associated with trump.
@topclimber: Congress endorsed the JCPOA.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
@Brachiator: Trump hates anything that distracts from him. War happens and all eyes go to the generals. Remember that’s why Trump called off that strike last year.
A Ghost to Most
So, Fox is giving shitgibbon a medical exam LIVE tonight. I’m hoping they do a colonoscopy. Perhaps they can rescue the cast of Fox & Fiends.
Mike in NC
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has said that war with Iran would be a cakewalk and we’ll be greeted as liberators. It’s on his ‘to do’ list while pursuing the GOP nomination in 2024.
I no longer subscribe, but The Atlantic did extensive articles 6-8 years ago about the Pentagon’s approach to going to war with China and Iran (not simultaneously, mind you).
The Republican party needs to be nuked in every election until they finally give up these fantasies.
@A Ghost to Most: It didn’t say live so probably a tape. It’s better that way, because you can edit it.
A Ghost to Most
If you want freedom of religion, you need to enforce freedom from religion. Good luck with that; I’ve been waiting 50 years.
Mike in NC
@A Ghost to Most: The colonoscopy will definitely locate Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz.
The Boyne? Strongbow invaded Ireland in CE 1170 fer fook’s sake.
This places you Irish at the top of the European medal podium for Longest Running International Grudge.
Greece takes silver, having never forgiven the Fourth Crusade for hanging a hard left turn on the way to the Holy Land and instead sacking Constantinople (placing a Western puppet on the throne) in CE 1204. (Not that they necessarily should.)
And the Serbs can only manage the bronze for their hatred of all things Muslim since Prince Lazar and the Serbian host fell to the Ottoman Sultan Murad on the Field of Blackbirds (Kosovo Polje) on Vidovdan (28 June) CE 1389. (Lazar died in the battle, as did Murad at the hands of a Serb noble.)
Trivia time: Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on the 525th anniversary of Kosovo Polje. Ferdy was warned not to attend the maneuvers near Sarajevo on that day, as it is a sacred day to the Serbs, who were seething over the Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1908, and trouble was likely. One likely reason he ignored the warnings was that June 28 was also his wedding anniversary, and his much-beloved wife Sophie (nee Chotinek), who was routinely and continually snubbed by Franz Josef’s court because she wasn’t supernoblish enough, would be treated like royalty (the wife of an Archduke and Heir to the Throne) by the Bosnians, and he wanted her to enjoy that. Didn’t work out quite as planned….
Is it 25 days? Feels like 25 years…..
On a positive note, ActBlue is up to 7 billion, 88 million now.
@Elizabelle: Reading the article now –
So the Minnesota laws are a lot like New Mexico’s. And probably their election judges (or whatever their title) are too.
Gin & Tonic
@Cheryl Rofer: I’ve never understood why it takes 67 votes in the Senate to enter into a treaty but only one vote in the WH to exit one.
A Ghost to Most
@Gin & Tonic: Nor have I
Starting a war with Iran is one of the final ploys available to Trump to create a huge distraction from his assorted COVID disasters at home. He is crazy, desperate, and sociopathic enough to take that gamble, with the chance to somehow stave off electoral defeat as the only thing that truly matters in his thinking.
@debbie: Not only was Trump badmouthing Pompeo the other day, he was badmouthing him on this exact subject. What a coincidence that Trump is asking why Pompeo never found Hillary’s emails and then like magic the next day he claims to have found them!
Trump is, however “that” desperate that he may be willing to take a huge gamble on a game-changing distraction that he would have been unwilling to risk a year ago, for the reasons you described in your posts above.
Bloomberg competing headlines: GOP in disarray!
I believe that Pompeo missed the Persian Gulf War and that could affect his self-image vis a vis West Point classmates who did go.
@cmorenc: watch out Grenada!
@Adam L Silverman: Also, the Iranians supported anti-U.S. Shiite militias 2004-2009, and furnished the machined copper slugs that formed part of the very deadly IEDs that penetrated armored vehicles and killed and maimed marines and soldiers under Mattis’s CentCom command. It would not have have been unreasonable if President Obama had authorized the retaliation Mattis wanted, but Obama wanted to push the JCPOA through, as the greater strategic good, and he was right.
@cmorenc: I would say that one thing GWBush got right was that you had to have an advertising runup for a war, and start it after labor day.
That has not happened.
What is the actual status of the JCPOA? My understanding is that it still exists on paper and the US is still a signatory but that we just aren’t honoring it or following it.
Could a Biden administration reverse that by simply announcing a new policy of honoring the JCPOA? Or do they need to re-negotiate a whole new treaty and run it back through the Senate because the old one is torn up?
@Adam L Silverman: Wasn’t Reagan President when the bombing occurred?
They also spent months doing massive logistical mobilization and deployments of troops and equipment to Turkey and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and I don’t know where all else. AS well as mobilizing lots of allies.
Far as I know, none of that is happening vis a vis Iran.
The JCPOA is still in force through its other signatories – the UK, France, Germany, the EU, Russia, China, and, of course, Iran. The US is out.
It’s not entirely clear what a Biden administration would have to do to get back into the JCPOA. It would be more than a simple declaration. And it’s not a treaty. Treaties require a vote of two-thirds of the Senate to ratify, and Republicans don’t ratify no stinking treaties. There was a bit of legerdemain to get Congressional approval.
What the Biden administration will do is to start talks with the JCPOA parties to determine the best way forward.
@Geminid: The Iran nuclear deal that trump renounced was roundly criticized by opponents because it it did not restrain the Iranian regime in other malign endeavors. But the central point of it was that, yes, the Iranians will be assholes, but they’ll be assholes without nuclear weapons. And I think the other entities- China, Russia, and the EU- really meant that. I believe that no matter what they say, all the nations in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, will be relieved if a new American president reinstates our participation
Thanks. Sometimes I think I’m really losing my mind.
Adam L Silverman
@laura: Yes. And he promptly doubled down, got US personnel bombed a second time with additional casualties and KIAs, and then he cut and run!
Any pro-war faction would have to convince Trump that Iran either would not or could not respond. I am not sure that Trump is that stupid.
Trump likes to brag about “my generals” and talk about how the troops love him, but he does not have an appetite for war, the way some conservatives do, and he does not respect the military and what it is traditionally used for. Trump likes to talk about building up the army and having overwhelming superiority over any potential enemy, but he still sees war and a soldier’s sacrifice as pointless. There ain’t no profit in it.
Bolton and other neo-cons and hawks thought that they could easily push Trump into starting a war and none of them could.
And based on Trump’s incoherent response to the pandemic, I am not even sure that Trump would unleash the military if the country were attacked. He loves beating up the weak and helpless, but he pulls back if the odds are not overwhelmingly in his favor.
Also, unlike standard-issue politicians, Trump doesn’t really depend on distractions. He’s not really smart enough or patient enough to nurture and pull off a distraction.
And lastly, I think even some Americans underestimate the risks attached to attacking Iran and de-stabilizing the Middle East.
Warning – Politico – https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/09/white-house-appointees-resignations-428412
“But I never thought I would be thrown to the wolves by the head of the Throw Everyone Else To The Wolves administration…”
Pompeo and the US are operating from a point of weakness. tRump has so diminished our reputation internationally and tRump is someone that cannot be trusted he is spitting in the wind.
@Cheryl Rofer: Late to respond, but I think we may have a semantic difference here. I thought that Congress never voted either to approve nor reject the JCPOA (HR1191 battle).
“Congress did not pass any legislation that approved of or rejected the deal, despite many attempts to do so.”
Your are right, I suppose, that in a sense Congress approved of the deal by not outright rejecting it, but really? If Biden resurrects it and cannot have it ratified as a treaty (most likely) then we at least need Congress to back his EO on a majority basis, if only to give Iran and our allies a firmer belief we will honor it.
They are not slugs, they are simple parabolic shapes.
And if you made a metal ashtray in Middle School Shop Class, you too can make an EFP.
Keep in mind that Iraq has “bazaars” where you can buy an entirely hand made AK-47, ( quality varies by craftsman).
For them, an EFP would be childs play.
An explosively formed penetrator (EFP), also known as an explosively formed projectile, a self-forging warhead, or a self-forging fragment, is a special type of shaped charge designed to penetrate armor effectively. As the name suggests, the effect of the explosive charge is to deform a metal plate into a slug or rod shape and accelerate it toward a target. They were first developed as oil well perforators by American oil companies in the 1930s, and were deployed as weapons in World War II.
The Trump administration has transparently been following the same strategy with respect to China throughout 2020, salting the earth of the relationship so that the two countries are placed irrevocably on a trajectory toward Cold War 2.0 by the time of the election, before a Biden administration can be sworn in. It just happened to dovetail with needed distraction from the COVID-19 calamity in the US, and the Republican re-election strategy.
Hopefully, their calculus prove overly ambitious, and the Biden administration reintroduces sanity, stability and consistency to the relationship. Great power competition between the incumbent and the resurgent powers is inevitable, and even hard nosed competitions is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it does not need to devolve into a destructive Cold War, and clearly few other nations in the world are up for the repeat performance, though the Five Eyes nations and a few others seem to be dragged for the ride, unable to chart an independent course between succumbing to Chinese carrot/sticks and sleeping walking with Trump administration’s wild belligerence.
@topclimber: Ah, okay. I forget these ornate schemes easily.
The way it was set up was that Congress would have to pass a measure to disapprove, and if it didn’t, the JCPOA was approved.
Trump has been trashing fully ratified treaties like the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, so nothing Congress does at this time can add credibility to an agreement. What will do that will be the electoral crushing of the Republican Party and the development of a conservative party that is willing to stick with the Constitution. And that may take time.