In 2011, Donald Trump tweeted the following:
In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2011
Nearly a year later, he followed with:
Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2012
Two weeks later, Trump tweeted:
Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected–be careful Republicans!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
This indicates a lot about how Donald Trump thinks the way presidents win re-election.
Although Trump’s prognostication about Barack Obama starting a war with Iran was incorrect, Trump is planning on doing what he accused Obama of intending now that he is the first impeached president to run for re-election and the tide of public opinion is turning against him.
Trump has been provoking Iran since he first stepped foot in the Oval Office.
But the violence ensuing at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq over American airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), and the Trump administration’s reaction to it, could be the match for which Trump has been searching.
In order the understand what is going on here, we must separate it from the predictable “us versus them,” “Iran versus the West” perspective.
A few years ago it maintained an alliance with American forces in an effort to thwart ISIS’s takeover of Iraq.
The Pentagon blames it for several attacks on U.S. facilities, including one at a base near Kirkuk last Friday that killed an American contractor and wounded four service members, precipitating airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday.
But instead of reaching out to Iraqi prime minister Mahdi for a possible diplomatic response, seeing as Kata’ib Hezbollah is technically part of his military, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly informed him of impending U.S. airstrikes only half an hour before they commenced.
Adil Abdul Mahdi has characterized the offensive as a “treacherous stab in the back.”
In anger, demonstrators descended on the U.S. embassy, smashed their way into several reception rooms, lit fires, battered doors, and hurled bricks at bulletproof glass.
“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
After two days of siege, Kata’ib Hezbollah militiamen have withdrawn from the compound.
Quoting The Guardian:
“The Trump administration’s declared policy has been to treat any attack on US interests by Iranian proxies as an attack by Iran itself…Instead of advancing US goals, the airstrikes appear to be the latest in a series of foreign policy blunders in the Middle East. Iraq’s government furiously condemned them, while pro-Iranian militias promised further attacks against American targets, with the goal of expelling US forces.”
“The United States has only two ways out of this escalating crisis: fight or negotiate. A war with Iran, as I have previously argued, could be the mother of all quagmires; it could easily spin out of control with tit-for-tat responses of the kind we have seen in recent days. Better to negotiate. That would mean trying to rebuild a tougher nuclear deal in return for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. 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.”
Over the next few days, the United States is expected to send 750 troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq.
This is in addition to 14,000 already deployed to the region since May.
In October, despite claiming to want to bring soldiers home, the Trump administration agreed to send nearly 2,000 troops, including two batteries of soldiers, an Army unit manning Patriot air-defense missiles, two squadrons of fighter jets, and 3,000 soldiers to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to thwart threats from Iran.
A U.S. Air Forces Central Command report from September confirms we launched the most Afghanistan airstrikes in over a single month in ten years.
Trump is not the first president to use the military as a re-election strategy gambit.
James Madison became our country’s first wartime president during The War of 1812, setting a precedent where no incumbent president has ever lost re-election during a time of war.
Ronald Reagan tried it back in 1983 with an invasion of the tiny island of Granada.
His successor George H.W. Bush did it with his “100-hour war” with Iraq, known as “Desert Storm” in 1991.
In 1999, then Texas Governor George W. Bush reported to journalist Mickey Herskowitz:
“If I have a chance to invade…if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Then came September 11, 2001, after Bush ignored repeated intelligence warnings Osama bin Laden was intent on attacking the United States.
“Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”
Two years later the United States invaded Iraq, a country that had no hand in the fateful attacks, and posed no existential threat to our nation’s sovereignty.
After being re-elected in 2004, Bush stood before the American people talking about earning some “political capital” he intended to use. That “political capital” was privatization of Social Security and other Republican agenda items.
Tensions between Iran and the United States intensified last month after attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities for which Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels took responsibility.
Tehran denies any involvement.
The Trump administration nevertheless blames Iran.
This is part of a pattern.
In June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pronounced Iran was responsible for the alleged limpet mine attack on two oil tankers earlier that day in the Gulf of Oman, showing grainy video supposedly featuring members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the tanker’s side.
This was the only “evidence” he provided, and he fielded no questions.
This comes conveniently one month after former National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed, again without evidence, Iran launched ballistic missiles at small Iranian sailing vessels, unlikely due to the ships’ sizes and lack of previous ship-based missile tests.
In May, Mother Jones reported:
“Tensions between Iran and the United States have been high for weeks, beginning with a menacing video Bolton released in February targeting the Iranian supreme leader and reached a boil last week when, according to the New York Times, he ordered the Pentagon to prepare to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.”
Pompeo also blamed Iran for an assault in Kabul, Afghanistan, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.
In an MSNBC interview, Former State Department spokesman Marie Harf stated Donald Trump’s rhetoric toward Iran in recent weeks is similar to what the Bush administration told us in the run-up to the Iraq war.
“They’re cherry-picking intelligence, they’re upping what they consider to be the threat. And, look, there is a real threat. I don’t want to downplay that. But what worries me the most is that something like this happens, or the Iranians do something else that is a provocation and we get locked in this cycle of escalation where John Bolton–-don’t forget John Bolton is still there-–Mike Pompeo push President Trump so he feels like he can’t back down and then we’re in this cycle of escalation that, quite frankly, could end very badly. There is no reason to go war with Iran today. We can counter them in many, many other ways. The Trump administration doesn’t seem to have a strategy to do that and that is scary to me.”
But the $65,000 question is, will Trump’s little gambit work?
After all, it worked for the aforementioned commanders-in-chief.
Will we fall for the ruse again?
Have we learned nothing?
Image credit: citizentruth.org