How do you make sense of Trump’s latest move to up the stakes in Iran? The constant messages that he does not want war, when in fact, it looks as though his confused, erratic, and illogical move to militarize the zone points to only one thing: Trump does not want to be seen to be the one who starts a war with Iran and its proxies, but will be more than delighted to be the US president who retaliates against Iran, given the moment.
And just in case Iran doesn’t oblige with that agenda, there are plenty of allies in the region who are all too ready to fake an attack, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or Israel, which are the three main countries that would benefit the most from a US attack on Iran.
What is confusing to many analysts is the over-simplified notion that he doesn’t want war, but is being led into it by his two blood-thirsty lieutenants—Pompeo and Bolton.
And make no mistake, the ramifications of an all-out war could be catastrophic for the US economy and indeed the MENA region.
In reality, Trump is doing everything to provoke Iran to take a shot at US allies in the region, which will be all that the high-testosterone, low-self esteem “B team” (Trump’s hawkish advisors recently mocked by Iran’s foreign minister in a tweet) will need to strike Iran.
But so much of the rationale hardly makes sense. Or at least it only makes sense to Washington hawks who refuse to see the Middle East for what it is: a very nuanced arena, full of conflicting political players, which even the Arabs themselves don’t always understand. In context, it is hard to see how Iran is posing a genuine threat to the US or its allies—although there certainly doesn’t seem to be a shortage of allies in the region who will stage attacks against themselves, such as the attacks on the Saudi oil tankers off the UAE coast.
It was, after all not so long ago that the Saudis hacked into Qatar’s TV news website and planted fake news, just to justify a blockade which it had been planning for months. How far-fetched would it be for the Saudis to have staged an attack on one of their own vessels?
Yet most US media is unlikely to observe the fact that by leaving the Iran deal and imposing sanctions on Iran in a bid to induce a regime change in Tehran—along with the constant talk almost on a daily basis of striking the country—are becoming the basis for insecurity and therefore a conflict. Nor will they report objectively that the fact that Iran proxies are moving around in the region to prepare for an attack is not an act of aggression by Iran itself.
If you manage to get your head around the Trump logic of “Iran is now a threat and needs to be dealt with because it has given up on parts of the deal about uranium enrichment and heavy water” when, before, under the terms of the deal there was no such threat—i.e., the new “threat” by Iran is entirely manufactured by a crisis cooked up by Trump’s madness, then try and ask yourself what it is exactly that Trump wants. And why has the Iran deal been such an obsession, since the beginning of his presidency?
What is clear is that Trump’s modest successes in Syria and Iraq (I say “modest” because they were set up entirely by Obama) is driving this latest ruse apparently designed to get Iran to bow to US pressure to reduce its weapons program. Trump feels as though US forces in the region are capable of winning battles based on the success of US soldiers in Mosul and Raqqa.
But here is where his logic is askew and where some pundits in the US might pull him up, because, for the first time, the notion that Trump has got all his loyalties mixed up in the Middle East is going to resonate with media. Syria and Iraq are where Trump believes he can play out a proxy war with Iran’s local affiliates without going anywhere near Iran itself, accelerated by driving ISIS out of the huge cities there and pushing its fighters underground.
Well, almost. The truth is that not only was the Mosul and Raqqa campaign really nothing to do with Trump, but a significant percentage of the ISIS terrorists they were fighting were offered “ratlines” to leave the sinking ship and fight another day—for Uncle Sam.
Today in Southern Syria, ISIS has regrouped, and Israel which monitors it each day is happy that the group is there for the day when they can be put to good use, fighting Iran’s proxies. How will US journalists explain how ISIS is fighting Iran’s Hezbollah or the Iranian Guard itself, when those same ISIL terrorists just a few months earlier were supposed to be the enemy?
And if you want a bigger serving of irony, what most US pundits don’t understand is that the real hard core ISIS brigades—the extremists known for their grotesque acts of sharia law and burning victims alive—were mainly defeated a year before Trump took office by Iranian proxies in the region.
Indeed, the adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” will be showcased somewhat as a conflict in Syria and Iraq is going to show the world the true role of Al Qaeda groups, like ISIS, Nusra, and others who will be working under US top brass—just like, funnily enough, Iranian top military strategist Qasem Soleimani was leading the Iraqi Army campaign against ISIL just months before Trump took office and whom the American top brass more or less followed.
The intelligence is being “twisted,” the facts dressed up, and in some cases belligerent lies are being fed to the US media over the so-called Iran “threat.” In truth, Iran is doing what any country would do facing the US threats and an aircraft carrier sailing towards the Persian Gulf. And the US media just keeps on following Trump’s lead rather than taking the initiative themselves to do the due diligence.
We’ve arrived at a new low point with media, which is part of the problem with Trump and media. US journalists are lead around like a bull with a nose ring when it comes to setting the media agenda, a point made recently by the Washington Post editor who was behind the Watergate scandal. Trump’s foreign policy endeavours have all failed. His strategy of dismissing conventional diplomacy and letting experts negotiate for months and years before arriving at a real point of closure were replaced with his own style which is much simpler: create a crisis, then position yourself as the only one able to resolve it and clean up on media attention.
But it hasn’t worked with North Korea, with China, the EU, Venezuela, or others. That unique formula is not paying dividends and doesn’t correspond with the fake narrative put out that Trump is a great negotiator. In reality, he has no business acumen whatsoever and cannot be taken seriously as a champion of the “art of the deal.” Recent reports by the New York Times have proven beyond any doubt that Trump’s legacy as a successful businessman is a sham at best and entirely fabricated at worse.
Trump is all about faking it.
But this strategy is ultimately an erroneous one with the Iranians and the double bluff that “Trump doesn’t really want war” when in reality it is becoming clearer and clearer that he does because it is the only place where he can go in the coming weeks when the fake intelligence and the staged attacks continue and reach the inevitable tipping point.
What the Iranians and even the EU should be doing now is working out if there is any truth at all in the idea that Obama’s deal just needs to be called the “Trump Deal” with a few tweaks. Trump’s original idea, I am told, was to drag out the crisis with Iran right up until his 2020 re-election bid but the drum beats of war are already sounding. Time is not running out for Iran. It is running out for Trump’s bluff which is why I argue that it is not important whether Trump wants war or not. We’re heading there anyway.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Inside Arabia.