I had planned today to write a tribute to Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, my favorite political figure on the current global stage, but fresh, somewhat more timely information has come to my attention. So Mr. Nasrallah, I’ve got your back on Monday.
The timelier information, which comes from sources who asked to speak off the record for obvious reasons, is that the Trump administration is not going to start a war with Iran. Obviously, by war I mean a ground invasion or major bombing strikes, as many in the media and political establishment are speculating on and feverishly promoting.
It’s apparent that the administration is seeking to overthrow the Iranian government — for example by imposing sanctions on senior government officials, seizing state assets and no doubt a host of covert measures — but that is a far cry from flat out war. And war with Iran would be a complete disaster and serve no one’s interests other than those of neoconservatives and other members of the permanent U.S. foreign policy elite, Israel, Saudi Arabia and senior executives at Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon.
It’s been widely reported in the media that in June Trump came within ten minutes of launching war on Iran. Consider this chilling — and highly inaccurate, as I’ll explain below — excerpt from a recent story:
The planes were ready — their deadly cargo poised for delivery within a half-hour.
President Donald Trump had been given a series of options on Thursday night on how to respond to Iran’s downing of an unmanned American surveillance drone.
Senior military advisers zeroed in on a plan to launch strikes on a trio of sites within Iran, and it was up to Mr Trump to give the final go-ahead. If the planes took off, Mr Trump later recounted to NBC, they would soon be at “a point where you wouldn’t turn back or couldn’t turn back.”
When the military officers came looking for the President’s final go-ahead, Mr Trump said he had one last question. “I want to know something before you go,'” Mr Trump recounted. “How many people will be killed?”
When Trump was told strikes would kill about 150 Iranians — a very loose estimate that came from military officials eager for war — he vetoed the decision, the media has reported, saying that he decided that number was disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone.
Good for Trump. That’s a smart call. But the story is misleading because Trump in fact vetoed the military’s desire to target Iran as soon as the idea was presented to him, not a mere ten minutes before strikes were launched. One source said:
The military and defense establishment presented him with a bullshit set of options and targets and Trump saw that their plan would not obtain any strategic objective. The only thing it would have achieved would be to let the military use a bunch of Raytheon’s expensive toys, which the government would then have to buy more of. The idea never got past the planning level. Trump said no.
This source, who is very well informed, said Trump has effectively taken war with Iran off the table as an option, to the immense frustration of much of the Washington’s trigger-happy, parasitic foreign policy establishment and their media mouthpieces.
As to the five men running the U.S. national security establishment: A particularly well placed source has told me that Trump listens only to five people. Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
OK, that’s not a particularly uplifting list.
Pence scares the Jesus out of me.
I loathe Mnuchin, but he probably has some grip on reality when it comes to war because he’s a Wall Street guy, he’s not part of the military establishment so he believes — and here I am speculating but it stands to reason — “Make Money, Not War,” not “Make War and Money,” which is what you’d get from many generals and all defense industry executives.
I don’t know much about Mulvaney but he’s a right-wing hack and number cruncher, which is bad, but not as bad as a general or a defense executive or quite arguably, say, Democratic Superstar Madeleine Albright, may she forever rot in hell.
Pompeo, Trump’s closest advisor and the man he talks to more than anyone, also scares the Jesus out of me. But hey, let’s look on the bright side. He’s scary but smart and not a complete ideologue like deranged National Security Advisor John Bolton, an unhinged lunatic barely “clinging to the cliff-edge of reality,” to cite Alexander Cockburn’s description of a senior Reagan administration official whose name eludes me at the moment.
As to the president, I’m no fan, especially on his policy of herding immigrants into concentration camps and funneling money to the 1 percent and beggaring the rest of us. But on the foreign policy front, he has blustered about war with roughly a dozen countries but hasn’t actually started a full scale one (as of this moment, as I am leisurely typing on my keyboard).
Personally, I don’t think businessman Trump wants war with Iran and he’s certainly less keen on war as a general proposition than virtually all of the Democrats running for their party’s nomination. He’s winding down the catastrophic, bipartisan Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and he has been openly skeptical of the national security state, privately saying that Dwight Eisenhower was correct in describing it as a “military-industrial complex.”
And things get better from here. Just look at who’s not on that list of five. Exhibit A: the Strangelovian mental case John Bolton, whose days in the administration appear — and take a moment now to pray — to be numbered. The top two contenders to replace him are retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor and Steve Biegun, the Trump administration’s North Korea negotiator. Either of these men would be a huge improvement over Bolton.
This may not be the most inspiring scenario, but you can rest assured that war with Iran will not erupt this weekend, when many of us will be trapped inside because climate change has rendered large swathes of the planet unpleasantly sizzling during the month of August.
*To be more precise, war with Iran probably won’t happen. If it does, I will update this story unless the conflict brings about the apocalypse, in which case why bother?