A war with Iran?

During the Trump presidency, the most worrisome thing I’ve pondered has been the possibility that Trump would lead us into a war. Given that he’s an unstable narcissist and, unfortunately, also the Commander in Chief, he could easily ignite a conflagration. Iran is the most likely target, as the country has been responding by seizing ships after Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with the resultant tightening of sanctions on Iran. Now the attack on the Saudi oil refinery, which has seriously crippled their oil production, is being implicitly blamed by the U.S. on Iran, although the Houthi militia in Yemen (backed by Iran) claimed responsibility.

The data aren’t yet in; the U.S. says the direction of the attacks indicate the drones (and perhaps cruise missiles) came from Iran, but the New York Times notes that some of the tanks have damage on the western side, inconsistent with an attack from Iran. Recovery of the drones or missiles could settle the question, and, to be sure the U.S. still hasn’t explicitly blamed Iran for the attacks. But we know what Trump is thinking.

Regardless, an attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia is not a reason to go to war with Iran. I haven’t followed Iran’s activities during the period when the deal was in force (and of course there’s intelligence information we don’t know), so I don’t have strong feelings about whether our pulling out of the deal was right. But I do think that, even if we stayed with the deal, Iran would eventually produce a deliverable nuclear weapon—just like North Korea.

But we don’t need another Middle East war, especially one over oil, and especially on Trump’s watch.

102 Comments

  1. Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Wars tend to boost your poll numbers. Just saying.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Of course.

    • Dominic
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Even unwinnable ones?

      • Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Is Trump the sort of person to say “this war won’t boost my numbers enough, so I won’t do it”

      • Posted September 17, 2019 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        I have just realised I misunderstood your comment.

        Were Trump to decide to start an unwinnable war, he’d time it to get the poll rating boost during the election and then sort out the mess afterwards (or more likely, fail to sort out the mess).

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Plus, he’s a very militaristic person, in a way, he’s the most militaristic person, the most militaristic person of all, and the people, the people who’ve been in charge in the past, the people who’ve been in charge back then were _not good,_ they were not good people, people good were not…and Trump is here now and he knows military, military he knows, knows military he, so I think, in a sense, because it’s true, and believe me, a lot of people are saying it, believe me, in a way, and I think…

      etc…

      • Taz
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        For a second I thought you were having a stroke.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          Well, exactly.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think he had a stroke, but he clearly has prefrontal disinhibition, generally caused by many small micro-infarctions (infarctions in the micro-vasculature) in the prefrontal cortex.
          I think that he has had some in the Wernicke area too.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think a war with Iran to protect Saudi Arabia would be a political winner. (That doesn’t mean Trump won’t fall face first into it.)

  2. Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Vous avez raison Monsieur Professeur Le Chat de Plafond, but being reasonable isn’t a characteristic of this nation when war is wanted. With Bolton out, I feel much more assured that it isn’t.

  3. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    But we don’t need another Middle East war, especially one over oil, and especially on Trump’s watch.

    But it’s not about what “we” (the US populace, the human species, whatever) need. It’s about what the American president needs to get his re-election. Nothing else matters to the man with his finger on the trigger.
    The 10% rise in oil prices today means a lot of profit for Trump’s backers – both in the West and in Russia. It’s also relatively good news for me, but we’ll need to see it sustained for six to nine months before it filters through into tangible results.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Are you in the oil business?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Yes.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      It’s the first time I’ve ever taken seriously the possibility of a western leader starting a war for poll ratings. Whatever you think about the validity of the Iraq War, it was at least precipitated by something significant and tangible in the 9/11 attacks. And unless you’re a conspiracy theorist you can’t say they manufactured that war from nothing for political reasons.

      But Trump? There is absolutely nothing, nothing, that I would put past him. I don’t think anyone is ready for how low he will go over the next fourteen months.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Wasn’t the 2003 invasion sabre-rattling to show who’s boss? Wasn’t the main motive re-election?

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know. My point is that I don’t see it as the kind of thing that was conjured up out of nothing, purely to win votes. 9/11 had to happen first.

          Whereas with Trump, I’m not sure he’d need any kind of major, 9/11-type event to justify a war at all.

          Sam Harris talks about the difference between Trump’s lies and, say, Cheney’s lies. With the latter there was always at least an attempt to convince the listener that he _wasn’t actually lying._ Cheney knew that being seen as a liar was Not A Good Thing, and that kind of held him in check to a certain limited extent. Trump knows the same thing, he just doesn’t care.

          The same applies in their respective approach to huge policy decisions, like, for example, going to war.
          Cheney knew there had to be some discernible rationale for war. He got that rationale in the form of 9/11(and then he spun it beyond all recognition and somehow pulled Iraq into the picture even though logically it was the Saudis who should have been targeted). Trump knows people normally have rationales for something as weighty as declaring war…but again, I just don’t think he really cares. He’ll go without a rationale if he has to.

          He’s like a Kakapo, except that when he leaps into the unknown off a tree branch his total disregard for the truth means he doesn’t come plummeting down to earth in a heap. Instead he just glides along, powered by his own bullshit.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Whatever you think about the validity of the Iraq War, it was at least precipitated by something significant and tangible in the 9/11 attacks

        A songsmith satirist in about late 2002 summed up the justification for that war, in the voice of Bush the Second, with a song whose chorus ran “He was mean to mah Pappy!”, referring to Saddam Hussein’s not kow-towing to Bush the First a decade earlier.
        I anticipate Trump the First setting up the hereditary Presidents-to-come for re-hashes of the same joke. It’s not as if his political base would see anything wrong with mass murder in response to a personal insult.

        I don’t think anyone is ready for how low he will go over the next fourteen months.

        What do you reckon are the odds of him launching multiple nukes? More or less than 50%?
        Against a nominal enemy, or a nominal ally?

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          “or a nominal ally?”

          Well, I’m in the UK so I’d bloody well hope it’s better than a 50/50 chance. Although at least nuclear annihilation would FINALLY END BREXIT.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          …Actually, I’m not completely sure it would end Brexit.

      • Murali
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        I thought the Afghanistan war (not the Iraq war) was precipitated by the 9/11 attacks.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 17, 2019 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        “Whatever you think about the validity of the Iraq War, it was at least precipitated by something significant and tangible in the 9/11 attacks.”

        Eh, Saul? Are you on the same planet as me? Iraq and Saddam had sod-all to do with the World Trade Centre attacks. Al Quaeda and Osama got its support from Saudi Arabia.

        And as for the Weapons of Mass Delusion…

        Dubya needed a war, any war, anywhere, to take public revenge for the WTC and he wasn’t going to declare war on the Saudis.

        I guess Fidel was very lucky that Cuba hasn’t got any oil worth stealing.

        (What, me, cynical?)

        cr

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    There was a very good piece in the Post today on the subject. The question for Trump is, how is outsourcing that Middle East policy to Saudi Arabia and Israel working for you? About as much success with MBS as our own crowned prince Jared Kushner. Trump has been going down hill since the day he started and got out of the Iran deal. He thinks sanctions will save the day for him just like tariffs. All we need is a war with Trump still in there to see how bad this really is.

  5. Malgorzata
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    sub

  6. Roger Lambert
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Iran may well be the most dangerous nation on the planet. They foster terrorism all around the world, working with radicalized proxies like the Houthis, spending huge sums of money to accomplish this.

    D-uZzfcWsAEo9fC

    They are a radical Islamist theocracy led by near maniacs who have promised death to America and Israel. They have lied repeatedly to the world about their nuclear aspirations and are close to gaining nuclear weapons, which they have promised to use against their enemies.

    The world has known all of this for decades, hoping that a policy of containment would suffice. That is a huge gamble no sane person should have to make. Something has to be done. Short of war, the Ayatollahs have to be removed.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      You act as if Iran was the only bad player in the Middle East. That is a joke. By the way, who was it that hit us on 9/11?

    • W.Benson
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      The most dangerous nation on earth has Donald Trump as its president. The oil facilities flamed are properties of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the same organization that, with US assistance, has wrecked havoc in Houthi controlled areas of Yemen. For the Houthis, Saudi national oil facilities are valid military targets. After all, the two are at war. If Iran conducted the attack (or if Israel or someone else did, trying to stir the pot), it is motive for war.

    • Charles Sawicki
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      There is a large component of moderate people in Iran. Any removal of the militant Ayatollahs will have to be done by the people. Outside intervention, for example cancellation of the nuclear deal, will just further entrench the radical Islamists.

      • Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. If Iran were to bootstrap itself it’s possible it could move away from fundamentalism and towards progressivism. US intervention would be retrograde to all of that.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      “Something has to be done. Short of war, the Ayatollahs have to be removed.”

      Perhaps it is good that you are not Trump’s adviser 🙂

      However I agree that they are a menace but so are the Saudis and the US for that matter.

    • David Coxill
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Does glenn beck know you have pinched one of his maps ?

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      I Think Saud and Qatar (albeit in an altercation now) are just as dangerous, if not more so.

    • tjeales
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      I’m more troubled by Saudi Arabia’s reach and sponsorship of terrorism which has lead to multiple attacks in the West including 9-11. I have no love for the zealots in Iran but I see them at least as the enemy of my enemy. Death to the west (where I live) terrorism is more likely to come from Whahabbists and Sunnis than Shia Islam.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Saudi is much more dangerous, and they get away with a lot because of their relationship with the US. Iran was actually sticking to the Nuclear Agreement, and the current problems were brought on by Trump pulling out imo. There was no likelihood of Iran getting a nuclear weapon while they were sticking to the agreement.

        I understand why Israel would fear Iran, but Iran isn’t stupid. They know that if they attacked Israel directly (which would be with conventional weapons), there would be retaliation from the US that would devastate them. Also, the moderates are big voice in Iran, and the hard-liners have to constantly be careful not to go too far or they will lose control.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    In times like these, I often think of the show, Threads & shudder.

  8. tomh
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Trump: “Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

    Just waiting for the ‘kingdom’ to dictate the ‘terms’ for the US to proceed. Apparently Trump has ceded the Commander in Chief title to the ‘kingdom.’ And from what I recall of the Constitution it is Congress that decides to go to war, not the executive and certainly not Saudi Arabia.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      “locked and loaded”

      I have a hideous but thankfully brief mental image of Trump’s flaccid little Wotsit flickering into momentary life when he gets to say those words.

      That’s the kind of shit he’s in the job for; getting to say all those cool, macho phrases, just like a real president would if they were in the job.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        … Trump’s flaccid little Wotsit …

        According to the reliable first-hand reports of Ms. Stormy Daniels it resembles “Toad” from Mario Kart.

        Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, once complained of his boss’s psychological foibles during the Vietnam War and Watergate that, “You got people dying because he didn’t make varsity football … You got the Constitution hanging by a thread because he went to Whittier, not to Yale.”

        One shudders to think where Donald Trump’s psycho-sexual insecurities might lead this nation.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          For the love of all that is good, can you Americans please elect a president whose junk I never have to think about….you were doing well after Clinton but now we have this. The next one – please no more junk.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            From that moist smooch and look Melania Trump laid on Justin Trudeau at the recent G-7 summit, it seems at least one naturalized Yank might have an interest in what your Canadian PM is packin’ south of the border. 🙂

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              As Rick Mercer, a Canadian comedian, said when the whole Clinton penis quarter story broke in the 90s, “What happens in the snow suit, stays in the snow suit”.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 17, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

              Well, sheesh, considering what she normally gets, any male of average or better attributes would have to be a step up, wouldn’t it?

              cr

          • Murali
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

            That problem can be easily solved by electing Warren|Harris|…

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

              Or Klobuchar or Gabbard for that matter, they are not out of the race, as yet.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        I know – he thinks he’s Rambo.

        • Mark R.
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          LOL! And the latest Rambo flick, Rambo: Last Blood, will be released this week. I hope it doesn’t inspire Herr Tr*mp.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha. I didn’t even know about the Rambo flick….I’m more of a Die Hard fan than a Rambo fan.

            • Mark R.
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, Die Hard is a way better movie franchise. Plus it has humor.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                I prefer Sly to Bruce Willis though, I don’t know why. He seems like a gentle guy.

                And he was great in Terminator: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQvCmQFScMA

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                I prefer Hans Gruber to all of them.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

                “Come to the coast, we’ll have a few laughs”

  9. Denis Westphalen
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Small correction: the attack took place on an oil processing facility which technically is not an oil refinery. An oil processing facility does some crude blending and conditioning (gas, water removal) whereas finished products (gasoline, diesel, … ) are produced in a refinery.

  10. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    “Recovery of the drones or missiles could settle the question, and, to be sure the U.S. still hasn’t explicitly blamed Iran for the attacks.”
    The Houthi militia don’t have the capability to build sophisticated drones with control systems, so even if they were launched from Yemen, the systems came from someplace else like Iran.

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Just as the missiles and deadly bombs SA has been using against Yemen came from the USA. It is a proxy war.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Just like in Threads.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t know anyone outside of Britain had seen Threads…
          I’m not sure if I ever saw Threads growing up, I think I was a bit too young for it, but I did see a Raymond Briggs cartoon called ‘When The Wind Blows’ that really scared me for a very long time, on a very deep level.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h1lRqUBuSI

          That’s a trailer, and it conveys something of how terrifying the film was, but not how heartbreakingly sad it was.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

            I probably *was* too young to see Threads because it freaked me the hell out & gave me nightmares. I was 14 at the time & still in Elementary school just before entering high school.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      “The Houthi militia don’t have the capability to build sophisticated drones with control systems.”

      I read the article linked to comment #13 below, and according to Prof. Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an expert on Middle East history and politics, you are misinformed.

      One excerpt:

      One of the arguments for the Iraqi or Iranian provenance of the drones is that the Houthis were not known to have this capability before now. This allegation is not true. As I discussed in May, the Houthis used drones to hit Aramco pumping stations in al-Duwadimi (853 miles from Sana’a) and Afif (764 miles from Sana’a). The Houthis only had to go another hundred miles or so to reach Abqaiq from their stronghold at Saada (about 1,000 miles).

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The best we could ever hope for, I think, was that Trump would agree to revive the Iranian nuclear deal as Emanuel Macron has been endeavoring to re-broker it. The terms were to be slightly less favorable than the terms of the earlier deal Trump withdrew from, with an extra $15 billion bailout for Iran, but Trump would’ve been able to re-brand it under his own name and claim (as he is wont to do) that it is the most fantastic deal ever, much better than the one Obama negotiated.

    Of course, those negotiations were underway before the attack on the Saudi oil refinery. Now, we can do no better than guess what will happen, since Trump’s approach to policy is completely incoherent. He ran for president as a soi-disant isolationist, but he loves to rattle his yooge Pentagon sabers and to threaten other nations with nuclear annihilation — just as he earlier offered to meet with the Iranians without preconditions and now incoherently denies ever having said so (despite videotapes showing him expressly promising precisely that).

    Plus, as we saw with the Jamal Khashoggi bone-saw murder mess, there is something essentially hinky at the core of the relationship between Trump (and his dilettantish son-in-law Jared Kushner) and the House of Saud. What it is, we have no way of knowing, since Trump’s financial entanglements with the Saudis remain opaque due to Trump’s refusal to make the customary presidential financial disclosures.

    As a result, there’s no telling how this may play out, especially if Trump’s own narrow personal interests conflict with those of the United States and its allies.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      And with the US pulling out of the Iran deal it’s unlikely they will trust that they will honour another so that ship may have sailed.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      A lot of experts played down the seriousness of his election – they assured everyone that he would be reined in by the bureaucratic mechanisms of Washington, his wild instincts tempered by the experts surrounding him. The professionalism of the departments under his control would ensure they remained unswayed by any dictatorial leanings.

      It’s now clear that none of that has happened.
      AFAICT he has fired very sane person who might question him, he has stripped back all of the advisory meetings he used to have and subsequently got bored of, he has staffed governmental departments with Trumpite partisans…

      It looks from afar like an authoritarian regime is very quietly and very slowly taking charge of every arm of government. ‘We have the army, we have the police’ right?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        One weakness of the American constitutional system of checks and balances is that so much of it depends upon the mutual assent of the people, and of the three branches of government, to abide by various norms and traditions.

        Donald Trump has contempt for norms and traditions. Indeed, he has such little understanding of (and such a dearth of experience with) how the United States government functions that he doesn’t even know that most of these norms and traditions exist.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          And then there is Mr Mc Connell, who knows very well, but has sacrificed any norm and tradition to his aim to stack the courts with reactionary hacks, to turn the US into the Confederacy, while lining his pockets, it seems.

      • darrelle
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        “It’s now clear that none of that has happened.”

        I think that sort of thing has been happening a lot. I think that if the people comprising the bureaucratic mechanisms of the US government had not been providing resistance against POTUS Trump that things would be far, far worse.

        I think those experts were wrong on two other counts though. 1) They underestimated how destructive Trump could be, which was greatly enhanced by the 2nd issue. 2) The experts did not account for a Republican Party that would let Trump do whatever he wanted to do. I think that most prognosticators assumed that the Republican Party would exert some control over Trump. Instead Moscow Mitch has lead them on a campaign to provide cover for Trump no matter how low they’ve got to go to do so.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          “The Republican Party, c’est moi,” sayeth the Donald. He has the same magisterial attitude regarding the agencies and departments within the executive branch of government, including the customarily (and crucially) independent Department of Justice.

          • darrelle
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

            I think Trump simply bumbles (not quite right, slimes maybe?) along the same as he did his entire life as a failed super-entrepreneur / crime boss. Back then, any subordinate that sufficiently fellated him and did whatever they were told in service to shady schemes to steal money and cover-up blunders and misdeeds was good and welcome to hang around and be abused. Any that weren’t up to those tasks or failed at them were discarded, at best.

            Now that he’s POTUS, nothing has changed. Departments that don’t do anything for him? What good are they?

            Trump supporters that think the thought of helping them has ever entered his microscopic attention span are delusional. Unless they are thuggish dictators.

  12. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Hopefully, Trump wont get us into a war, since he wants to get reelected and the Democrats seem to be doing a fair job at self destructing. Of course Trump is also a devoted Saudi toadie.

    • Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      You think a war will be bad for his ratings?

      Also, I don’t see the Democrats self destructing. They seem to b e getting on with the job of selecting a candidate in quite a reasonable way.

  13. Tom Johnson
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    An informed comment from Prof. Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an expert on Middle East history and politics:
    https://www.juancole.com/2019/09/awaits-orders-houthis.html

  14. Mike Anderson
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Our brave men and women in uniform are locked and loaded; resolute, focused, and unhesitating, ready to do whatever Mohammed bin Salman needs them to do.

  15. JohnE
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    “But we know what Trump is thinking.”

    Trump thinking? A lot of us don’t believe he’s actually capable of that.

  16. Curtis
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Trump is a bombastic buffoon but has not taken stupid military action unlike the previous presidents who seemed to think the US had the military magic to solve problems in the Muslim world. He’s bombed Assad and ISIS but has not started interventions that destroyed Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.

    So far, he has been less incompetent than his predecessors – not that that is a high bar.

    • JohnE
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Less incompetent in terms of declaring wars — I have to reluctantly concede that, but not as to any other matter. At all.

  17. Roger Lambert
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    The Iran deal was merely a means to delay Iran’s ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. By a little bit. Assuming, of course, that they would be honest about it. Which, …. well….

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are still left with the situation that insane radicalized terrorist theocratic leaders are soon going to get their hands on multiple nuclear weapons. They already have medium range missile technology. And James Bond, unfortunately, is a fictional character.

    I dare say that those happy to sit back and wait for the Iranian people to solve this situation, are people who do not live in Tel Aviv. And they might not have realized that if they live in New York City this whole mess puts them in danger also.

    At some point in the next few years, there is very likely going to be some highly-targeted highly obliterated holes made in Iran where their nuclear arms program used to be.

    Netanyahu and Trump are talking about a mutual defense treaty. No doubt Iran is the reason.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I remember an interview with someone who runs war games – don’t remember who it was and I actually think that Jerry may have written about this as well. That person said that they’ve run several simulations and the best one was to leave Iran alone to develop their nuclear capability….doing anything else was far worse and resulted in nuclear war or destabilization etc. I think the world most likely made the best decision from a group of bad decisions when they made that deal with Iran.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Oh and I distinctly remember that one of the scenarios resulted in Israel launching nuclear missiles at the facilities for refining uranium in Iran and that turned out badly in the end. I think it’s because many of the scenarios ended in a proxy war.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        That probably applies to North Korea as well. They have nukes but have been, and will likely remain, unwilling to use them. Attacking North Korea would result in a huge, peninsula wide, death toll.

        • Roger Lambert
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          Nobody takes North Korea seriously. Iran, on the other hand, has been happily demonstrating its capability at slaughtering innocent people all around the globe. The Ayatollahs ( not the citizens) wholeheartedly embrace terrorism, genocide, and Islamist jihad.

          I am pretty impressed at the apathy on display here. This really is a doomsday scenario playing out in real time. It is no joke.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Do you have any ideas about how to deal with Iran?

      • Curtis
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        No one does. If anyone claims to have an idea, check their past record in the region.

        The greater Middle East is currently a disaster but any intervention is likely to make things worse. There are too many competing groups with weapons to create any sort of peaceful, prosperous, moderately free country.

        The Arab spring showed there are people with good intentions but the aftermath shows that they are overwhelmed by others who do not.

        • Mark R.
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          “There are too many competing groups…”

          I just wanted to add that crucial word. Ordinary competing groups with weapons is a lot different than religious groups competing with weapons. Zealous religious groups are pretty much impossible to deal with.

          • Mark R.
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

            “too many competing religious groups”. I put the word “religious” in brackets and it disappeared when I posted. I guess html deletes words in brackets???

            • Curtis
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

              I figured that out but I somewhat disagree. el-Sisi and the Egyptian military are not particularly religious but they are certainly part of the problem.

            • darrelle
              Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              If they were the less-than and greater-than characters then the software treated what was between them as HTML, which is not displayed. If the HTML is not recognized then it doesn’t cause anything to happen, but just like legitimate HTML it isn’t displayed.

              • Mark R.
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, that’s the brackets I used. I wonder if [these] work.

              • darrelle
                Posted September 17, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

                I should have mentioned, depending on the software the HTML brackets may be [ and ] instead of the less-than and greater-than brackets. It just depends on the software a given website is using.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 17, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

                I think it can do HTML & wiki mark up. I’ve used the HTML greater than/less than & it works.

              • Mark R.
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                OK, now I know what brackets to use. Thanks for the tip Darrelle.

              • darrelle
                Posted September 16, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                🙂

  18. darrelle
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    We, the US, should take some important lessons from our history with Iran. We’ve basically screwed things up at nearly every turn in our dealings with Iran. Over the decades we’ve had several chances to improve our relations with Iran that if handled well could have resulted in a very different present than the one we enjoy now.

    Even in more recent history, the Bush Jr. administration gave Iran the finger when there was a chance to make progress. Then Obama, together with several other nations, managed to put together a deal with Iran that was about the best that could be made of a pretty crappy situation. A deal that by available evidence Iran was honoring. The start of interactions other than violence opening the possibility of more such interactions. But nope. We immediately give them the finger again in the form of Trump.

    Iran has no reason to work with us in any way, let alone trust us. The people of Iran have more or less asked for help from the West several times. And nearly every time we’ve had dealings with Iran we’ve chosen a course that has made their lot worse and benefited the religious dictators that control their government.

  19. Posted September 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Trump, for all his demented bluster and horrible problems does seem to be more dovish in some respects than other US presidents. He got rid of Bolton, after all – even if for perhaps the wrong reason.

    The situation in Yemen is horrible, and Canada is complicit, and that angers me.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Good things done for bad reasons rarely turn out well.
      Toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan was theoretically a good thing, but it was done for bad reasons. As a result the long-term commitment wasn’t there and the country inevitably relapsed when it became clear that the west was losing interest. Toppling Saddam was, in theory, a similarly positive step, but so little thought was given to what to do after the military bombardment of Iraq was over that it turned into a quagmire. Again, because the reasons were bad a good act turned sour.

      I always bear that in mind when I consider whether Trump should get praise for the vanishingly rare instances where he seems to do something constructive and positive.
      Trump’s impulses are so uniformly anti-democratic, fascistic, that they inevitably taint every good thing he does. He really does poison everything.

      Even the tiny little positive things he does, say, starting up some fund for military veterans, are immediately weaponised by his vicious Twitter feed and used to supercharge his squalid nationalist brand.

      • EdwardM
        Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        “Toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan was theoretically a good thing, but it was done for bad reasons.”

        What were the “bad reasons” you’re referring to here?

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          I had long arguments with my dear mum about this, and for a long time I said the opposite, that the intention for entering didn’t matter so long as the outcomes were positive. Because for a long time it did look positive. Things were better. I didn’t give the slightest shit whether Dubya/Cheney et al really cared about the plight of Afghan girls and gay people.

          But it seems to me that the people in charge of pushing the Afghan conflict had no understanding of how ubiquitous or powerful tribal politics was in the area, no understanding of how ferociously resistant to democracy and liberal norms the Taliban would be, or how effective the latter would be at destroying the day-to-day stability that’s required for things like elections to actually take place on a regular basis and for girls to go to school. They didn’t take much of any of that into account, and they entered Afghanistan for political reasons rather than genuine humanitarian reasons.

          What I’m trying to say is that in the end, if your motivations are not sincere, that tends to tell.

          • EdwardM
            Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Gotcha, and you’re correct. The Americans made the exact same mistake as the Russians, British and all others who’ve tried to control the region – they made no attempt to understand the history, culture or the people themselves before they barged on in.

    • Harrison
      Posted September 16, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      I don’t give Trump a lot of credit for self-awareness but maybe even he thinks he wouldn’t be a very good war President. He is innately cowardly and doesn’t like the sight of blood, which there would be a lot of on the evening news he binge-watches, and his White House staff is such a shambles that they’d probably make Bush the Lesser’s bungling of Iraqi reconstruction look like the apex of competence.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 17, 2019 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        I wish I could believe that but I think tRump’s power of self-delusion is such that he thinks he’d make a GREAT war President. The best. He’d be awesome. It’d be YUUGE.

        I think someone had better dust off that Nobel Peace Prize and dangle it under his nose quick. After all, what’s devaluing the Nobel Prize compared with the deaths of a few hundred thousand innocent Iranians?

        cr

  20. eric
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Do you count a proxy war? I.e. with the US and SA backing the Yemeni government on one side, and Iran backing the Houthis on the other?

    Because we’ve pretty much been fighting something like that at a ‘simmer’ for years, and if I had to bet money on the response to this latest incident, I’d bet that that war will now heat up.

  21. Posted September 16, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m more concerned about the people around Trump than Trump himself. Is way too clueless to know how to start a war all by himself. He doesn’t know how it works.

    By analogy, he’d declare himself the greatest chess player in human history, but would get frustrated with all those fiddly little chess pieces and wouldn’t know which side of the chess board is supposed to face upwards. He’d walk away in disgust after 12 seconds.

    Depends what his various advisors think they’d have to gain.

  22. Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Bear in mind that for the last few centuries the major powers in the middle-east have been Turkey, Arabia, and Persia (Iran). All three of them are fundamentalist Muslim, all three of them want to establish the world-wide Caliphate (universal Muslim rule), and all three of them cordially hate each other. Since the Turkish Ottoman Empire was smashed in World War One, no one of them has been able to get dominance over the other two, but oh, have they been trying! The other nations of the world have quietly been contributing to the balance, but now it looks as if Iran has enough money and hardware to dominate the other two. This means that Turkey and Arabia, much though they hate each other, must at least temporarily join forces against Iran. So must everyone else, frankly. So regardless of who sits in the White House, there is inevitably going to be a war with Iran. It’s going to be amusing to see Turkey and Arabia *allied with Israel and the US* to smash Persia/Iran — after which, no doubt Arabia and Turkey will duke it out to be the leader of the Muslim world, and everybody else will have to fight the winner. This fight has been building for centuries, and all the left-wingers/Democrats in the world can’t prevent it.


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