"Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk," was the headline of a particularly galaxy-brain Maureen Dowd piece in the opinion pages of The New York Times during the 2016 campaign. Sure, Clinton would have been a foreign-policy hardliner, but the idea Donald Trump is some sort of peacenik-or, more to the point, the kind of person who abides by any kind of steadfast principles whatsoever-is so delusional it would be funny if he weren't the president. Which, in fairness, is probably what Dowd thought would happen: Trump would lose, and her trollicle would forever be a hypothetical.
Now that guy is the world's most powerful man, and his administration appears to be angling for a war with Iran. The first thing to remember here is that the United States of America unilaterally violated the nuclear agreement the world's major powers brokered with Iran in 2015. That agreement was the result of years of sanctions that put pressure on the Iranian regime to come to the table and agree not just to curtail its attempts to develop its nuclear capabilities, but also to accept various mechanisms where the world powers could verify Iran was complying with the terms. (As of August 30, 2018, it was.) In return for reaching the agreement, sanctions on Iran's economy were lifted. Then Trump came into office pledging to erase the first black presidency, spewed the utter nonsense that President Obama's regime "gave Iran $150 billion and got nothing," tore up the deal, and re-imposed sanctions.
Tensions have been escalating ever since, but they jumped to a new level this month. Secretary of State (!) Mike Pompeo, whom my colleague Charles P. Pierce likes to mention was a run-of-the-mill wingnut congressman until two years ago, has been doing some regular saber-rattling that culminated last week in accusing the Iranians of attacking two commercial oil tankers-including a Japanese vessel-in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping channel that connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman. The Japanese government distanced itself from the claim, but a U.S. military commander said this week the mines used in one attack resemble those used by Iranian forces. U.S. allies, including Japan and Germany, have urged the Trump administration to provide more evidence.
Meanwhile, Pompeo has been making the case to Congress that Iran has ties to al Qaeda. The details are sketchy, and this all has echoes of the Iraq playbook, and Iran is almost entirely Shia while al Qaeda is mostly Sunni. But either way, the point seems to be to bring Iran under the purview of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, which permits the U.S. "to wage war on Al Qaeda and its allies or offshoots," and which the Bush and Obama administrations used to wage military operations throughout the Middle East and Africa. The intent is clear: to make it possible for the Trump regime to launch a military strike on Iran without congressional authorization. As a reminder-that Barack Obama needed as much as Trump-here is Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution:
The Congress shall have power...to declare war.
Anyway, last night the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone it says was flying in its airspace. The U.S. contends it was in international airspace, and that this was an "unprovoked attack." And here is the President of the United States, stomping on this geopolitical powderkeg this morning.
Iran made a very big mistake!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2019
Good Lord above. It's not just that we can't trust our own government's accounts of what's happening over there because the administration lies constantly about everything. It's not just that we're edging closer to war with a country that is not Afghanistan, or even Iraq: Iran is a country of 83 million people, and its military has more than half a million active-duty personnel-some of whom, like the Revolutionary Guard and particularly the Quds Force, are trained at a high level. This would not be an easy war to "win." How many Americans would die or sustain life-altering injuries in the process? And then we'd be stuck in a third quagmire: "nation-building" in a nation that wants us to fuck off.
No, it's not just all that. We are also led by a president who, in between briefings on this international crisis last night, found the time to call into Sean Hannity's show on the Fox News Channel to say...this:
What in the hell is Trump even talking about here? Listen to this nonsense. pic.twitter.com/xJrultY2Ml- Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 20, 2019
It's really past time for pretending this arrangement is going to work. It is a world-historical miracle we're not in some war already because some tinpot dictator took the piss out of our president's haircut. (On second thought, he seems to get along quite well with those guys.) Iran causes all kinds of trouble in the region and beyond, but does anyone really believe the United States will improve the situation by starting another war? It would be insane enough if we could be sure the president wasn't.
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