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24 April 2019


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Stuart R Wood

The Trump foreign policy gang, how not to do diplomacy?


Given that I tend to think the US position on Iran has been bullshit from the get go, it takes real talent to make things even more dysfunctional. I agree - that has been accomplished. There is no plausible encouragement to 'modify behaviour' where pundits drive conclusions and actual action is ignored.

blue peacock

Since Bibi is in the catbird's seat, the most important question to ask is what does Bibi want? Is it annihilation of Iran, Lebanon, & Syria? If that is the case can the US military deliver without using nukes?


"In an open letter, more than 50 former senior U.S. government officials have dismissed these U.S. demands as leaving Iran the option of either capitulation or war.”
You insiders in the imperial city still don't get it.
Those "former senior US government officials" are likely part and parcel of the continuing FAILURE of US foreign policy.
These "experts" have royally f***ed up - 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, Libya.
As for the JCPOA with Iran, these "negotiators" are the dimwits that car salesmen make their money from.
How many more failures from these pompous, self-important, swamp parasites can we survive?


In June 2010 the UN security council placed an embargo on the export of most major conventional weapons to Iran. My understanding is that this embargo is due to be lifted in 2020 (this was one of the things that Iran got as part of the JCPOA). I think Iran is going to play nice until then, and then stock up on all the advanced weaponry she can buy from China and Russia.

Maybe the Chinese will sell the Persians some DF-21Ds. That could get interesting.


Mr Bolan,

I agree with your assessment. Unfortunately, I fear that for many in the Trump administration, policies that make open conflict with Iran more likely may be seen as a feature, not a bug.


Mad Max_22

One is given to wonder whether Trump would have selected the same failed war mongers for his Foreign Policy team that he has demonstrably done if the Hildabeast, her disappointed acolytes in the entrenched deep state, and the lunatic left in its political and media manifestations had not kneecapped him with "Russiagate" even before he took office. Was there any depth at all to his campaign rhetoric that might have survived the tsunami of bad faith accusations that crippled him? As the kids say, 'whatever.'
But if a regard for the value of diplomacy in the pursuit of peace, or for that matter, a mere historical awareness, has been playing a role in his conduct of FP, it's escaped my notice. We're living in dangerous times: who gives every appearance of being a FP lightweight and a cripple in the presidency; and debased lunatics arrayed against him in everything and anything he says or does. In the words of the immortal Casey Stengel: does anybody down there know how to play this game?


Yes, easily unless Russia wants to go to war with us over this.


Nice post from a strategic theory perspective. Well-reasoned argument using Schelling's concepts regarding suasion within a larger Clausewitzian model . . . applied to current US policy regarding Iran.


C. J. Nolan doesn’t seem to understand the policy objective; war with Iran is a feature, not a bug.

Norbert M Salamon

It is possible that Russia would take a dim view, and attempt to stop this US adventure. At present Russia believes that Syria and Iran with a reluctant wavering Turkey is the safety defense area from the jihadist hordes against Russia's vulnerable south Muslim are.


Mad Max - Are you trying to say that it is the Democrats fault that Trump hired John Bolton and other neo-cons for his Foreign Policy team? Good Grief, Trump is the most powerful person on Earth and it is ridiculous to excuse his poor hiring practices on other people. Trump is either the Man, or he is not. Hiring John Bolton is 100% on Trump's shoulders - no one else.


Once again, how would Russia stop this possible air campaign? By shooting down US aircraft? You think so? The US is a thermonuclear power. I think not.


Wonder no more.

Meet the Press, August 16, 2016 (condensed slightly for readability):


Who do you talk to for military advice right now? ... is there a go-to for you?


Yeah, probably there are two or three. I mean, I like Bolton. I think he's, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he's talking about... I think he's terrific.

The Twisted Genius

I agree that Russia will not stop a massive US air attack or shoot at US aircraft unless we started taking out Russian assets. I do believe Russia will use all surveillance and REC assets to give Lebanon and Syria as much early warning as possible and to muffle the effect of a US assault. I would not be surprised if Syria shot at US aircraft over Lebanon. As far as US forces hesitating about attacking Lebanon, they will not. Our Navy and Air Force will carry out these orders, if they come, immediately and with all the force they can muster.

ex-PFC Chuck

I agree it's unlikely the Russians would attempt to counter a massive USAF raid on south Lebanon. However isn't it likely they have sufficient visibility from satellites and assets in Syria, etc., that they could prevent Hezbollah and Lebanon from being tactically surprised? If not, why?


If only Trump and Co. cared about the US border the way he cares about Israel's.


No. these attacks would be launched from a great distance and would not be visible to the Russians until they were inbound.


From further down the transcript:


You wrote this in 2011 about Saudi Arabia. "It's the world's biggest funder of terrorism. Saudi Arabia funnels our petro dollars, our very own money, to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people while the Saudis rely on us to protect them." What are U.S.-Saudi relations going to look like under a Trump administration?

I wonder where that Donald Trump guy disappeared to.

Ingolf Eide

PL, are you willing to provide an overview of how such an attack might unfold?



Sure, targeting, which is complete by now, followed by issuance of warning orders to commanders who would provide the forces, followed by an "Air Targeting Order" listing all the sorties and their targets. execution order staggered in time so that air and missile units arrive at their targets in a coherent pattern, BDA followed by re-strikes.

Justin Glyn

If I remember rightly, that is exactly the sort of help the USSR (as was) gave Viet Nam to prevent a Chinese victory in 1979....


He was clear on some issues, definitively: Iran, Israel the one true ally, US military power more generally spoken.

The US military was very much one basic anchor of his campaign. Maybe with a difference as far as the Bush admin is concerned: countries have to pay for the help US military can provide too, and not simply for their own reconstruction after:


“Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.”

Richard Perle, chair
The Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board
July 11, 2002

E Publius

Hello PL
I'd appreciate it if you could comment on the following:

It seems that multifaceted escalation directly and unilaterally imposed on behalf of US-Israel-KSA/UAE troika is intensifying to the point that it could unfortunately lead to open conflict in the Middle East (ME). In rhetoric, the U.S. admin is denying that it wants to go to war with Iran and this seems to be in-line with Donald Trump's personal approach toward isolationism and his campaign promises of non-intervention abroad. In my opinion it is in part, due to the fear of losing voters who have strong opposition toward any U.S. military boots on the ground.

Additionally, there are other factors that may-in theory at-least- constrain the U.S.'will to go to war, these include congressional approval, convincing the public, media complacency, overall U.S. military readiness, plausible negative reaction regarding the already unstable fossil fuel market, ambiguity on behalf of KSA/UAE to increase their production and take over Iran's oil market share and stabilize the market which if pursued would violate their prior commitments to not hiking production that was reached in the context of OPEC+. Merely doing nothing in short term, e.g. not producing more and abiding by the OPEC+ commitments until June when the new OPEC+ session is set to convene, would lead to more oil income for the increasingly cash-strapped KSA, however by doing that it would anger Trump and torpedoes its plan to zero-out Iran's oil market and increases gas prices in the U.S. which is essential to Trump and especially as we are nearing the 2020 race... the U.S may counter it by introducing the bipartisan NOPEC bill that aims to break up OPEC and is not something that the KSA takes lightly (remember how KSA reacted when the U.S. Congress started talking about bringing NOPEC to the floor? the threat of dumping U.S. treasuries and the replacement of Dollar comes to mind).
I think sinister politicians such as Bolton, Pompeo, Brian Hook and others in the NSC should not be confused with the previous generation of warmongers in the Bush admin. Despite sharing strong wormongering features, they are not neoconservative per se, because they do not pursue nation-building around the world and they do not play the obsolete tune of democracy promotion (which provided PR optics to U.S.' aggressive imperialism); rather these people seem to be pursuing policies that reflect those of the 19th and early 20th century, that is great power politics that brought about two World Wars and other smaller scale conflicts. These Hard Neocons (for the lack of better term) seek total collapse or capitulation, which is not going to happen. It seems that the U.S. and its client Israel are in a state of hurry and every policy that they are pursuing are contractionary in nature, e.g. isolationism, unilateralism, returning to nation-state (more like ethno-state) model, disbanding multilateral structures, etc.

In practice the Trump admin., whose ME policies according to Col. Wilkerson is made in Tel Aviv not the U.S. and is seeking constant escalation in multiple fronts, is arguably the most belligerent in the history of the country and contrary to what many thought of him at the beginning of the 2016 elections, is not a libertarian, nor a traditional conservative or paleoconservative, but rather a zionist-conservative, and I do not think there is even the slightest doubt about it. One could even argue that the Trump admin. is only acting against the interests of its own citizens, and to the benefits and the interests of other powerful ominous forces. Nonetheless, as someone who admires pundits such as Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Gore Vidal, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Scheuer, and similar non-interventionists, why can't just the U.S. Do the Right Thing and stop its destructive policies? If the U.S. according to those who believe in the Constitution is a small-(r) Republic, then why not acting like one?

English Outsider

Could I ask about the situation within Syria as it concerns operations against the Jihadis there?

There seem to be two views on the increased pressure being exerted on Syria itself. 1, that these are merely spoiling tactics and will not affect the security situation much, 2, that it is the prelude to further military action against Syria. There do seem to be suggestions that further PR gas attacks are on the cards.

Might I also ask whether statements that Jihadis are using Al-Tanf as a secure base for operations against the SAA are accurate? If so, is this related to the increased pressure elsewhere?

You state " - unless we started taking out Russian assets." Presumably these are still performing, among their other functions, a tripwire function?

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