Russia Monitor: Trump’s Impulsive ‘Wag The Dog’ Iran Policy Teeters Blindly From Farce To Fear

“It’s extremely difficult now to escape the conclusion that @realDonaldTrump started a war because he was impeached.”

— Lawyer, Never-Trumper and spouse of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, George Conway Wednesday tweet.

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/9/20)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Iran did not take long to respond to Trump’s assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasam Soleimani. Iran said a response would be proportionate and only target US military – Iranian missiles struck two US military bases in Iraq; there were no deaths.

There is still an open question over the crash of a Ukrainian airliner departing the Tehran airport two hours after the attack killing all aboard. The jet was a Boeing 737-800. So far this is the best description of the open question:

“Though the evidence remained sketchy, aviation experts said that what was known indicated that the plane could have been attacked. Investigators should have that possibility “at the top of their agenda,” said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States.”

Leaving that as an open question, we’re used to Trump breaking norms, but why did he not go on national television Tuesday night following the attacks to describe what happened and offer a statement? I can’t help feeling we were better off for the delay avoiding a raw, emotional response that may well have made the situation worse.

Instead we got this from Esquire on Wednesday morning:

Trump’s Very Normal Iran Speech Featured Slurred Words and Contradictory Messages

Writer Jack Holmes’s sub-head is an even better summary: It was not, thankfully, a military escalation. But a new round of sanctions will not defuse the situation. Holmes adds:

“It remains incredible to watch the people on the teevee respond to a speech from the President of the United States, breathing heavily and frequently slurring his words, as if another basically normal thing just happened. We spend our days now trying to decipher whether a former game-show host with a perpetual goggle-tan and zero impulse-control has a strategy to solve one of the most persistent and complicated geopolitical crises of the last half-century. Historians will marvel at this phenomenon, assuming we make it that far.

“That said, it appears Donald Trump hit the most important notes in his speech from the White House Wednesday morning, in that he signaled some openness to diplomacy and seemed to get the message from the Islamic Republic’s Tuesday night missile strike on a U.S. military base in Iraq.”

We can all tell when Trump does not have his heart in the message he’s delivering and this was one of those moments; history says we’ll learn his real thoughts about what to expect soon, likely — as usual — by way of random tweets.

Responses by Trump and the Trumpsters remind me of Bush and his Neocons. Though Pence may be a weak sister to former VP Dick Cheney, Sec. of State Pompeo holds his own in comparison to former Sec. of State Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice. This New York Times headline says it all, Pompeo Upended Middle East by Pushing Trump to Kill Iranian General”.

If you appreciate Late Show host Stephen Colbert, in his words, “2003 is back; in 17 years we’ve come full circle from yellow cake to chocolate cake, from WMD to KFC”.

De-escalation is great, but we are not there yet. Trump came into office with this anti-Obama-JCPOA Iran accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) chip on his shoulder and the gap for any lasting new agreement is wide – Iran stands by ‘the US must leave the Middle East’, while Trump opened his remarks this morning with his warning that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon. Both did offer assurances of a desire to not start a war.

Sadly Trump continues to reinforce concerns that his military and foreign policy decisions are impulsive, lack any strategy and escalate risk instead of de-escalation. In the face of his claims of (purported) imminent danger he advised or sought the advice or informed a few close associates like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), visitors to his Mar-A-Lago resort, but not Dem leaders, allies, NATO, Iraq (in violation of their sovereignty)… Though he does now offer assurances that he’s interested in allied and NATO coordination.

George Conway’s above tweet of a thread from Wednesday. He bolstered his Trump-wag-the-dog case with this, “He let all sorts of transgressions by the Iranians go previously, and is perfectly happy to kowtow to evil foreign leaders (KJU, Putin), but suddenly, he chooses the option that the military thought too extreme to actually select, and then threatens to commit war crimes.” Conway says the ‘difference’ is the Articles of Impeachment approved by the House. Conway then offers quotes (projection) from ten times Trump claimed Obama was certain to “attack Iran to win reelection”.

Feeding our concerns, we’ve learned that Trump’s trait is to double down whenever he feels discounted or questioned – meaning his pathologies are easily ‘poked’ resulting in ever-worsening, downward spiral of impulsive decisions.

But speaking of ‘impasse’ and impeachment, let’s move past the front page and to these dueling headlines:

Pelosi says impeachment articles won’t go to Senate until she learns more about how trial would be conducted


McConnell accuses Pelosi of ‘shameless game-playing’ as she insists on seeing rules for a Senate trial

If you want a little more color, go here:

McConnell’s win on impeachment trial procedure was months in the making

There is some hope that GOP moderates might side with reason and fairness and force rules to hear from witnesses. But after a few encouraging, or at least not discouraging remarks, from the likes of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) those hopes are not looking so good. Romney has wilted away from voting to force McConnell to issue subpoenas and Collins quickly nodded in agreement that she’s Okay with McConnell’s rules.

But it’s not over till it’s over.

That said, Trump, by wag-the-dog or uncontrollable impulse, has pushed Impeachment far into the news background. And that lack of focus is aiding McConnell’s ability to keep Senate Republicans in line, because there is no media focus to push the questions of fairness and force the moderates to publicly declare.

Nonetheless there are hopes of new damning information bringing attention back to Impeachment; turns out one such hope is offered by George Conway, this time as a New York Times opinion piece written with lawyer and author Neal Katyal.

Why Is Mitch McConnell So Afraid of John Bolton?: The Senate must hear his testimony in an impeachment trial.

The authors offer an impassioned case for allowing crucial witnesses. Bolton is credited with having, “elevated truth and transparency over political gamesmanship” with his announcement that if subpoenaed by the Senate he would appear. They also offer a longer list of potential moderate Senators that might ‘do the right thing’. Here is their closing remark:

The truth may not set the president free, but the Constitution is meant to keep the country free, and a fair and impartial trial is what must take place here.

Final observation, Trump’s rash impulses potentially raise foreign policy from an election non-consideration to something of greater importance – one of many stark contrasts would be Trump’s actions, in contrast to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) antimilitarist credentials that I highlighted with his quote last edition, “Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”

Impeach AND Remove.