Donald Trump ordered ships into position and planes in the air to attack Iran–until he didn’t. With events in the Gulf moving as quickly as a whirling dervish, it’s hard to keep track of where this is headed. But we know this: within the past 24 hours, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards used a SAM anti-aircraft missile to destroy a $120-million advanced U.S. drone that was tracking Iranian military activities and movements in the strategic Persian Gulf. The UAV was one of our most sophisticated and capable of monitoring and processing immense amounts of spy data. The U.S. claims the aircraft was in international waters and Iran claims it was within its own. The latter has named the coordinates at which the plane was downed and retrieved wreckage of the plane in its territorial waters. Though the U.S. has shown video (see above) of the moment of the drone’s destruction, it has not offered evidence to support the claim about its exact location.
Pres. Trump has, as usual, made several strange comments about the Iranian incident. At one point, he said Iran was lucky there was no pilot in the drone. An exceedingly bizarre, but characteristic statement from our dear leader. The war hawks in the administration (Pompeo, Bolton and Haspel) pressed hard for a strong military response. While the Times reports that the military brass (“my generals,” as Trump once called them once-upon-a-time) were the ones who talked sense, warning that such action could lead to a “spiraling escalation,” which might harm American interests and personnel throughout the region.
Though Congressional leaders were briefed, it’s not clear how they responded or whether their comments influenced Trump’s stand-down. While Republicans said an attack would have been justified, Democrats reinforced the message that any attack on Iran must be approved by Congressional resolution. This is a position the administration has neither rejected nor affirmed. But officials have argued that the 2001 authorization of an attack on al Qaeda also covered any similar military force against Iran. This seems a dubious claim. But like all such Trump administration statements, it would stand as policy until a court overruled it, which could take years at the rate the American judicial system works.
I’ve been warning for over a decade of the danger of a war against Iran. This was the reason that Shamai Leibowitz articulated to me that he revealed top-secret FBI recordings of Israeli embassy officials who were laying the groundwork for precisely this eventuality.
Everyone knows that Donald Trump is a loose cannon–not just his mouth, but his precipitous, mercurial personality, which causes him to make decisions and renounce them almost before they come out of his mouth. So we were minutes away from bombing Iran when the planes were ordered back to base. This is not good. Not good, not just because it shows a president who is indecisive and ineffectual; but also because it shows how easily he could start a war without necessarily intending to do so.
By all accounts, the targets selected were low-level military installations, but that hardly matters. Once the U.S. directly attacks Iran, all bets are off as to what the eventual outcome might be. The Iranians who, till now, have behaved toward us in a fairly constrained way (especially while the nuclear deal was in effect), would certainly not sit idly by. They would respond with an attack on either American military targets or interests. At that point, we’d be off to the races; and there’s no telling where we would end up. We are ruled both in Iran and the U.S. by hotheads, fools and hardliners. God (or somebody) help us…
P Spot says
With rockets, missiles, limpet mines, and now anti-aircraft missiles, Iran has for weeks, been trying to goad the United States into a skirmish, hoping that the international community will jump in and sort things out in Iran’s favor.
Trump has proven the wiser. He knows that sanctions against Iran are biting, and that Iran is getting desperate.
Trump will wait it out, unless of course, Iran does something even stupider, like attack American servicemen operating in international waters.
The US published a map of where the drone was with the claim it was over Int’l water.
Why won’t Iran do the same to support it’s cliam?
The Euros have a strong role to play here, if they will play it, it seems to me. No?
Linda Furr says
Power to the peaceful!!!
Linda Furr – peace at all price almost destroyed the world in 1938. Why not try that again, right?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Dudu: What utter nonsense. Repeating Bibi’s stupid meme, which I discredited like so: Iran isn’t Munich and 2019 isn’t 1938. You and so many pro-Israel apologists continually make the poisonous assumption that history not only rhymes and repeats itself, but it never changes and is always the same. But on the contrary, countries and history evolves constantly. The hunted becomes the hunter. The killed becomes the killer. But one thing never changes. Once a victim, always a victim even when you’ve become the killer.
P Spot says
History may or may not repeat itself.
It is people, however, that do not change, and there will always be ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, same as there will alway be feckless appeasers.
Richard Silverstein says
@ P Spot: Everything in your last comment made my blood boil. So a warning to you: if you want to be the resident hasbarist/cynic here you won’t last long. Here’s one comment rule I insist on: comments must have substance and an argument. They must be directly related to the post and on-topic. I’m not interested in your philosophical disquisitions on humanity or history. Stick to the post and make a substantive argument. Nattering on about wolves and appeasers will lead you quickly to disappear from the comment threads.
Richard – I didn’t say it will go in exactly the same way.
But… I meant to say that seeking peace at all cost proved to be a very dangerous strategy and repeating in with Iran could lead to a greater disaster. The fact you may delay a war by a few years doesn’t mean you prevented it b/c when it finally arrives, it could be much more fierce and painful.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Dudu: There is no such thing as “seeking peace at all costs.” You and Netanyahu and his disciples made it up. No leader seeks peace at all costs. Seeking diplomatic agreements like the Iran nuclear deal actually prevent war and ensure peace.
Ah yes, we all know who you are: one of the Islamo-Arabo-Irano-Palestinophobes who declares we eventually will have all-out war with…take your pick Arabs/Iranians/Muslims/Palestinians. So let’s get it over with now. Let’s wipe them out so we can get on with our existence.
You’re an especially cynical specimen of the species.
U.S. neocons again take lead to go to war … your recent article!
So history does repeat itself … Afghanistan (1979) – Iraq (Bush) on wish list Assad’s Syria – Obama blocked Israel attack on Iran (2012) – Libya – Syria – a final (?) domino in region Iran: Trump (2019-20) …geez what about Turkey …
U.S. Navy doing another “Gulf of Tonkin”?
Yeah, Right says
Here’s what I think is the real reason that Trump blinked: Bolton was screaming “Launch the tomahawks! They never miss!” and Pompeo was screaming “Let the air force loose! Iran has nothing that can oppose them!” and Trump was juuuuuuust about to press the Go! button when the Pentagon quietly cleared their throat and asked “And what do you plan to do about the Iranian Army?”
Pompeo: Huh? The… what? What?
Bolton: Um, who? What? Where?
Trump: Explain yourself, soldier!
Pentagon: Yes, Mr President. Iran has a 500,000 strong army, locked and loaded.
Trump: So how many troops does CENTCOM have?
Pentagon: Around 28,000, give or take, but it’s hard to say because they are scattered.
Trump: Stand Down! Stand Down! Stand Down!
Think about it……
Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf did not say “boo!” to Saddam until he had 500,000 men.
Even dopey Tommy Franks would not take on Iraq until he had 500,000 troops on hand.
Yet CENTCOM is expected to stand firm against an Iranian army that is 10 times bigger than it is.
Sorry, correction: CENTCOM is not expected to do that because that appears to have escaped everyone’s attention.
The US “leadership” is expecting that it can launch a war with Iran and the Iranian Army will respond by sitting in their barracks twiddling their thumbs. And the USA expects them to do that despite the fact – and it is a fact – that the Iranian army would have little difficulty rolling up all in-theatre CENTCOM ground force like a cheap Persian Rug.
US ground forces in Afghanistan? Gone. At best they’ll flee in Pakistan. At worst they stand and get routed.
Kuwait? It’s just a hop, skip and jump. Gone before anyone even know the Iranians on the march.
Iran could 250,000 men marching around the Gulf with orders that read “don’t stop till you reach Oman”.
Don’t bet against them getting there. CENTCOM has next-to-nothing on the ground to put in their way, and its Iraqi and Saudi “allies” are pitiful jokes.
Trump came within inches of starting an air-war that he was confident of winning, until he was quietly told that this could result in a ground war that the USA would not only be destined to lose, but would invariably lose “bigly”.
I am an Iranian and I pray to God that there’ll be a war to sort out the US presence in our region once and for all and then set off to reclaim Iraq and Saudi Arabia as our two (former) rightful territories/satrapy.