Trump and Advisors: Coming or Going?
Does Trump and his coterie of brilliant advisors led by Mike Pompeo know whether they are coming or going in terms of dealing with Iran? Since the assassination of General Suliemani, the administration has given conflicting signals of what we can expect in the future. First we were told the killing of Suliemani was to abort an imminent threat against American personnel in the Middle East. This didn’t seem to fly so after several other explanations we were told it was done in retaliation for Suliemani’s past involvement in the killing of American soldiers.
And after Trump declaring on multiple occasions that he was going to bring all American troops home and didn’t want to get involved in endless wars, he ordered thousands of extra troops to the Middle East after Suliemani’s demise. These ideas would seem to support contradictory objectives. In fact, the killing of Suliemani did not appear to be the pathway to bringing the troops home and not possibly getting entangled in a new war with Iran.
Of course, from one moment to the next, Trump doesn’t seem to know whether he’s coming or going and is open to recommendations from his advisory staff, particularly Pompeo on what to do. But that only goes for impulsive, immediate actions without thinking ahead to the possible consequences and how to deal with them. Suliemani was in Iraq and easily targeted so why not go ahead and take him out. He had been a thorn in America’s side for decades. Pompeo has been a hawk on Iran for years and is believed to have convinced Trump to exit the nuclear agreement with Iran.
There was also confusion on whether American troops were going to be leaving Iraq or staying. Initially, there was a message from the Pentagon saying that all American personnel would be departing Iraq after the Iraqi legislature voted for US troops to go. Then Americans were told that message was a mistake and that American troops would be staying at this point.
But what is our long term strategy in the Middle East. When talking to Erdogan a number of months ago, he was willing to pull our troops out of Syria and abandon our allies the Kurds who had been fighting alongside us against ISIS. Then he said 500 US troops would stay in Syria to protect the oil fields.
When the Saudi oil installations were blown up by Iran, Trump did nothing. When oil tankers were damaged in the Straits of Hormuz by the Iranians, Trump did nothing. And suddenly, he decided to execute Suliemani, the second most powerful man in Iran and an icon of the regime. Just spur of the moment because he was an available target. How can any of our allies depend on us when Trump doesn’t seem to know whether he’s coming or going and has no long term strategy in place. Or if he does, he doesn’t seem to know about it.
Fortunately, at the moment it appears that the Iranians are not going to risk a major reprisal against American forces. But whether or not they will take action down the road with their proxies in the region is unclear.