Opinion | The Dire Consequences of Trump’s Suleimani Decision – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rice, a contributing opinion writer, was the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Jonathan Drake/Reuters

“Americans would be wise to brace for war with Iran.

Full-scale conflict is not a certainty, but the probability is higher than at any point in decades. Despite President Trump’s oft-professed desire to avoid war with Iran and withdraw from military entanglements in the Middle East, his decision to order the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, as well as Iraqi leaders of an Iranian-backed militia, now locks our two countries in a dangerous escalatory cycle that will likely lead to wider warfare.

How did we get here? What are the consequences of these targeted killings? Can we avoid a worse-case scenario?

The escalatory cycle began in May 2018, when President Trump recklessly ignored the advice of his national security team and the opposition of our allies in unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — despite Iran’s full adherence to its terms and its efficacy in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. Since then, the Trump administration has had no coherent strategy to constrain Iran’s program or to counter other aspects of its nefarious behavior.

Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” to impose ever more debilitating economic sanctions did not force Iran to capitulate; instead, predictably, it induced Tehran to lash out with a series of increasingly bold military provocations against Sunni Arab and Western targets while restarting important aspects of its nuclear program. Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, notably in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, have only intensified. At the same time, it has conducted a brutal crackdown on its civilian population. None of the Trump administration’s stated objectives have been met; if anything, the United States’ security and strategic positions in the region have weakened.”

Opinion | Qassim Suleimani’s Killing Will Unleash Chaos – By Barbara Slavin – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Demonstrators in Tehran protested after a U.S. airstrike killed Maj. Gen.

Credit…Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

“Few tears will be shed in many parts of the world for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, whose Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ruthlessly spread Iranian influence and contributed to the deaths of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians, as well as hundreds of American servicemen in Iraq, over the past decade and a half.

But revenge is not a strategy, and the killing of General Suleimani is a major — and incredibly risky — escalation with Iran, a pivotal country of some 80 million people that has been largely estranged from the United States for 40 years. It will cause more instability and the loss of more innocent lives. Any chances for American diplomacy with Iran are dead for the duration of the Trump presidency — if not longer. Instead of one nuclear proliferation crisis, with North Korea, there will most likely now be two, as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal completely collapses. The Sunni fundamentalists who killed Americans in their homeland — something Iran has not done so far — will rejoice. Russia and China will be happy to see the United States mired in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

It is important to remember who began this spiral. In May 2018, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement negotiated by his predecessor at a time when Iran was in full compliance with it. When he did so, the Quds Force and its associated militias in Iraq were fighting the Islamic State in indirect coordination with the American military. The Persian Gulf was quiet.

For a year after the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the status quo prevailed. Then in April 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced what amounted to an embargo on the export of Iranian oil. Shortly afterward, Iran moved from “strategic patience” to resistance and retaliation: first against oil tankers, then against an American drone and in September against Saudi oil facilities. In Iraq, Iran-backed militias started lobbing rockets into the Green Zone and other locations where Americans are based. On Dec. 27, rockets killed an American contractor in Kirkuk, and the United States retaliated with strikes that killed two dozen militia members in Iraq and Syria. Iran-backed militias responded with an attempt to break into the American embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve.”

Opinion | American Foreign Policy Is Broken. Suleimani’s Killing Proves It. – By Jonathan Stevenson – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Stevenson is a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“The targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and four others in a precision strike by an MQ-9 Reaper drone at Baghdad International Airport was an impressive display of American military prowess. And it liquidated a destabilizing figure: The general was the commander of the Quds Force, which is responsible for Iran’s covert and extraterritorial military operations. In the scheme of things, he had it coming. Yet killing him made little strategic sense for the United States. In some ways, the most significant thing about his death is what it shows about the breakdown of American foreign policymaking.

President Trump ordered the strike directly, prompted by the death of an American contractor on Dec. 27 in a rocket attack by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored Iraqi Shia militia. Mr. Trump did not bother to consult congressional leaders. As with his other displays of martial fiat, his immediate impulse was probably to shock the liberal domestic audience, vicariously make himself feel tough, and assert raw executive power by going around the normal channels of decision making.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had considered taking out General Suleimani but rejected it — not for lack of nerve, but for fear of undue escalation and an unnecessary war with Iran. The fundamental facts on the ground have not changed, and in the kind of robust interagency, national security decision-making process that the National Security Council staff is supposed to supervise, such concerns would have been systematically raised, dissected and discussed, and a consensus reached to inform presidential action. No such process seems to have occurred here.

The Pentagon has claimed, facilely, that General Suleimani was hit because the Revolutionary Guard was planning attacks on American targets in the region. But in a proper interagency review, the intelligence community could have pointed out that “decapitation” is a patently unreliable means of pre-emption — particularly when the organization in question is the Revolutionary Guard, an integral part of a well-honed security state with considerable depth of command talent.”

David Lindsay:

This is possibly the best of three very good pieces on Qassim Suleimani’s Killing from the NYT which I have posted at my blog InconvenientNews.net
After the first piece, by Thomas Friedman, I wrote an ugly comment, wondering if Trump is trying to help the Russians, since he is certainly weakening the US. The comments section of each op-ed offers more darkness and sadness. One of the most salient issues, is that Iran was off to making peace with the US, until Trump walked away from the denuclearization deal, and started raising old and new sanctions. Suleimani was our ally against ISIS, and only turned his forces against us after we pulled out of the denuclearization deal and reimposed sanctions.

Opinion | Trump Kills Iran’s Most Overrated Warrior – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

A portrait of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani carried during a demonstration in Baghdad in 2015.
Credit…Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

“One day they may name a street after President Trump in Tehran. Why? Because Trump just ordered the assassination of possibly the dumbest man in Iran and the most overrated strategist in the Middle East: Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Think of the miscalculations this guy made. In 2015, the United States and the major European powers agreed to lift virtually all their sanctions on Iran, many dating back to 1979, in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program for a mere 15 years, but still maintaining the right to have a peaceful nuclear program. It was a great deal for Iran. Its economy grew by over 12 percent the next year. And what did Suleimani do with that windfall?

He and Iran’s supreme leader launched an aggressive regional imperial project that made Iran and its proxies the de facto controlling power in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana. This freaked out U.S. allies in the Sunni Arab world and Israel — and they pressed the Trump administration to respond. Trump himself was eager to tear up any treaty forged by President Obama, so he exited the nuclear deal and imposed oil sanctions on Iran that have now shrunk the Iranian economy by almost 10 percent and sent unemployment over 16 percent.”

David Lindsay:

Ouch. I want to support this assassination, because that would be easy. But if Suleimani was so dumb, and so bad for Iran, why did we turn him into a gigantic martyr?  Why didn’t the Israelis, who had penetrated his organization, take him out?  The awful probable truth, is that Trump is in trouble and he needs a war. The Ayatollah of Iran is in trouble, and he needs a war. Why, with so many issues and questions, did the Pentagon go along with the orange orangutan who is president, and who continually serves the interests of Putin and the Russians? Did any of you reading this, see the exposé in the NYT the other day, about how the Russians and Syrian air force are bombing hospitals and schools in northern Syria? They are bombing our allies, whom we fought with and for. Perhaps the best question, is, why did Putin want this to happen? It will probably go very badly for the United States.

Opinion | Trump Takes On China and Persia at Once. What’s to Worry About? – The New York Times

 

Thomas L. Friedman

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

“If you’re keeping score at home on the Trump foreign policy, let me try to put it in a nutshell: The president has engaged America in a grand struggle to reshape the modern behavior of two of the world’s oldest civilizations — Persia and China — at the same time.

Pressing both to change is not crazy. What’s crazy is the decision to undertake such a huge endeavor without tightly defined goals, without allies to achieve those goals, without a strong and coherent national security team and without a plan on how to sync up all of President Trump’s competing foreign policy objectives.

After all, Trump is unilaterally breaking the 2015 denuclearization deal with Iran’s dictator while trying to entice North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, into a denuclearization deal that he’s supposed to trust the U.S. president will honor. Trump is sanctioning China on trade while trying to enlist its help to denuclearize North Korea. Trump is imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on America’s European allies while needing their help to confront China on trade and Iran on nukes.

And last week Trump came within 10 minutes of bombing Iran — but wisely pulled back — in retaliation for its shooting down of a U.S. drone, at a time when we cannot stabilize Iraq, or get out of Afghanistan without leaving chaos behind, absent the cooperation of Iran.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment.
Thank you Thomas Friedman, great essay, and great points. I don’t have the space and time here to repeat all those points, but it is interesting how the commentors criticize and attack you for thinking that Trump can listen to or take good advice. I’m not a fan of Drumpf, but he is brilliant as a con artist and crook, who has shown that he can dominate the press like few ever have. Furthermore, he has a brand to protect. I agree with your main point, that we can settle with Iran and should, extending the nuclear treaty by more years, for lifting the sanctions and maintaining a long, awkward peace. Your points about China are equally cogent. China poses a serious threat to the United States and the world, as well as a fine opportunity. I share in your unspoken grief. We had the beginning of a plan of action, with the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and we will have to return to such a proactive and intelligent diplomacy, even it it is to be called, at least temporarily, the Trump Pacific Partnership.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.net. He performs a folk concert of songs and stories about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Iran Finally Let Her See Her Husband. He Was Dead. – The New York Times

“. . .  In his free time, Mr. Seyed Emami, a youthful 64 when he died, led an influential private environmental organization, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, founded in 2008 by Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American entrepreneur. With his Canadian passport, gotten as many Canadian-Iranians had in the 1980s and 1990s, he could have lived in Canada. But he chose to stay in Iran and work for change here.

In his classes and through the foundation, he urged his fellow Iranians to work within the system to build the country they desired, despite setbacks they might experience. But lately some authorities clearly found his work at the foundation, which had continued for nearly nine years, suspicious.

As part of its preservation of endangered species, the foundation had set up camera traps to track rare animals like the Persian leopard in the wild. Those cameras, as well as the foundation’s frequent invitations to foreign experts, would figure in the spying charges.”

Opinion | How to Stop the March to War With Iran – By Wendy R. Sherman- The New York Times

By Wendy R. Sherman

Ms. Sherman is the former under secretary of state for political affairs.

  • The USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to unspecified threats from Iran.CreditU.S. Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • “Either the Trump administration is trying to goad Iran into war or a war could come by accident because of the administration’s reckless policies, but the prospect of the current tensions in the Middle East escalating into a serious conflict are now dangerously high.

This week, four commercial tankers were reportedly sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic shipping lane for about 40 percent of the world’s oil. Saudi Arabia also reported that drones attacked an oil pipeline, possibly by Iranian-supported Houthis. Both incidents ratcheted up tensions as anonymous American officials in the press pointed to Iran as the perpetrator. Tehran has denied this.

Additionally, during a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly shared reports of escalating Iranian threats in the Middle East. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that it was pulling nonessential staff from Iraq, citing unspecified Iranian threats. This came after increased American sanctions against Iran and the movement of an American aircraft carrier and B-52s to the Persian Gulf. With Iran threatening to step back from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, the Trump administration leaked plans to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East if war is to come.

But war is not inevitable. President Trump campaigned on bringing troops home, not sending tens of thousands more to the Middle East. Such a deployment, although inadequate for a full-scale war, is more than foolish. War in the Middle East, as we should have learned by now, is neither swift to end nor sure to achieve its purpose.”

NYT Video: The Militia That’s Threatening American Troops in Syria is backed by Iran

https://www.nytimes.com/?region=TopBar&action=click&contentCollection=Library&module=topnav_nythome&pgType=Multimedia

Video

There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. Recently, a statement went out calling for direct attacks against them. Who sent it, and why?By DAVID BOTTI and CHRISTIAAN TRIEBERT

Opinion | Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

My wife is building a language museum in Washington (I’m its vice chairman), so people often send her funny examples of word play, including a list of mixed-up idioms from oxforddictionaries.com. Among my favorites: “Don’t judge a book before it’s hatched.” “Every cloud has a silver spoon in its mouth.” “It’s not rocket surgery.” “You can’t teach a leopard new spots.” And one that perfectly describes President Trump’s approach to every one of Barack Obama’s policies, including his nuclear deal with Iran: “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

And that’s my subject for today. Trump, by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal. But to do so would have required Trump to admit that there was merit in the deal Obama had forged and to be content with limited, but valuable, fixes that our European allies likely would have embraced.

Instead, Trump pushed for the max, torched the whole bridge, separating us from Germany, France and Britain, undermining the forces of moderation in Iran and requiring Trump to now manage — on his own — a complex, multidimensional confrontation with Tehran.

Color me dubious that a president who has not been able to manage his confrontation with a stripper, or prevent leaks in his White House, can manage a multifront strategy for confronting Iran and North Korea and trade wars with China, Europe and Mexico.

via Opinion | Trump’s Dream Come True: Trashing Obama and Iran in One Move – The New York Times

David Lindsay:   Excellent op-ed. I wonder if the Iranians would have budged without major new concessions to them.   Here are some of the top comments I recommended:

Marcus
Texas
Times Pick

Mr. Friedman, dare I suggest you made a misplaced assumption when you inferred that president Trump is astutely aware of Iranian misdeeds.

The president has never articulated a single cogent criticism of the Iranian nuclear deal. What we have repeatedly heard is, “It’s the worst deal ever. Very, very bad. Horrible.” This tells us nothing, which is the reflection of what the president knows. I bet you, and this is sad to think, that president Trump would be unable to locate Iran on a world map.

The Trump presidency’s primary political goal is to completely efface Obama’s legacy. Trump’s thinking is simple: if Obama said it was good, it must be bad. It’s really quite that simple. That is unfortunately the shallow depth of Trump’s capabilities.

Rick Gage commented May 15

R
Rick Gage
Mt Dora
Times Pick

You give Donald too much credit. There is, and never was, a strategy aimed at pointing out Iran’s other bad actions in the Middle East. He hasn’t even acknowledged the bad actions Russia has inflicted here in the U.S.A. Trump’s only reason for walking away from this deal, the TPP and the Paris accords was that Obama midwifed them. That’s it. Just childish petulance because Obama made fun of him, in public, at the White House Correspondents Dinner. His only strategy is to try to erase all of the Obama Legacy. But, the jokes on him because with every reactive overreach he only burnishes Barack’s reputation. The contrast between these two leaders will have historians laughing harder than the invited guest at that fateful dinner.

Socrates commented May 15

Socrates
Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

Just as Donald has destabilized the United States by systematically catering to the lowest common denominator, he is slowly destabilizing the world with the same destructive technique.

Everything Donald touches turns to fecal matter; it may not happen right away, but give his natural poison time to work and he will destroy everything he touches.

The appeal of smashing everything to smithereens has great appeal to simple infantile minds.

He tried to destroy the ACA….and replace it with nothing and send about 15 million Americans hurling into the outer healthcare atmosphere where they would waste away.

He wants to destroy the Paris Accord…and replace it with accelerated manmade global warming that trashes our climate every waking second.

He destroyed the Iran agreement…and replaced it with the Art of Acting Like A Tough Guy.

He incited Muslim religious fanatics by idiotically moving the American embassy to Jerusalem to please Christian and Jewish religious fanatics, putting a final nail in the coffin of Israeli peace.

We don’t know what he’ll destroy yet on the Korean peninsula, but he’s working on it.

Add in his domestic destruction by signing a one-sided tax law that bypassed all Congressional legislative norms, his abandonment of national infrastructure, and his comprehensive lack of ethics, curiosity and knowledge, and he’s destroyed the dignity of the Presidency and the United States.

The only thing Donald has built has been a ticking Presidential time bomb.

Europe- Again Humiliated by Trump- Struggles to Defend Its Interests – By Steven Erlanger – NYT

May 9, 2018
“BRUSSELS — It is by now a familiar, humiliating pattern. European leaders cajole, argue and beg, trying to persuade President Trump to change his mind on a vital issue for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Mr. Trump appears to enjoy the show, dangling them, before ultimately choosing not to listen.

Instead, he demands compliance, seemingly bent on providing just the split with powerful and important allies that China, Iran and Russia would like to exploit.

Such is the case with the efforts to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear pact. Both the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made the pilgrimage to Washington to urge Mr. Trump not to scrap the agreement. Their failure is very similar to what happened with the Paris climate accord, and to what is happening now with unilateral American sanctions imposed on steel and aluminum imports, and to Mr. Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

And with each breach, it becomes clearer that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble, and that the options are not good for the United States’ closest European allies.”

via Europe, Again Humiliated by Trump, Struggles to Defend Its Interests – The New York Times

Excellent piece by Steven Erlanger. Here are the top comments, all of which I recommended. My thoughts are at the end of these comments by others.

jwp-nyc
New York

In understanding what would lead Putin to support Trump, Europe and the United States failed to objectively assess what is in Russia/Putin’s best self-interest. That is a catastrophic Middle East War that significantly restricts oil supply and sends prices per/barrel back over the $100 mark.

An all out war between Saudi Arabia and Iran will cause, serious disruption to the Arab OPEC energy producing nations far exceeding any war before it. Supply via the Gulf of Hormuz and the southern pipeline will be catastrophically affected.

Russia’s northern routes of supply to Europe (and greatest profit) would be unimpeded.

Russia is Syria and Iran’s main arms supplier and ally. So it would stand to profit directly from the conflict as well.

All this lies behind the decision by Putin and his oligarchs to back Trump the Traitor.

Look at it from Putin’s self-interested perspective and it is the obvious answer to all of his problems:

It will relieve his greatest financial pressure – by replenishing Russia’s coffers.

It will provide cover and distraction to aggressively pursue the restoration of what he views Russia’s “traditional borders.”

It has already weakened and now will split NATO.

It will isolate America and alienate most of the rest of the world from the U.S. as any kind of moral counterweight of any consequence.

It makes any treaty with the U.S. worth one presidential election.

Susan commented May 9

Susan
Susan
East Coast

I disagree that it’s the European allies who are humiliated. I think Trump has humiliated America with policies that are guided by one tenet: undoing every success of his predecessor, a black president.

Kcf commented May 9

K
Kcf
Kure Beach, NC
Times Pick

I do not like the headline. Why should Europe feel “humiliated”? I am embarrassed daily by the people in our White House. It’s a waste of time for anyone to try to talk to a narcissist. They tried – it’s time for them to move on.

Lexington commented May 9

L
Lexington
Lexington

“Humiliated”? Why does the author think that Europe’s self image is dependent upon trump and the United States? What’s happening is the (formerly) United States are being embarrassed by an incompetent head of state with a lack of understanding of even the most basic tenets of diplomacy and leadership. Mr. Erlanger got the “patience is thin” part right, however. The US is no longer a leader, we are rapidly becoming a rogue state. Offered a seat at the table for how long is the question.

François commented May 9

F
François
France
Times Pick

I wanted, in an English that I hope is acceptable, to share the opinion of a very ordinary European citizen, but proud of it. We owe a lot (I’m French) to America, but as time passes, is it more or less than you to the French and Lafayette? But this is not the most important. The contempt, the ignorance, the arrogance of your current administration is sad and makes us want our people to boycott US products. Do you know Iran, Persia … and this people? I do not speak of the mullahs. I do. I am not sure of being more afraid of them than of you. Nor to think that sharing our nuclear technology with this people would perhaps compensate for the scorn in which we are held by uneducated people venerating only money. We are probably not there yet, but you are pushing us. As for the extra territoriality of American law, you play with the fire dear-old-friends …