Opinion Op Ed 05 Jul 2019 Trump still an enigm ...
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi

Trump still an enigma: So who is starting a war with Iran?

Published Jul 5, 2019, 7:45 am IST
Updated Jul 5, 2019, 7:45 am IST
Trump’s almost daily threats echo King Lear in the final stages of his madness.
US President Donald Trump
 US President Donald Trump

“Janabe Trump se sahib salamat door ki achchi
Na inki dosti achchi, na inki dushmani achchi
(Greet Mister Trump but keep your distance
Neither too much friendship nor hostility is recommended)

Just when one wondered where his Afghanistan special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had vamoosed, appears Donald Trump’s interview with his very favourite Fox News. The text is a riddle, inside a puzzle in an echo chamber of bombast. US troops will leave but a heavy intelligence presence will remain to keep a watch on what he calls the “Harvard of terrorism”. He has used the very same term for Syria and Iraq. Will the “heavy intelligence” presence not need military protection? So who is withdrawing which troops?

 

Just as well, Iran is running rings around him. On Monday, foreign minister Javad Zarif announced that, harassed by illegal sanctions, Iran felt free to violate provisions of the 2015 agreement. The US Deep State must be sunk in the deepest levels of thought.

It is interesting to study the contrasting attitudes of the US establishment during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1985-86 and now when the Deep State is pushing comparable clandestine operations in different theatres. During the Nicaragua operations, CIA director William Casey, ordered the mining of Central American ports without informing Congress. Senator Barry Goldwater, as chairman of the select committee on Intelligence, rapped Casey hard on the knuckles. He wrote: “All this past week I have been trying to figure out how I can most easily tell you my feelings about the discovery of the President having approved mining of some of the harbours of Central America. It gets down to one, little, simple phrase: I am pissed off!”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as deputy chairman of the committee, took an even more dim view. He called it the CIA’s assault on constitutional government. What would he say about the Deep State’s unprecedented preeminence today?
Compare the Nicaragua operation to the mess in the Strait of Hormuz these past weeks. Iran foreign minister  Javad Zarif piles accusations on the Trump administration for trying to trigger a war by false flag operations. These operations targeted Japanese tankers. This happened so soon after Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe’s visit to Tehran as to be almost laughable. In his tweet Mr Zarif communicated to the White House that the Iranians had accumulated all intercepts about the Deep State’s frenetic efforts to purchase speed boats to attack tankers in order to pin the blame on Iran. In one instance “Trump’s B team was moments away from trapping Donald Trump into war”, reveals Mr Zarif.

What the Iranians have done to the US’s most advanced surveillance drone, Global Hawk, when it crossed into their air space on June 20, is the stuff that legends are made of. The high-tech equipment, worth about $223 million, was actually brought down by an indigenously assembled Iranian drone that cost Tehran barely $2,600 per piece.

The lazy assumption that the technologies in the Iranian arsenal must trace their origins to allies Russia and China is wrong. The truth is that Beijing and Moscow are as surprised at Tehran’s technological advance as the rest of the world is.
Indeed, Mr Trump could not resist thanking Tehran for having spared a US aircraft ferrying 39 “terrorists” to heaven knows where. The “terrorists” in question are actually soldiers. The term “terrorists” is Iranian tit-for-tat, a reciprocal insult because Mr Trump had designated the Iranian National Guard as “terrorist”.
The story of the manned US plane that flew in close proximity to the fateful drone is interesting for another reason. After the drone was shot down, the Iranian Air Force connected with the second aircraft carrying 39 US soldiers. It issued a simple instruction: “Turn back immediately or meet the same fate as the drone.” This gesture, as mentioned earlier was appreciated by Mr Trump.

Given these exchanges, is war with Iran on the horizon? Mr Trump’s almost daily threats echo King Lear in the final stages of his madness. “I will do such things – what they are, yet I know not but they shall be the terrors of the earth.”
Let us, for the sake of amusement, list a few. Remember when Mr Trump was stoking the fires to soften Kim Jong-un? He announced a “flotilla was on its way to the Sea of Japan to teach the “rocket man”, a lesson. It transpired that the flotilla in question was sailing towards Australia. “with Mr Trump himself playing up the show of force” said a Pentagon official “rolling back the story became difficult”.

Remember how Mr Trump had plucked out from the skies Juan Guaido as a replacement for President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela? This totally arbitrary decision had the support of a dozen European countries. Today, Mr Guaido is something of a laughing stock presumably plotting coups on some secure beach.
Was Mr Trump’s first policy decision not to pull back all troops from Afghanistan? Even the frenetic movements of special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad between Doha, Kabul, Islamabad appear to have slowed down.

A theory of terrorism as an asset, inaugurated in Afghanistan to oust the Soviets, employed in Syria for a failed effort at regime change, is being polished. Russians and Iranians have already accused the US of ferrying groups like Jabhat al Nusra, under new labels, to destinations like northern Afghanistan.
The alacrity with which Tehran has provided evidence that the drone that was shot down took off from a base in the UAE surprised the Americans. Indeed, the UAE ambassador to Tehran was given an earful by the foreign office.

Meanwhile, Iran’s arch regional rival, Saudi Arabia, is fighting the Houthis of Yemen now on its own territory. The Saudi airbase of Najran in the South is in Houthi control. In these circumstances, show me the macho leader feeling muscular enough to plunge headlong into war? Note Mr Zarif’s terse warning: he
who starts the war shall not finish it.

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