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US backing off Iran strike (June 2019)

The US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA (the "Iran nuclear deal") in 2018.

A year later, Iran announced that it would partially withdraw from the international agreement. Whereas, under the previous deal, Iran had agreed to sell its excess enriched uranium and heavy water to other countries, now it will keep those materials.

Then, bizarrely:

In June, Iran shot down a $200 million U.S. military drone. The U.S. President tweeted:

Once upon a time, war had to be authorized by Congress, but now everyone knows it's just the president's decision. Will America go to war? Americans will find out!

Ships and planes were in motion, and then:

Supposedly, it was a White House lawyer — not a military official — who provided the "150" casualty figure to Trump. The number represented a "worst case scenario."

First of all, ordering a disproportionate strike and then backing off upon realizing it's disproportionate isn't a great moral achievement.

Secondly, it isn't plausible that Trump would back off for moral concerns, given what we know about his character.

Thirdly, this story is not plausible given how the military functions. The military is always aware of potential casualties. They don't bring them up as a "by the way" ten minutes before they open fire.

"Something's wrong there," Shep Smith said during a Fox News segment on June 21. Chris Wallace said, "I talked to a former top national security official in an earlier Republican administration who says this just doesn't add up...The timeline for when he learned information and when he decided to act doesn't make a lot of sense....Maybe that's the biggest problem. You could argue: if you don't want to strike, don't strike. If you want to strike, do strike — but don't send mixed messages that confuse not only your enemies, but even your allies and people here in this country."

So how did he decide?

The New York Times reports that Trump sought out the advice of Fox personality Tucker Carlson. Later that night, Carlson said on-air that a strike would have been catastrophic.

Zachary B. Wolf wrote for CNN on June 23, 2019:

Recall that early in Trump's presidency he surrounded himself with former generals — James Mattis at the Pentagon, Michael Flynn and then H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser, and John Kelly first as DHS Secretary and then as White House chief of staff.

All of them are gone now.

Flynn was dismissed for lying about Russia contacts. Kelly had his authority undermined and was then pushed out. McMaster quietly exited after not gelling with the President. Mattis resigned without a public word but in spectacular fashion, sending a letter describing his differences with the President.

In the place of generals, and despite his pledges to drain the swamp, Trump has sought out former defense contractors. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, before running for Congress, ran an aerospace company. Outgoing acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan spent a career at Boeing. New Defense nominee and current Secretary of the Army Mark Esper worked at Raytheon.

Only one week previously, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon is reluctant to share information with this president because they expect him to betray the country by leaking the information to foreign adversaries.

[See also MSN]

August 30, 2019

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