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Donald Trump is going full neocon

The president who campaigned on extricating Washington from wars in the Middle East seems intent on starting a fresh one.

July 23, 2018

10:44 AM

23 July 2018

10:44 AM

The edge between Trump merely acting like a madman in foreign policy or being one keeps narrowing. At this point it seems fair to ask whether Trump or the leadership of Iran, to use the language and typography of his tweet last night, is more DEMENTED. In his tweet, he threatened Iran with what amounted to nuclear annihilation, thereby making the search of the mullahs for a nuclear deterrent seem utterly sensible. If Trump is going to push for regime change, then Tehran will double down on its nuclear program.

Trump’s blast has occasioned much chin stroking in Washington. Was Trump trying to reprise his fire and fury policy against North Korea? Were his fulgurations a bid to deflect attention from the Mueller investigation or from his abject servility towards Russian President Vladimir Putin? Or from hush money payments to his former flames? Or is it all of the above?

Whatever the motive, it seems clear that Trump is going full neocon. The president who campaigned on extricating Washington from wars in the Middle East seems intent on starting a fresh one. Apart from his eminently sensible Defense Secretary James Mattis, Trump will be abetted in this quest for martial valour by national security adviser John Bolton, who has been thirsting for conflict with Tehran ever since he was out of diapers. Then there is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Also an inveterate Iran hawk, he delivered a lugubrious speech last night before the Reagan Presidential Library that was filled with platitudes about liberating the Iranian people from a ruling clique that “resembles a mafia more than a government.” At another point he said that “they have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the wealthiest men on Earth while their people suffer.” Hmmm. Such piercing language made it hard to discern at times if he was describing the Trump administration or Iran.

A war with Iran would confirm that America has become a rogue state. China, Russia and Europe would ally against Washington. The only country that would be exultant is Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been preaching for a new crusade against Tehran for decades.

No one doubts that Iran is a nasty regime but Trump and his advisers have an obsession with it that borders on mania. An actual, unprovoked conflict would truly be a maniacal act, a war of aggression that subverts the very American greatness that Trump purports to seek to restore.

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