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Kiriakou writes: "Well, we walked right up to the brink of war with Iran last week. Again. It didn’t happen, of course, and The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other journals of record are replete with minute-by-minute explanations of what happened when and why. Much of it is nonsense. And much more of the coverage ignores the bigger-picture analysis."

John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)
John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)

With Trump’s Iranian Misadventure, Putin Wins Again

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

23 June 19


ell, we walked right up to the brink of war with Iran last week. Again. It didn’t happen, of course, and The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other journals of record are replete with minute-by-minute explanations of what happened when and why. Much of it is nonsense. And much more of the coverage ignores the bigger-picture analysis.

First, we know that after a full day (and part of a night) of consultations with top generals, advisors, and Congressional leaders, President Trump decided to call the whole thing off. He tweeted, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.” I don’t believe this for a second. That’s not the way it works in real life.

I can tell you from 15 years of first-hand experience at the CIA and another two-and-a-half at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there is never just one target, and never just a target or targets with civilian casualties. Any mid-level nobody involved in planning such an attack can tell you that the president is given a list of dozens of potential targets, each with a cost/benefit analysis attached. International law is such that the targets must not be adjacent to civilian populations anyway. 150 casualties? Not a chance.

A conversation between Trump and “his” generals would have consisted of those generals offering up dozens of choices like bombing parked planes, hitting buildings somehow associated with the Iranian nuclear program in the middle of the night, or maybe even bombing utilities. There wouldn’t be any 150 casualties.

We’ve also seen reports that Trump, through Omani diplomats, told the Iranians that an attack was coming. That’s standard operating procedure. It’s done so that the country being bombed can evacuate whomever needs to be evacuated. It’s a “courtesy” to prevent casualties, as ironic as that may sound. That’s why there were no casualties when Trump bombed Syria in 2017.

More important than Trump’s reasons for calling off the attack is that fact that the entire incident, from start to finish, made him look weak, and it exposed a serious ideological rift in the administration. The image of a “compassionate” Trump—that he called off the attack because the planned response wasn’t commensurate with Iran’s alleged downing of a Northrop Grumman Global Hawk drone—just doesn’t make sense. Nobody believes it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump himself doesn’t. A more likely scenario is that Congressional leaders—Republicans—got to him and told him that he wouldn’t have their support for an attack on Iran, he was being manipulated by his aides, and he was beginning to look like he was taking orders from John Bolton. Remember, Trump is all about perception. He wouldn’t want to be perceived as Bolton’s bitch.

Furthermore, and again I say this from experience, nobody wants less to send troops into harm’s way than the Pentagon brass. When I was at the CIA, the real hawks were the likes of Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They did all they could to keep us out of places like Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere, even if they failed in the end. Trump, meanwhile, has surrounded himself with hawks who would love nothing more than to bomb the daylights out of just about anybody, Iranian or not. The heavy-hitters are John Bolton, who couldn’t get himself confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration because he was too hawkish even for Republicans in the Senate; Mike Pompeo, who by his own admission absolutely loved the clandestine workings of the CIA when he was director there; and Bloody Gina Haspel, who replaced Pompeo and whose love of torture and violence against other human beings already is well-documented. These are the people who have the president’s ear. At least, they did until a few days ago.

None of those mentioned so far have come out of this a big winner. One person did, though. That would be Vladimir Putin. Trump’s stooges put Putin in a win/win position. First, he wins if Trump acts unilaterally, that is, without United Nations or Congressional authorization and without support from allies. He consults with the Chinese, the Japanese, the Germans, Brits, and French and he looks like the level-headed statesman, the one who doesn’t want to resort to military power.

But then Putin wins again if Trump does attack Iran because he was (again) the level-headed statesman who urged calm, who wanted to use diplomacy, who was willing to be the middleman with the Iranians. He was the one offering negotiations, shuttling to speak with the Chinese, the Europeans, and the Iranians, trying to work out a deal.

I think I have an idea or two. First, hands off Iran. We can’t afford another war, either literally or figuratively. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are declining in quality, our international health care ranking is plummeting. We should spend the money at home. If we’re going to be taken seriously as the strongest superpower in the world, we should exhibit that power across a diplomatic conference room table. Finally, it’s time that Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates fight their own battles. It shouldn’t be up to us to take out their enemy just because it might make their lives easier. They should do their own dirty work, or even better, they too should be engaged in diplomacy, whether directly with Iran in the case of the Gulf States or with their own people, in the case of Israel and the Palestinians.

When war became the de facto way for us to do business, we weakened ourselves. It doesn’t matter how many drones we have, how many ships, or missiles, or tanks. We can’t fight forever, and we certainly can’t win people over with the sword. That kind of policy only weakens us. We’ve seen it fail through both Democratic and Republican administrations. The policy is a bad one. And it has to change.

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John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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-10 # indian weaving 2019-06-23 11:56
Read how China defeats the USA in a conventional war, is then threatened by the USA with a nuke attack, whereupon We The People revolt and begin the civil war that leads to the dissolution of the USA into several sovereign nations. The Russians can defeat the USA in a cakewalk anymore, as they are more advanced and powerful than even China. Read: "Twilight's Last Gleaming" for a view to the end of the evil empire coming soon.
+2 # HarryP 2019-06-23 16:30

Please tell us where your “conventional” Sino-American war will take place. Will it be in Fuzhou province or California? Is there any evidence that either side is contemplating and preparing for such a nonsensical war? And instead the American people rallying around the flag, you will have them rio the country apart.


At this point, your analysis, astonishing to begin with, becomes absurd. The Russians defeating the US in a “cakewalk?” You must not have beard of MAD, in place since the days of John Foster Dulles. Google it. It’ll be the end of not just one empire, but both.
+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-23 12:18
I think this was a good analysis. But still Trump was able to overrule Bolton and Pompeo, and that is significant. Trump may not have understood anything about "collateral damaged," but he did say openly that the deaths of 150 Iranians was too much, too out of proportion with downing of an unmanned drone. I've never seen a US president make a statement like that.

The good thing is that Trump is not a "war president" as both Bush and Obama thought of themselves. He really is not comfortably blowing up and killing people as a mass murderer. That's the good takeaway. It could all change, however, in just a moment.
0 # Robbee 2019-06-23 16:05
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
The good thing is that Trump is not a "war president". It could all change, however, in just a moment.

- solidly on both sides of the fence? again? comrade?
+3 # HarryP 2019-06-23 16:47

Your problem is that you believe your hero Donald Trump, someone who knows he can sell anything to a gullible audience, from steaks and condos to the wealthy and up to a third of the electorate that Hillary is a criminal who ought to be locked up. He has you convinced that he he is a real mensch who wouldn’t dream of killing 150 innocent bystanders - unlike Bush & Obama.

At the end of your post, I see you’re hedging you bet - because you know your depiction of Trump as some who is not comfortable “blowing up and killing people” is a load of crap.

The most likely explanation of why Trump got cold feet is because someone must have told him that his bluster and his version of “shock & awe” wouldn’t work and that the Iranians would fight back - leaving him alone to sort out the mess, without a friend in sight, other than Saudi Arabia and Israel.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-24 13:36
Probably someone did tell him his version of shock and awe would not work. So he made a rational decision. What's the excuse for Bush and Obama who did not make such a rational decision. Or Hillary, too?

HP -- you have the problem. You can't accept that a generally bad president like Trump can once in a while make a good decision. Trump has always expressed a reluctance to bomb and kill people. I remember vividly in one of the presidential debates, Trump and Hillary were asked if they were ready and willing to use nuclear weapons. Trump said no and Hillary said yet. Of course they couched their answers is many obfuscations, but that was the essence of it. Trump is not a war president. Hillary would have been. If you can't see that, then you have a problem. But as I say also, Trump could change. He has no deep principles. He is pragmatic.
+1 # HarryP 2019-06-24 20:24

Trump made a god decision, but not for the reason you describe.

I don’t recall the debate in which Hillary said she’d be willing to use nuclear weapons and Trump said he wouldn’t. (Can you point me to the exchange?) What I do recall that Trump wanted to know why we had nuclear weapons if we can’t use them?

We still don’t know why Trump got cold feet. I can’t believe that respect for human life is the reason. And that’s the gist of our disagreement.
+6 # yolo 2019-06-23 18:10
"The good thing is that Trump is not a "war president" as both Bush and Obama thought of themselves."

RR you have a short memory. Wasn't it Trump who launched missile strikes in Syria in response, and without evidence of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons? Not to mention Trumps continued support of Saudi Arabia in their genocide in Yemen. Trump isn't smart enough to realize he is being played by Netanyahoo and his boys, Bolton and Pompeo. Trump, like Bush and Obama before him will eventually be backed into a position in which he has to either attack Iran or loose all credibility and look weak and impotent. Trump will choose to attack Iran just like Bush attacked Iraq and Obama attacked Libya and Syria.
+11 # Texas Aggie 2019-06-23 20:38
It is very difficult to say with a straight face that the person responsible for the imprisonment in horrendous concentration camp conditions and deaths of so many people on our southern border is not a mass murderer. And taking his statement about the attack being out of proportion because it would kill 150 civilians at face value is equally ludicrous. It is just as likely that Phat Boy got a call from the Kremlin telling him that if he bombs Iran, Russia is going to call in his loans.
+28 # economagic 2019-06-23 13:35
Kiriakou: the voice of reason as always, Sorely needed, but ignored by the people who are apparently calling the shots, behind the scenes and mostly nameless, but some of them almost certainly in the CIA and others in the MIC and possibly elsewhere in Global Megacorp.
+1 # Robbee 2019-06-23 16:27
Quoting economagic 2019-06-23 13:35:
Kiriakou: the voice of reason as always, Sorely needed, but ignored by the people who are apparently calling the shots, behind the scenes and mostly nameless, but some of them almost certainly in the CIA and others in the MIC and possibly elsewhere in Global Megacorp.

- econo, you just got the best, professional, political analysis of the intricate, iran situation that a bright lad, formerly of the c i a, can offer!

we readers are privileged to read, outside the murky bowels of the c i a, such serious, contextual analysis!

john! salute!

cnn and msnbc would fabulously benefit from hiring your analyses!

hope to see you on t v ! - now that would be OUR privilege!

my whisper! to media's ears!
+7 # tedrey 2019-06-23 16:52
"Trump was able to overrule Bolton and Pompeo."

I don't claim to know, of course, but I favor the version that says Bolton and Pompeo had him in a room for a couple of hours and convinced him to send off some asinine orders-- and as soon as the military got wind of it they sent a message to Trump, specifying that those two must not get any word of it, and Trump quickly changed tracks. Now that has the ring of truth.
+5 # HenryS1 2019-06-23 21:01
We will never know the real story.

I am glad the attack did not take place.

The reason claimed, even if false, for calling it off, is a nod to the value of human life over political chess. Happy with that.

Let's move forward to avoiding war with Iran today and in the future. Unless they really do give us a reason.

We look really bad as a country to outside observers on this. But we would look far worse if we had bombed Iran.
+3 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-06-23 21:02
Funny how the MIC just keeps on asking for more money each time they lose. And, they get it.
+1 # economagic 2019-06-24 09:15
Yes, funny--ha, ha.
+5 # DongiC 2019-06-24 10:17
Wow! What a thread. My take is that Bolton and Pompeio convinced Trump to throw a big shot at Iran, the generals heard of it and called the President to express their disapproval and, then, right at the end, Putin called and gave Trump his marching orders. Sir Donald caved and looking for an out came up with saving 150 Iranian lives. QED

The White House is turning into a nut house. Such is life under President Trump. Chaotic!

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