Earlier today National Security Adviser Mike Flynn read a prepared statement that laid out Iran’s overt violations of various agreements and general warmongering in the Middle East and said the administration was “putting Iran on notice.”
What that means isn’t known but it didn’t start the rumor mill from going to work. This from some guy named Kevin Baron who is “executive editor” at the blog DefenseOne. This is not to pick on him unnecessarily — I never heard of him before today — though I have a real harsh bias against defense reporters who have never spent a day in uniform, but it reflects a general meme that the press is trying to hang on the White House.
CENTCOM has no clue on Flynn statement. "We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.” https://t.co/9v7YWtBpi4
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) February 1, 2017
Well, this is, charitably speaking, bullsh**. If one goes to the article that Baron is responding to you find that does not even vaguely resemble what was said.
Flynn did not specify how the new administration would respond. Asked for clarification, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the president wanted to make sure the Iranians “understood we are not going to sit by and not act on their actions”.
At a White House briefing, senior administration officials repeatedly refused to rule out any options for a US response, including military intervention.
The announcement was not accompanied by any change in the US military stance in the region, nor any immediate additional deployments.
“We saw the statement as well,” said a spokesman for US central command, which runs operations in the Middle East. “This is still at the policy level, and we are waiting for something to come down the line. We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.”
The Pentagon was informed before the announcement and the defense secretary, James Mattis, prevailed upon Flynn to soften his language about Iran from an earlier version. At the time of the Flynn’s statement, Mattis was en route to Asia for an official visit to Japan and South Korea.
So the facts here are a lot different that this Baron character represents them. First, there was consultation on the statement with the Defense Department. Second, the NSC changed the statement based on that consultation. The CENTCOM spokesman actually said CENTCOM saw the statement… not surprising as Mattis saw it and Mattis used to command CENTCOM… and they say they haven’t been given any implementing instructions. Again, this isn’t surprising as those orders will emanate from the JCS.
The meme this guy and his media cronies are trying to sell is that the White House is composed of shoot-from-the-hip cowboys (remember 2001? remember how this same claim was aimed at the Bush White House?). The starting point of that was the pernicious story that Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller basically concocted Trump’s executive order banning travel from failed states and state sponsors of terrorism and just launched it. As we’ve learned more we’ve found that a) the order was crafted by staff members of the House Judiciary Committee over a period of weeks, b) the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel cleared it, and c) Department of Homeland Security was involved.
What is really silly is the idea that somehow the NSC and Mattis are not in sync. Both Flynn and Mattis served extensively in the region and have seen the effects of Iranian meddling close-up. Neither are fans of Iran or of the Iranian nuclear deal. Back shortly after Mattis was nominated to be SecDef, Politico ran a story called James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran:Many in the Pentagon worry that Trump’s pick for defense secretary is looking for a fight in the Middle East.
The military officials I spoke with say that Mattis is the quintessential Marine; it defines everything he does and believes, from how he treats his soldiers and disciplines his commanders to how he views the world. Most critically, perhaps, for the United States and its future, Mattis has embraced the Marine Corps’ longstanding grievance against Iran, one that goes back to the 1980s.
In fact, Mattis’ anti-Iran animus is so intense that it led President Barack Obama to replace him as Centcom commander. It was a move that roiled Mattis admirers, seeding claims that the president didn’t like “independent-minded generals who speak candidly to their civilian leaders.” But Mattis’ Iran antagonism also concerns many of the Pentagon’s most senior officers, who disagree with his assessment and openly worry whether his Iran views are based on a sober analysis or whether he’s simply reflecting a 30-plus-year-old hatred of the Islamic Republic that is unique to his service. It’s a situation that could lead to disagreement within the Pentagon over the next four years—but also, senior Pentagon officials fear, to war.
“It’s in his blood,” one senior Marine officer told me. “It’s almost like he wants to get even with them.”
No one should be surprised that this administration is going to be the anti-Obama when it comes to Iran. And the idea that a guy who rose to three-star general as a staff officer, not a combat arms officer, is going to start flinging about statements without coordination is just plain dumb.