That isn’t an exact quote but it is a damned close rendering. A guy named Philip Gordon, who used to be on Obama’s National Security Council, has joined the platoon of former Obama drones now explaining how they were brilliant and if Trump only follows their advice he can be as successful as they were with this NYT op-ed What’s Wrong With Michael Flynn’s Bluster on Iran? Plenty.
Actually, Flynn’s announcement was anything but Obama-esque bluster. He didn’t promise unspecified consequences, etc., etc. He simply said that Iran was being put “on notice.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said there are no new deployments planned. They followed up on Friday by slapping Iran with sanctions over its violation of a UNSC resolution on ballistic missiles.
Mr. Flynn, then, is not wrong about Iran’s provocative actions and the need for a vigorous response. The problem is with his performance: By issuing a warning so imprecise — in such a dramatic, public fashion — he has set himself and the United States up for either an embarrassing retreat or a risky confrontation.
While Trump administration officials have claimed to have a “large range” of options to choose from in responding more effectively to Iran, the reality is that they do not. And it would be no small irony if President Trump, who hammered President Barack Obama for failing to enforce a red line the United States had drawn in Syria, ends up failing to enforce his own.
Why will it prove so difficult to back up Mr. Flynn’s words with significant action?
Then the lies start.
First, contrary to a widespread perception in the region and among Mr. Obama’s domestic critics that his administration had tilted toward Iran and failed to respond to its destabilizing behavior, under Mr. Obama, the United States made significant efforts to contain Iran.
This is the kind of lie that would have made Josef Goebbels proud. It is so large and bold and in-your-face that if you hadn’t followed the sad and disgusting saga of America’s descent from proud and independent nation to Iranian lackey-state you’d be tempted to believe. Rather that a detailed debunking I’ll just say this. If your domestic opponents and regional allies think you are favoring Iran then odds are you are favoring Iran.
Short of abandoning the nuclear deal, which would isolate the United States and let Iran resume its nuclear weapons program — creating a far greater set of problems than ballistic missile tests — there is simply not a lot of space for significantly reconfiguring our regional alignment against Iran.
I am at a loss to figure out who we’d be isolated from and why this clown thinks that the current capitulation to Iran will not inevitably result in them getting nuclear weapons.
Second, as Mr. Trump looks for ways to punish Iran for the tests, he is unlikely to find much international support, which would be essential to make any further sanctions effective.
This is true if one set the parameters of “international support” to mean the UN Security Council which is dominated by two of Iran’s partners: China and Russia. There are any number of unilateral actions we can take which have not been used in the past because they might punish large European corporations. I have a feeling that may no longer be a huge concern.
Third and most important, as President Trump contemplates his options, he will also have to consider Iran’s likely response. If all the administration has in mind is an expansion of existing sanctions, Iran may not react, but that hardly seems to be what Mr. Flynn meant by “officially putting Iran on notice.” If it were, Iran would likely just carry on with its missile tests and maintain its rather inexpensive military support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, effectively taunting Mr. Flynn and making his threat empty.
If, on the other hand, President Trump plans to back up his adviser’s words with military action — like carrying out a threat he made last fall that if Iran’s boats circled American warships and made gestures at their crews “they will be shot out of the water” — he will need to be prepared to manage the consequences.
Iran is regional power largely through the connivance of the Obama administration. Factually, Iran’s military is crap. It is largely untrained. Other than the IRGC it is poorly equipped. It hasn’t covered itself with glory or set a record for proficiency fighting ISIS. The last time we tangled, during the Tanker War and Operation PRAYING MANTIS, the Iranian Navy was reduced to a couple of dinghies cowering in the shadows. So, in absolute terms, engaging the Iranian military will be a little less difficult that fighting Saddam Hussein’s military. Also Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser Mike Flynn are very familiar with the Iranians and what they can do. And Mattis is rumored to be very happy to be the guy who settles the score for the bombing of the USMC barracks in Beirut. Coupled with this is Donald Trump who is very unlikely to let himself be labeled Tehran’s bitch.
If it comes to that point we have the capability of making Iran worried about what we will do rather than us worrying about them.
The real message here, hidden in the smug self-satisfaction of a pathetic failure of a man who is convinced himself he’s a genius, is this. Obama has convinced our regional allies that we are an Iranian proxy. He has destroyed the international consensus on Iranian sanctions. And he has created a system of facts on the ground that will basically require armed conflict to break out of. Overall, he’s saying they have really screwed the Trump administration and they are bragging about it.