18 June 2019   Leave a comment

There seems to be a rather dramatic change in the foreign policy team of the Trump Administration. The Acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, has dropped out of his confirmation, after 7 months of being in a temporary position. Shanahan was a corporate executive at Boeing and not a military person and the Defense Department has sorely missed the expertise of the first Defense Secretary, General Mattis. That vacuum at the Defense Department has allowed John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, to take on an outsized role in the decision-making process. Both of these men have been outspoken advocates of regime change in Iran for a very long period of time.

On Monday, Pompeo went to Central Command in Tampa, Florida which is the command center for all US forces in the Middle East. He was not accompanied by any member of the Defense Department. It is highly unusual for the Secretary of State to make such a visit and signals Pompeo’s primacy in US foreign policy–not a good sign for a productive relationship with Iran. Adam Weinstein notes the significance of the visit:

” When I asked State Department officials for any similar past trips by other secretaries of state, they provided none. I found one occasion when Secretary Condoleezza Rice visited the Tampa base in 2006—accompanying the commander-in-chief, George W. Bush—to greet Afghan and Pakistan leaders for a state summit. Secretary Hillary Clinton also visited the base, also not for operational reasons, to deliver a dinner address to a Special Operations Command gala in 2012.

“Neither of those visits came close to what appears to be the case this week: The United States’ top diplomatic officer, who is not in the military’s chain of civilian command, is traveling to a war headquarters to discuss prospects for military action with the generals there. He will not be without Pentagon minders at CENTCOM in Shanahan’s absence, State Department sources tell me, but if proximity is power, there’s a clear suggestion that Pompeo and Bolton are acting as primary movers behind military plans for Iran.”

The military now knows that it does not have a strong voice in the White House. It also knows that very few in the White House have a deep grasp of military capabilities, limitations, and culture.

What makes matters worse is that the US Iranian policy lacks coherence. President Trump insists that his primary objective is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb; his chief aides, however, have regime change as their primary objective–an objective that the most of the world would condemn and which is more than likely unattainable. Now that Iran has decided that it will no longer abide by all the terms of the agreement, President Trump finds himself trying to persuade Great Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia to persuade Iran to continue to abide by the agreement that he himself disavowed. A very strange situation.

Posted June 18, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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