Wednesday, 15 February 2017
The Neocons’ Back-Door to Trump - Robert Parry
President Trump’s foreign policy is sliding toward neoconservative orthodoxy on the Middle East because White House insiders are aligning with Israeli-Saudi interests and vowing undying hostility toward Iran, which they falsely insist is the chief sponsor of terrorism
I’m told that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, privately at least, recognizes that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-led Gulf state allies are the prime backers of Al Qaeda and Islamic State – with Iran actually fighting these major terror groups – but close advisers to President Trump, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, appear wedded to Official Washington’s “group think” blaming Iran for pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in the region.
This “group think” requires that everyone who wants to be taken seriously in Official Washington must repeat the mantra that “Iran is the principal sponsor of terrorism.” The reason is that Washington’s establishment is locked into saying just about whatever the extremely rich Saudis and the extremely influential Israelis tell it to say. Trump himself has labeled Iran “#1 in terror.”
Ironically, Flynn – when he was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – oversaw an insightful 2012 analysis that accurately traced the rise of the vicious Sunni jihadist movement in Syria to support from the Gulf states and to the Obama administration’s policies. The report explicitly warned of the possibility of “an Islamic State,” which indeed emerged in 2014 with high-profile decapitations of U.S. hostages.
In a 2015 interview, Flynn expanded on the analysis, saying that the Obama administration and its allies made a “willful decision” to back what the report called the creation of “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria” with the goal of pressuring or overthrowing the Syrian government. Flynn said the intelligence on this extraordinary point “was very clear.”
Yet, now Flynn – like almost everyone else in Official Washington — focuses his rage at Iran for the mess in the Middle East.
This blame-Iran “group think” has remarkable similarities to the one that rationalized the disastrous war in Iraq, i.e., that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda and was likely to give the terrorists his hidden WMDs. That fake analysis ignored the fact that the secular Hussein was a sworn enemy of Al Qaeda’s fundamentalists and they hated him, too.
So, although the Saddam-allied-with-Al-Qaeda lie was obvious to anyone who knew anything about Middle East politics, it was repeated endlessly by supposedly in-the-know Washington insiders to justify President George W. Bush’s bloody invasion of Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis along with nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and spread chaos across the strategic region.
The Iran-Terror Deception
Now, we see a similar self-deception about which country is the principal sponsor for terrorism and other troubles. The truth is that Iran as a Shiite-governed nation is on the opposite side of the region’s sectarian divide from Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the two major Sunni terror groups that have taken aim at the United States and Europe.
The Times also reported that Trump and Kushner had a White House dinner with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has mused about the possibility of dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran. Adelson also is a major backer of Netanyahu.
Trump himself has known Netanyahu for many years. I’m told the relationship dates back to Netanyahu’s days as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in the mid-1980s.
So, it’s perhaps not surprising that Trump would send out NSC advisor Flynn to put Iran “on notice” for conducting some conventional ballistic missile tests and that Trump would include Iran on his travel ban.
Trump also has been consulting with Sunni leaders in the Middle East, including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Times reported. None of those countries were included in Trump’s executive order restricting travel from the seven other mostly Muslim countries.
With his son-in-law out-front, Trump’s approach to the Middle East is shaping up as similar to previous administrations, catering to Israel and Saudi Arabia even to the extent of wholesale lying to the American people about who is the main backer of terrorism.
Trump also may be isolating his new Secretary of State as Tillerson apparently looks to more realist options and fights to limit neocon influences in making U.S. foreign policy. But Tillerson is facing a challenge in staffing the State Department without turning to veterans of past administrations with close ties to the neocons.
The hard truth is that the neocons and their liberal-interventionist cohorts have been so successful in purging contrarian thinkers from the foreign policy establishment that there aren’t many independent-minded people left with recent management experience at the State Department.
Now, with the neocons having found a backdoor into the Trump administration via son-in-law Kushner, the prospects for a sharp break with the long reign of disastrous neocon policies in the Middle East have grown dimmer.
[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, February 15th, 2017.]