Monday, January 6, 2020

Mother Nature's coming correction will do more to counteract Suleimani's blunders than the Trump-ordered assassination could ever do.

The bulk of blogsters and other media denizens converged on two questions. Did Iranian General Qassim Suleimani deserve to get killed on Trump’s order? Yes. Was Trump’s action a smart move? We don’t know yet. Here are perspectives on each question.

Did Suleimani deserve what Trump dished out?

NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman addresses the first question in an interesting way saying Trump Kills Iran’s Most Overrated Warrior.Suleimani pushed his country to build an empire, but drove it into the ground instead.

One day they may name a street after President Trump in Tehran. Why? Because Trump just ordered the assassination of possibly the dumbest man in Iran and the most overrated strategist in the Middle East: Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Think of the miscalculations this guy made. In 2015, the United States and the major European powers agreed to lift virtually all their sanctions on Iran, many dating back to 1979, in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program for a mere 15 years, but still maintaining the right to have a peaceful nuclear program. It was a great deal for Iran. Its economy grew by over 12 percent the next year. And what did Suleimani do with that windfall?

He and Iran’s supreme leader launched an aggressive regional imperial project that made Iran and its proxies the de facto controlling power in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana. This freaked out U.S. allies in the Sunni Arab world and Israel — and they pressed the Trump administration to respond. Trump himself was eager to tear up any treaty forged by President Obama, so he exited the nuclear deal and imposed oil sanctions on Iran that have now shrunk the Iranian economy by almost 10 percent and sent unemployment over 16 percent.

All that for the pleasure of saying that Tehran can call the shots in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana. What exactly was second prize?

[snip] Read more about Suleimani’s blunders in the original.

The whole “protest” against the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad last week was almost certainly a Suleimani-staged operation to make it look as if Iraqis wanted America out when in fact it was the other way around. The protesters were paid pro-Iranian militiamen. No one in Baghdad was fooled by this.

In a way, it’s what got Suleimani killed. He so wanted to cover his failures in Iraq he decided to start provoking the Americans there by shelling their forces, hoping they would overreact, kill Iraqis and turn them against the United States. Trump, rather than taking the bait, killed Suleimani instead.

I have no idea whether this was wise or what will be the long-term implications. But here are two things I do know about the Middle East.

First, often in the Middle East the opposite of “bad” is not “good.” The opposite of bad often turns out to be “disorder.” Just because you take out a really bad actor like Suleimani doesn’t mean a good actor, or a good change in policy, comes in his wake. Suleimani is part of a system called the Islamic Revolution in Iran. That revolution has managed to use oil money and violence to stay in power since 1979 — and that is Iran’s tragedy, a tragedy that the death of one Iranian general will not change.

Today’s Iran is the heir to a great civilization and the home of an enormously talented people and significant culture. Wherever Iranians go in the world today, they thrive as scientists, doctors, artists, writers and filmmakers — except in the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose most famous exports are suicide bombing, cyberterrorism and proxy militia leaders. The very fact that Suleimani was probably the most famous Iranian in the region speaks to the utter emptiness of this regime, and how it has wasted the lives of two generations of Iranians by looking for dignity in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.

The other thing I know is that in the Middle East all important politics happens the morning after the morning after.

Yes, in the coming days there will be noisy protests in Iran, the burning of American flags and much crying for the “martyr.” The morning after the morning after? There will be a thousand quiet conversations inside Iran that won’t get reported. They will be about the travesty that is their own government and how it has squandered so much of Iran’s wealth and talent on an imperial project that has made Iran hated in the Middle East.

And yes, the morning after, America’s Sunni Arab allies will quietly celebrate Suleimani’s death, but we must never forget that it is the dysfunction of many of the Sunni Arab regimes — their lack of freedom, modern education and women’s empowerment — that made them so weak that Iran was able to take them over from the inside with its proxies.

Mother Nature’s correction

Friedman concludes:

I write these lines while flying over New Zealand, where the smoke from forest fires 2,500 miles away over eastern Australia can be seen and felt. Mother Nature doesn’t know Suleimani’s name, but everyone in the Arab world is going to know her name. Because the Middle East, particularly Iran, is becoming an environmental disaster area — running out of water, with rising desertification and overpopulation. If governments there don’t stop fighting and come together to build resilience against climate change — rather than celebrating self-promoting military frauds who conquer failed states and make them fail even more — they’re all doomed.

Was Trump’s action a smart move?

Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post answers in Whatever happens with Iran, I’m confident Donald Trump can get us through it.

Settle down. It’s tagged as “Satire.” Now read on.

Don’t worry! You or I may not know what the fallout will be from the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. We may be a little unnerved by Iran’s vows of revenge. We may, naively, fear for the stability of the region and the safety of those who live there.

But surely Donald Trump would not have taken such an action without fully thinking through all of its possible consequences. Donald Trump does not just do things. Donald Trump must have applied exactly as much caution and forethought to this matter as we are accustomed to seeing from him on all issues, and, therefore, we have no cause for alarm. Whatever will come next, Donald Trump has surely anticipated it. This is Donald Trump we are talking about.

He is surrounded by the best people, people who would tell him if something he had done or was about to do was a bad idea. He does not randomly turn on the TV and implement whatever the blondest man suggests. He is the president of the United States, with access to maximum information, and that is what he uses to guide him.

This is not some low-stakes matter, like whether to flush a toilet 10 times or 15 times. On this question, human lives hang in the balance. And thankfully, Donald Trump understands the cost of war. The fact that his personal intervention has been key in the clearing of a Navy SEAL who now uses his platform to promote “KILL BAD DUDES”-themed merchandise and specialty knives after posing for photos with a dead body is — not a reflection of how Donald Trump sees war.

Donald Trump is not just flailing haplessly around like a cat with its head stuck in a bucket. This guy gets it. He is the one who put Jared Kushner in charge of the Middle East!

I am sure he gave this just as much thought as — or, indeed, even more thought than — he gives less important decisions, such as whether to tweet or whether to accept Rudy Giuliani’s services as his personal lawyer. It is surprising and inconsistent that the Pentagon’s statement about it misidentified the organization Soleimani led. That does not reflect the level of professionalism at work here, which is no doubt high.

As we walk down a road whose end not even experts can possibly guess, who better than Donald Trump to lead us? He is no expert. Who would you rather have steering this country through a nerve-racking and divisive period than Donald Trump, with his keen sense of history and equally keen sense of reality? And if things go south, whom else would I trust to keep an even keel and figure out solutions in a clearheaded manner? What name could possibly leap to mind before the name “Donald Trump”?

In the past, America has blundered into thankless wars that devoured decades and ended thousands of lives. We did not know what we were doing, and we did not know how to get out. But that was because Donald Trump was not in charge.

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