An unholy alliance of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia is helping to stoke fears that President Donald Trump may well be planning a war—or military strike—against Iran in his last and futile days in office.
While these fears have been covered in some alternative and international media, the New York Times reported on a recent meeting with generals where Mr. Trump asked for options on bombing an Iranian nuclear facility.
According to the Times, President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Nov. 12 whether he had options to take action against Iran’s leading nuclear site in coming weeks. The meeting occurred after international inspectors reported an increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material that was called insignificant, but U.S. officials claimed the contrary. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is peaceful, while Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of an international agreement with Iran, which allowed for monitoring in exchange for easing crippling sanctions.
“The advisers—including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency,” said the Times.
In January, President Trump tried to provoke Iran, almost causing a war, after he ordered a drone strike in Iraq that killed the top Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guards Qasem Soleimani. The White House claimed the general was responsible for the deaths of American troops. Iran called the claims a lie and pointed to the general’s effort to keep Al-Qaeda and similar groups out of Iraq.
Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at Iraqi military bases housing U.S. forces. No Americans were killed, but more than 100 were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
This comes in the face of President Trump’s policy of applying maximum pressure on Iran by sanctions that strangle the Iranian economy.
Medea Benjamin of California-based Code Pink, a women-led grassroots peace organization, told The Final Call President Trump has been involved in an undeclared war with Iran since he left the nuclear deal in 2018.
“I think it’s disgusting that he has been so obsessed with Iran,” she said. “I mean, there really is a war going on because the sanctions are so brutal that they are killing a lot of Iranians. They can’t get access to needed medical supplies during a pandemic. Trump is continuing to apply new weekly sanctions.”
“I think Iran has shown remarkable restraint. Imagine if they killed our top general, it would be hell to pay,” she said. “It’s going to be a perilous time until Jan. 20, and the Iranians know that and hopefully, they will continue to be restrained, but there’s just so far that they can go if they’re being pushed and pushed and slapped with new sanctions every day.” President-elect Joe Biden of the Democratic Party is slated to be sworn into office Jan. 20.
Ms. Benjamin added, “For sure President Trump has been doing something the whole time and we shouldn’t make a real dichotomy between what he has been doing and what he might do, because, you know, we’ve talked about Iran restraint. Well, that’s the only thing stopping us from being at war now with Iran.”
According to The Insider, European intelligence officials are alarmed about the possibility of military action towards Iran in the Trump administration’s waning days. Concern that Mr. Trump or a combination of acts by the U.S., Israel or Saudi Arabia could create military confrontation were expressed by three European intelligence officials.
One fear is unilateral military action by the U.S. might make it impossible for the incoming Biden administration to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement (JCPOA) that offered sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for monitoring of Iran’s nuclear programs.
Another fear is the Saudis and Israelis see the departure of Mr. Trump as a ticking clock they need to beat.
“I’m afraid the Saudis or Israelis might see a sympathetic ear leaving the White House and a hostile one arriving and think that perhaps this will make a confrontation inevitable,” said a NATO official. “Both countries are run by immature leaders who have been screaming about the need for war with Iran for so long they may believe that an Iranian nuclear attack will follow a Biden administration.”
Israel is involved in an extended campaign to pressure or damage Iran before President Donald Trump can leave office after losing the November election, a former Israeli defense official and a current European Union intelligence official told The Insider.
Israel has conducted covert operations inside of Iran as well as overt bombings of Iranian assets in Syria. Israel’s violence has included striking Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, the country’s largest uranium-enrichment center, and an essential shipyard in the port city of Bushehr in November.
A Middle Eastern official told The New York Times in November that Israel’s intelligence services were responsible for the nuclear facility explosion. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said at a press conference on July 5 regarding Iran, “we take actions that are better left unsaid.”
As reported by Business Insider, “the Israeli plan is to provoke an Iranian response that can turn into a military escalation while Trump remains in office.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Syrian strikes were part of a policy that he has been “pursuing for years,” and Israel would not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, nor would it allow any attempted attack from Syrian territory, according to the Jerusalem Times.
Rob Malley, a former Obama administration official who was one of the JCPOA negotiators and is now head of the International Crisis Group, told the UK-based Guardian newspaper, “I’m not sure this is the end of the story. There may be a covert operation that would be less risky than what the president might have been talking about … And unlike in the years past, he would not have to carry the consequences.”
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned Nov. 17 through the media that “any action against the Iranian nation would certainly face a crushing response.”
Omawali Clay of the New York-based December 12 Movement told The Final Call he believes President Trump, with his saber-rattling, is selling “wolf tickets,” or simply making big threats.
“I don’t think that this will come of anything. I think it will play itself out as ranting instead of a real foreign policy—the ranting of someone concerned about his legacy, about himself. I don’t think that the ruling class in this country want to attach to their political structure such a move. I don’t think that’s something in the middle of a (presidential) transition that he would be allowed to do,” Mr. Clay added.
Brian Becker of the Answer Coalition (Act Now to End War and Racism Coalition), in a wide ranging interview with The Final Call, said, “If Trump had undiluted authority, I believe that he would be more than happy to initiate a new military conflict with Iran. But I think that the forces within the Pentagon high command and I think also his principal advisors would be advising him that carrying out a unilateral military attack against Iran would end up as a fiasco and catastrophe for the U.S.”
“Iran can reach American targets all over the Middle East. Iran also can reach America’s allies and their targets, principally the government of Israel. And I think that should Trump do it, or if he had wanted to do it, if he had succeeded in doing it, it would have been a complete debacle, a complete catastrophe for the Americans.”
“I don’t think a single day goes by where the United States isn’t waging economic war, covert ops, economic war. I mean, sanctions, covert ops, and other kinds of cyber aggression against Iran. And I believe the United States is working every day with Israeli intelligence and with Israeli Mossad to carry out terrorist acts against Iran and Iranian people.”
Ajamu Baraka of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Alliance for Peace, predicted there would be no bombing of Iran. “It is clear that there is not a consensus among the ruling elements for that kind of a dangerous escalation. Some powerful forces do not want to see the U.S. rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran deal. Of course, those forces emanate primarily from Israel and some elements in the United States foreign policy community. Some other powerful forces would like to see a more normalized relationship with Iran, with a de-escalation of tension. So it remains to be seen what will eventually play out.”
“I don’t think Trump even wants to put himself in a position of giving orders to the military and the military not responding,” added Mr. Baraka.
Others wonder if Mr. Trump might initiate military action as a desperate way to somehow try to retain the White House.
Writer Bill Van Auken asked, “Is the Trump White House preparing to launch a war of aggression against Iran as part of its attempted coup to nullify the results of the 2020 elections and establish a presidential dictatorship?”
“This is the question that is being asked with increasing urgency in both Washington’s and Israel’s military-intelligence circles, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarks on a seven-nation trip centered on Israel and the Arab Gulf oil monarchies, which comprise the anti-Iranian axis cultivated by the Trump administration,” he wrote Nov. 14.
“On the eve of the visit by Pompeo—who answered a U.S. reporter’s question this week by saying there would be a ‘smooth transition to a second Trump administration’—Israel’s two major English-language dailies, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, led their digital editions with the threat of a war against Iran. ‘Will Netanyahu Strike Iran? Unlikely, but Trump Might,’ was the Haaretz headline. The Jerusalem Post asked, ‘Are Israel and the US planning to attack Iran?’ ”
He pointed to “growing speculation” tied to Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Israel, and “former Iran-Contra conspirator Elliott Abrams, who is the Trump administration’s special envoy on both Iran and Venezuela” coming to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu. “And the Jerusalem Post reported that U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley held a video call Thursday (Nov. 12) with his counterpart, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. The Trump administration and the Netanyahu government in Israel oppose any easing by an incoming Biden administration of the ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions regime imposed against Iran following Washington’s unilateral abrogation of the 2015 nuclear accord reached between Tehran and the major powers.
“While invoking claims of Iranian support for ‘terrorism’ and a supposed continuing threat from its civilian nuclear program, U.S. imperialism is determined to eliminate Iran as a rival for hegemony over the energy-rich Persian Gulf region and as an economic and military ally of China,” he wrote.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper was fired via tweet and “replaced by a little known ex-Special Forces colonel and Trump loyalist, Christopher Miller,” the writer for World Socialist Web Site observed. “After three decades of U.S.-led wars, the outbreak of a third world war, which would be fought with nuclear weapons, is an imminent and concrete danger.”
“Other right-wing Trump loyalists, known for extreme anti-Iranian positions, have been placed in top positions. These include retired general and Fox News commentator Anthony Tata, who is taking the number three post at the Pentagon, undersecretary of defense for policy.”
“Also installed were Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a 34-year-old far right-wing operative, and Kash Patel, who played a key role in Trump’s campaign to dig up dirt against Joe Biden in Ukraine, as undersecretary of defense for intelligence and chief of staff to the defense secretary, respectively,” Mr. Auken continued.
“In addition, Miller, the new defense secretary, hired as his senior adviser retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, who is known for advocating martial law on the U.S. border and the extra-judicial execution of migrants and refugees.”
Mr. Auken warned, “That such a cabal of fascistic militarists has occupied key policy positions at the Pentagon in the midst of Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election poses the direct threat that the U.S. armed forces will be used to suppress an inevitable eruption of mass popular opposition to the unfolding coup attempt, as well as to any new war.”
“Following Esper’s ouster, General Milley convened a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, and later the same day held a conference call with the U.S. combat commanders. There is no doubt that he and others are putting out feelers to see who among the military brass would support Trump’s coup, and who would oppose it.
“An attack on Iran, whether against its civilian nuclear program or other strategic targets, could provide Mr. Trump with a kind of ‘December surprise’ designed to shock public opinion and create political conditions for the consolidation of a presidential dictatorship.”
He argued, “Biden and the Democratic Party could be counted upon to subordinate themselves to the newly minted ‘wartime president.’ ”
“A limited, tactical conflict can turn into a full-fledged war,” warned Iranian Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, according to Iran’s English-language news site PressTV.com.
“We don’t welcome a crisis. We don’t welcome war. We are not after starting a war,” he said. “Definitely, the United States, the region, and the world cannot stand such a comprehensive crisis.”
Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, in a major message to President Trump and the U.S. government on Nov. 16, 2017 from the historic Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., warned again against U.S. war plots and military meddling in the Middle East.
“America is a great nation, but America needs to reflect on her sins. Who is bold enough, who is strong enough to say to America: ‘You have been wrong for a long, long time?’ ” he said.
“Mr. Trump: The consequences of America’s evils over time have fallen in your lap,” the Minister continued. “Mr. President, you’re going to have to deal with the thought that’s in your mind that will destroy America and her future; because once the trigger of war is pulled, it will escalate. I’m going to tell you what my teacher told me: You have planned a war. The war that you have planned, you and your generals, is in the Middle East—you want to use the Sunni, at the prodding of Israel, to attack Iran.”
(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)