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With Isis Defeated, Trump Is Now Targeting Iran
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The shadowy figures of Kurdish fighters can be just made out on film as they ambush and kill three pro-Turkish fighters in a night time attack in Afrin in northern Syria. The Kurdish enclave was invaded and occupied by the Turkish army and their Syrian armed opposition allies earlier in the year. Sporadic guerrilla warfare has been going on ever since.

This skirmish took place a few days after an attack on a military parade by gunmen a thousand miles away from Afrin in Ahvaz in southwest Iran that killed 25 people. Film shows soldiers and civilians running in panic as they are sprayed with bullets, leaving 25 dead, including 11 conscripts and a four-year-old child. The killings were claimed by both Isis and Arab separatists from the province of Khuzestan whom the Iranians accused of acting as catspaws for the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

These incidents matter because they may be the harbinger of the next round of confrontations, crises and wars engulfing the Middle East. The most recent phase of conflict in the region saw the rise and fall of Isis and failed campaigns to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iraq. But Isis, which three years ago ruled a de facto state with a population of five or six million, has been largely crushed and confined to desert hideouts. President Bashar al-Assad – whose fall was confidently predicted after the uprising in 2011 – is firmly in power, as is the Iraqi government that suffered calamitous defeats at the time of the Isis capture of Mosul in 2014.

But the round of conflicts just ending may soon be replaced by another with different players and different issues. The guerrilla action in Afrin is a single episode in the escalating confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds in northern Syria which will involve the US and Russia. The Middle East is always dangerous because, like the Balkans before 1914, it is full of complex but ferocious conflicts that draw in the great powers. The risk is always there but is more dangerous under President Trump because he and his administration view the Middle East through a paranoid prism in which they everywhere see the hidden hand of Iran. President George W Bush and Tony Blair had similar tunnel vision during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when they blamed everything that went wrong on a remnant of Saddam Hussein supporters.

The exaggeration of “the Iranian threat” by the Trump administration this week at the UN General Assembly in New York was very like what was being said about Iraq fifteen years earlier. The National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened that “the murderous regime and its supporters will face significant consequences if they do not change their behaviour. We are watching, and we will come after you.” The US military intervention in Syria, previously targeting Isis, will in future be directed against Iranian influence.

US policy in Syria and Iraq has been likened to playing chess while mistaking the knight for the bishop and thinking that castles move diagonally. The US has decided to retain a military force in northeast Syria in order to thwart Iranian ambitions, but the country most affected by this is not Iran but Turkey. The US can only stay in this part of Syria in alliance with the Syrian Kurds, whose de facto state, which they call Rojava, Turkey is pledged to eliminate.

Turkey has been nibbling its way into northern Syria over the past two years and is now deploying troops in Idlib province in cooperation with the Russians. A shaky alliance with Turkey as a leading Nato military power is one of the biggest Russian gains of its military intervention in Syria which it will go a long way to preserve. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now threatening to extend the Turkey advance east of the Euphrates river in order to slice up the Kurdish statelet.

This would mean the extinction of the last remaining gain of the Syrian uprising of 2011. Rojava was the unexpected creation of the Syrian Kurds and their YPG militia that allied themselves with the US against Isis during the siege of Kurdish city of Kobani in 2014. They provide the ground troops and the US the airpower.

The US-backed Kurds are greatly overextended, holding a swathe of northeast Syria, half of whose population are Arabs hostile to Kurdish rule. It is not a place where American troops can stay forever without becoming somebody’s target. Prolonged US presence invites disaster as with the American ground operations in Lebanon in 1982-84, Somalia in 1992-95 and in Iraq in 2003-11. “There will always be people in the Middle East who think that the best way to get rid of the Americans is to kill some of them,” noted one observer with long experience of region.

Denunciations of Iran as the root of all evil by Trump, Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley are simple minded to the point of idiocy. Haley responded to the Ahvaz massacre by telling the government to “look in the mirror”. Bolton last year promised the exiled Iranian opposition group, the very weird cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq, that by 2019 they would be ruling Iran. This week he was saying that there would be “hell to pay” if Iran stood in the way of the US.

The blood-curdling rhetoric may be arrogant and puerile but should be taken seriously because it reflects the same attitude of mind that preceded past US interventions in the Middle East: the enemy is demonised and underestimated at the same time. There is credulity towards self-interested exiled groups who claimed that US intervention would be easy (Iraqi opposition groups were privately cynical in 2003 about how far they were misleading the Americans on this score). Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE have an interest in luring the US into fighting Iran, though they are not intending to do much fighting themselves.


The twists and turns of US policy in the Middle East has in the past mystified knowledgeable observers who attribute bizarre actions by the White House to stupidity and ignorance of local conditions. But US policy was often more rational than it looked – so long as one understood that it was determined by American domestic politics and the main purpose was to persuade the US voter, particularly in the run up to important elections, that their president had not mired them in a bloody and unsuccessful war.

The reputation of every US President since the 1970s, with the exception of President George Bush senior, has been damaged to a greater or lesser degree by conflict in the Middle East or North Africa. There is Jimmy Carter (Iran), Ronald Reagan (Lebanon, Irangate), Bill Clinton (Somalia), George W Bush (Iraq, Afghanistan), Barack Obama (Syria, Libya). It would be surprising if Trump turns out to be an exception to the rule.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran 
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  1. Sean says:

    It would be very surprising if Trump does not turn out to be an exception to the rule. His business career showed it . In Trump there is a man who understands as few others do the awesome power of the Jewish American community, and how to use it for his own purposes. And he is a President in need of a powerful protector. Iran is the last remaining military deterrent to the expulsion of the Palestinians from the occupied territories. Transfers are the only way of saving Israel as a Jewish state. which is the only way to stop Diaspora Jews from destroying white Gentile states as such in an act of vengeance for ending the Zionist ideal.

    It will probably be necessary to start a war in Jordan as a cover for the tranfers, but that can be blamed on payback by Jordan’s fellow family dictatorship enemy of Assad-Syria. Saudi Arabia is determined to crush its ancient Persian foe once and for all, and the Saudis have finally weighed off the ungrateful Palestinians. Israel will take quite a lot of persuading to turn integral nationalist, and Jewish-Americans will be opposed, but they’ll reluctantly go along.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  2. Haley responded to the Ahvaz massacre by telling the government to “look in the mirror”

    Trump is now the laughing stock at the UN. They literally laughed at him.

    • Replies: @Anon
  3. Anon[805] • Disclaimer says:

    So we’re in phase two. Thanks for the progress report.

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  4. Now that he’s with the neocons, I am off the Trump train.

    The twists and turns of US policy in the Middle East has in the past mystified knowledgeable observers who attribute bizarre actions by the White House to stupidity and ignorance of local conditions. But US policy was often more rational than it looked – so long as one understood that it was determined by … Tel Aviv.

    There! Fixed that for you.

    Also, Reagan’s reputation was never “damaged” by the Beirut Embassy bombing back in 1983, precisely because he had the good sense to pull out of Lebanon and avoid getting involved in their civil war, which is what Israel was pushingfor. And the reason why we still categorize Poppy Bush’s war against Iraq in 1991 as a success (to be sure, there’s a back-story there, too) is because he, in turn, resisted Israel’s desire to have the US march on Baghdad itself once Saddam had pulled out of Kuwait. In fact, he even went one better: immediately after the war, he suspended loan guarantees to the Zio-state until they temporarily halted construction on the West Bank, enabling the talks that ultimately led to the Oslo Accord with the Palestinians to begin. That really PO’d the Zionists! (Which, of course, is why he ended up as a one-termer.)

  5. anon[152] • Disclaimer says:

    For a successful attack on Iran with no blowback, US has to remove troops from Afghanistan Bahrain Qatar and Iraq . US also has to same time attack Hezbollah . This will achieve US’s goals . But US goals don’t stop extending and enlarging at Iran Iraq Lebanon borders Israel will again make sure that America doesn’t sit back and enjoy absence of war . ( Without removing soldiers or battering Hizbollah, US will not succeed) .

    Israel will then ramp up pressure on neighboring countries to achieve its next gaol. Israel thrives and prospers from wars . Peace will destroy its future . That target will include Saudi Arab as well .

    This then might bring Pakistan in the game. Pakistan and Israel will face each other Demonization of Pakistan by US ( educated instructed by Israel ) will start before that . India will put pressure.
    China will come into the fray.

    China will by that time will be economically and militarily much more powerful than US ( effect of Iran war ) American domestic ground will be affected . The country will be auctioned off. Israel will buy some pieces as well . Israel will continue keeping the background channel open to China .

  6. RobinG says:

    Zionist ideal.

    Winning oxymoron.

    • Replies: @Sean
  7. anon[228] • Disclaimer says:

    by American domestic politics and the main purpose was to persuade the US voter, particularly in the run up to important elections, that their president had not mired them in a bloody and unsuccessful war.

    why did Bush get re elected ?

    Americans voter don’t determine They chose non- interventionist but they always get duped and then persuaded to be duped intentionally .

  8. The only way to stop the next war is to start talking about the taxes needed to pay for it.

    If it cost $1 trillion to turn Iraq into a train wreck (that’s $25,000 for ‘bringing democracy’ to each of Iraq’s 40 million population), then how much will it cost to overrun Iran (80 million people), a country with a cohesive non-arab/tribal population and which has had 20yrs to watch and learn while developing an in-depth post-invasion strategy to bleed the US dry?

    It’s funny how the political class is quick to look at the price of social programs, but none of them ever talk about the tax burden imposed by yet another war.

  9. MEexpert says:

    With Isis Defeated, Trump Is Now Targeting Iran

    The heading implies that Trump (US) defeated ISIS, which is not true.

    First, ISIS was a US creation, financed by Saudi Arabia, armed by the US, and supported by Israel. US was not fighting with ISIS, they were protecting them.

    Second, in Iraq it was the fatwa of Ayatullah Sistani that defeated ISIS with the creation of the volunteer force. Also in Syria, ISIS was defeated by the coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah. In both place, US was helping ISIS, al-Qaeda and its affiliates. This protection continues in both places to this day. The idea is to keep everybody busy with the present conflicts and attack the lonely Iran.

    It should be quite interesting to see the reaction of the American people, and particularly the Trump voters, when the body bags start flying in.

    • Agree: Carroll Price
    • Replies: @Backwoods Bob
  10. Ahoy says:

    Τrump does foolish things because he wants to. He plays a different game than Kennedy. He is a survivor. Remember how many atomic bombs was going to drop to N. Korea. Now they exchange love letters.

    Trump and anybody around him, with half a head, want America to survive. An attack on Iran means nuclear war. Trere will not be any one left to find out if he won or not. Mr. Cockburn better give another look to hiw article. Haley and the guy with a mustace are there to pacify the mad ones.

  11. Anonymous[803] • Disclaimer says:

    Hello time traveler. Get to your DeLorean and return to 2016, fast. And take your Pepe memes with you.

  12. Sean says:

    The Western ideal will not survive the Zionist one.

    Iran is the last remaining military deterrent to the expulsion of the Palestinians from the occupied territories. Transfers are the only way of saving Israel as a Jewish state. which is the only way to stop Diaspora Jews from destroying white Gentile states as such in an act of vengeance for ending the Zionist ideal.

    The Jews will leave Israel unless it remains a democratic and Jewish state. It is the same argument that pro-immigration SJW and open-borders economists (Jewish or not) make in the West : enforcing national borders against people of another ethnicity is seen as undemocratic in principle. Israel, or more specifically, their Lobby, is going to take the West down with it. The only way out is if they save us by saving themselves. Israel must be encouraged to expel its Non-citizen Arabs between the Jordan river and the Med. In other words the Palestinians of the West Bank must end their days in an already existing Palestinian state: the Hashemite Kingdom.

  13. @MEexpert

    The title bothered me the instant I read it, for the reasons you list.

    Trump was very loudly Israel First in his election, and Iran was his principle target.

    After the appointment of Bolton, it looks pretty bad. It’s going to be worse than Iraq, Libya, Syria, all of them together.

    Can they really be this stupid. But just listen to them. They sound like they are out of their minds.

    “The blood-curdling rhetoric may be arrogant and puerile…” yes, it sure as hell is.

  14. eric says:

    It is Iran we have been fighting all along in Syria and Yemen . ISIS is not totally defeated the United States is protecting the terrorists in Idib . We did not defeat ISIS Russia and Iran did . We aided the non existent moderate rebels which was Al Qaeda and Al Nusra , white helmets and ISIS all along . Why don’t you try telling us the truth a little more often .

  15. Most Americans have for several years opposed the bloody, illegal, expensive, counterproductive and immoral regime change wars, but Congress and presidents keep supporting and expanding them because of the huge bribes, euphemistically known as campaign contributions and corporate board seats, that they receive from the Military Industrial Complex and groups such as AIPAC, and voters keep electing and re-electing them. It’s going to take massive demonstrations and electoral defeats of the neocon hawks who dominate both parties to change things.

    Despite President Trump’s instinctual position as a saber-ratting negotiator who ultimately desires peace and prosperity and his anti-interventionist campaign rhetoric, most of his advisers and cabinet officers, who subscribe to Bush-Obama-Clinton casuistry and largely control US foreign policy, believe that the US-UK-Israeli axis must act to protect and empower its al Qaeda and other jihadi allies and continue the mission to spread massive death, destruction, poverty, chaos, anarchy and irredentism across North Africa and the Middle East until only Israel and Saudi Arabia remain as viable states. It makes no difference that most Syrians, especially Christians and Alawites, support Dr Assad and that the jihadis would be far worse than he is alleged to be. They are as unconcerned about the likely genocide of Alawites and Christians, should their strategy succeed as in other countries in the region, and they do not care that the Assad government is the only defense against a massive genocide.

    President Trump and Secretary Mattis were more inclined to a peaceful resolution, renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal and not going to war. However, Secretary Pompeo, Vice President Pence, National Security Adviser Bolton, CIA Director Haspel and Senior Adviser Kushner are far more hawkish and very well may dictate policy. John Bolton incessantly parrots the lie that Iran is the “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, and when challenged with the facts, he says “because they are the leading sponsors of terrorism”. Actually, the US unquestionably deserves that title. This is what passes for logic, morality and analytical thought in Washington.They seem totally unconcerned that their neoconservative warmongering might very well lead to World War III, pitting Iran, Syria, Russia and probably China against the US, UK and Israel. The US’s putative allies in NATO (other than the UK) and West Asia are more likely to sit it out than to join what’s sure to be the losing side in a long, bloody and horrendously expensive war. Let’s hope that cool heads, morality, international law and enlightened self interest prevail. President Trump’s legacy, and the eternal fate of his soul, depend on his decisions.

  16. Our wars in the Middle East are all about Israel. The Zionist interests are not a factor – they are the total package. And what are the Zionist interests – mostly the eradication of the Palestinians. It is as simple as sunshine. America (or at least the pro-Israeli portion) is committing as deep and as eventually troubling a sin in supporting Israeli genocide of the Palestinians as its original sin of adapting Negro slavery.
    America blew trillions of dollars and slaughtered a half million human lives in Iraq – whose only fault was Saddam’s sponsorship of Palestinians. How many trillions of dollars and human lives will also be lost in Iran, again whose only fault is annoying Israel?
    Trump and company are going after Iran for one reason only – the American-Israeli interests are bribing them to. I was one of the few that opposed the Iraq War and mainly – because I saw the ugly Israeli interests behind it. I sincerely believe and hope that this time (a phony war on Iran), our numbers won’t be so few.

  17. Eighthman says:

    ISIS seems to be moving to Afghanistan – which might be interesting as long as they are enemies of the Taleban. Maybe this could encourage a deal for US exit.

    I see Putin winning in Syria with Turkey and the US losing. The Kurds may wake up and realize autonomy with Assad is their best deal and Turkey is sinking financially.

    Could the US get humiliated fighting with Iran? Suppose oil hits $100 a barrel and voters start to scream after Democrats control Congress. Trump and the Neo Cons might have to back down.

  18. Antigone says:

    Operation Timber Sycamore.

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