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Donald Trump Still Doesn’t Understand Iran After a Year in Power
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The US-Iran confrontation is already destabilising parts of the Middle East that were starting to settle down after the defeat of Isis in the second half of last year. “The escalating American threats against Iran mean that the Iranians will be more vigorous in safeguarding their position in Iraq and Syria,” said a former Iraqi minister who did not want his name published.

He warned that senior US officials, particularly those with a military background, “will do everything short of war against Iran”. They had convinced themselves that Iran’s clerical government was weaker than was really the case. “They believe that they just have to kick the system and it will collapse,” he said. This wishful thinking has been encouraged by the protests that have broken out in Iranian cities since 28 December.

US-Iran tensions increased last Friday when President Donald Trump said he had signed a waiver on the reimposition of draconian US sanctions on Iran for the last time. He would not do so when the issue comes up again in 120 days unless the nuclear deal agreed with Iran two years ago is substantially modified, something that is unlikely to happen. The uncertainty about sanctions has already cut the economic benefits to Iranians stemming from the agreement because foreign banks and companies do not want to risk spending money doing business in Iran and then find that they have to stop because of sanctions.

Nobody in the region is certain about how seriously they should take Mr Trump’s belligerent rhetoric, but Iran will inevitably take precautionary measures to guard against a worst-case scenario. “The Iranians are under the impression that others want to topple them and this is understandable,” the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told The Independent in an interview in Baghdad last October. “To protect themselves they have to fight outside their borders.” They generally do this through the use of proxies and skilful manipulation of local forces.

Iraq has been enjoying its least violent period since the US and British invasion of 2003 – but the unaccustomed peace is still fragile, as was shown on Monday when two suicide bombers killed 38 people and injured dozens more in an explosion in a market in Baghdad. This was the worst attack in the capital since the Iraqi security forces, backed by US airpower, captured Mosul in July after a nine-month siege – a major victory over Isis.

The US and Iranian relationship in Iraq has long been an unstable mixture of open rivalry and hostility, combined with covert and grudging cooperation. Both Mr Abadi and his predecessor as prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, were approved by both Washington and Tehran before being appointed.

This curious relationship between Iran and the US is tenuous, depending on both countries having similar aims, a recent example being the war against Isis. Iraqi governments try to balance between the two powers without becoming wholly dependent on either.


The US periodically hopes to establish a pro-American government in Baghdad, but the former Iraqi minister said that in present circumstances Iran would be determined, more than ever, to prevent this happening. He believed that American officials underestimate Shia solidarity and exaggerate the significance of the very real differences between Shia clerical leaders in the two countries. “At the end of the day the marjaiya [the vastly influential Iraqi Shia hierarchy] would stand with Iran,” he said.

A further complication arises if the US seeks to reimpose severe economic sanctions on Iran, because Iraq will become a centre for Iranian commerce and banking transactions. On the border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan there are three legal crossings and 13 illicit ones, according to the Iraqi interior ministry.

The US can stir the pot in Iraq but not achieve any decisive breakthrough in rolling back Iranian influence. In Syria, the American position is even more complicated because it relies, for leverage, on its alliance with the Syrian Kurds – the two million-strong minority that controls a great swathe of territory across northern and eastern Syria. The US has about 2,000 specialist soldiers in Syria, but its military strength depends on the use of airpower in support of Kurdish ground troops who belong to the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been waging a guerrilla war in Turkey since 1984.

This is not a stable political or military platform from which the US could try to diminish Iranian influence in Syria. Alliance with the Syrian Kurds means hostile relations with Turkey, as shown in the last few days when the US said it was supporting a 30,000-strong force to patrol the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan furiously denounced the US move, saying “a country we can call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our border. What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it is even born.”

The US does not appear to have decided on its long-term policy in Syria. It could use its local assets to try to keep President Bashar al-Assad weak, which might be feasible, but it would be at the cost of chaos in at least part of Syria – and Iran has shown itself to be more adept than the US at exploiting chaotic situations.

Some observers say reassuringly that Mr Trump’s aggressive rhetoric is frequently accompanied by prudent action and often by no action at all. But in the Middle East threats are taken seriously and, even when empty, may provoke a brutal counter-reaction. This is what happened in 2003 when US Neo-Conservatives spoke of following up the capture of Baghdad with regime change in Tehran and Damascus. The Iranians and Syrians became determined that the US and Britain would never stabilise their occupation of Iraq. If Mr Trump does succeed in capsizing the Iran nuclear deal, the US may soon regret reigniting a series of conflicts likely to end badly for them.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Iran, Iraq 
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  1. “DT still doesn’t understand Iran”

    So apparently there are arcane, secret mysteries, surrounding the country of Iran, which only leftists can “understand”

    Bullshit, Iran is no more “mysterious” than Brooklyn or Queens, and you leftists are seeking out any kind of “mysterious incomprehensible” nonsense which he then will not “understand”, in order to discredit him, period.

    Authenticjazzman “Mensa” qualified since 1973, airborne trained US Army vet, and pro jazz msuician.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
    , @Moi
  2. Randal says:

    Well he’s probably the most American president for decades, and Americans in general are irrational and deluded on the topic of Iran, for rather obvious reasons, so it’s not really any great surprise that he should have fairly typically deluded American ideas about Iran. And that’s before considering all the special attention undoubtedly paid to further deluding him personally, once he came close to actual political power, by those lobby representatives close to him with a strong group and/or personal interest in ensuring he’s deluded in all the right ways about Iran.

  3. Trump is a Zionist like Kushner and Bannon (and Netanyahu). What else do you need to know?

  4. MEexpert says:

    Bullshit, Iran is no more “mysterious” than Brooklyn or Queens, and you leftists are seeking out any kind of “mysterious incomprehensible” nonsense which he then will not “understand”, in order to discredit him, period.

    A comment worthy of a”Mensa qualified only,” and ” an “airborne trained US Army vet,” whatever the hell that means, and a “pro jazz bugle player, sorry musician.” A who is full of self praise will not understand the complexities of world politics. No wonder they didn’t admit you in Mensa. As far as Mensa qualified is concerned, thousands of people qualify for it but don’t get in.

    If your knowledge of the situation in Iran is as comprehensive as Trump’s, then I know that the above comments about your qualifications are correct. You are nothing but a self promoting fraud.

  5. Angustry says:

    Where are the sanctions on Israel ???
    The World should insist Israel live by the standards Israel demands of others. Be judged as Ye judge others. If Israel wants to be recognized, Israel must recognize the EQUALITY and HUMANITY of ALL People. Quit calling NON-Jews SHISKA, GOYIM, GENTILE. If Israel wants Hamas to ‘repudiate’ their charter, Israel must REPUDIATE their manual of hate, the TORAH, which openly proclaims that all ‘gentiles’ should be ‘Hewers of wood, and bearers of water’ …….. for Israel.
    Israel must recognize the Native People’s RIGHT to a Palestinian state.
    Israel REFUSES to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty or open It’s NUKES to inspection, Israel should have the exact same sanctions that were put on Iran Israel to Pay $9,000 to Any Civilian Willing to Help Deport Asylum Seekers by Force
    read more:

    Where is the investigation of ISRAELI “collusion in American elections”?!
    How many of YOUR/America’s $4+BILLION in WELFARE given to Israel every year comes back to America in the form of BRIBES to “american” politicians? Traitors voting to give Israel MORE, so they can get bigger BRIBES. .
    “Israel Buys the US Congress: Sabotaging the US-Iran Peace Negotiations”…um=related_articles

  6. angustry says:

    Trump is a complete and total sell-out. Trump Making ISRAEL Great Again — Trump ad for Netanyahi Steve Bannon
    Trump gives the Jews their biggest wish for decades In spite of warnings from every other country on Earth and the ILLEGAL and IMMORAL aspects , Donald Chump gives Jerusalem away and the Jews spit in his face and support and elect a Democrat in Alabama.Then Jews publish “Fire & Fury”
    Now -I- want to see Trump’s tax returns ….. After bragging he was too rich to be bribed and funding his own campaign ….. he is “INDEBTED” to filthy Sheldon Adelson?!!!!
    I have lost all respect and have no use for Trump he is a fraud who got through life by bullying everyone …. Not only that, Mister “Art of the Deal” who claims every other treaty we have is a “rotten deal” …. What did Mr. Negotiator GET for groveling to his Owners? Will Adelson order all the Jewish politicians that have been blocking the Wall and forcing Invaders onto Us to STOP?!? Will America finally cut off the $5+BILLION WELFARE CHECKS ? Israel has been collecting WELFARE from America for SEVEN DECADES, did Drumpf stop that !?
    What negotiating “advantage” did Trump gain in the mythical “war on terror” by grovelng to Israel on Jerusalem? Trump inflamed the muslums and handed the Terrorists great propaganda material by BOWING to Israel….. in what way did this benefit AMERICA ???? Trump, you stupid P.O.S.
    “Once we squeeze all we can out of the United States, it can dry up and blow away.” Benjamin Netanyahu
    Trump is just a PUPPET — and
    I believe Trump will spin on a dime and betray every promise about Guns and immigration ……
    Trump betrayed America AND Christ in Jerusalem. Trump is betraying the Middle Class with FAKE tax cuts … How long before Trump betrays America for the Jewish Kalgeri Plan and flings open Our borders.
    Where are the HOLOMODOR memorials ??!!
    We probably should have moved Washington D.C. to Jerusalem as this is where our foreign policy will come from in the Hebrew dominated nation that Amerika has become. anyone who does not see it now is mindbogglingly stupid (i.e. Zion-Evangelists) or a Crypto-Jews like Trump.
    America needs another Independence Day – independence from Israel.
    Trump is too busy making ISRAEL FIRST to build that wall …..
    FAKE —- Trump is a FAKE president —– Trump’s Biggest Owner/Donor Sheldon Adelson Pushed For Jerusalem Embassy Move ahhhhhhhh what happened to Trump “Too rich to be bribed and funding HIS OWN campaign”?????? Bought and PAID FOR …………..
    Not only that, Mister “Art of the Deal” who claims every other treaty we have is a “rotten deal” …. What did Mr. Negotiator GET for groveling to his Owners? Will Adelson order all the Jewish politicians that have been blocking the Wall and forcing Invaders onto Us to STOP?!? Will America finally cut off the $5+BILLION WELFARE CHECKS ? Israel has been collecting WELFARE from America for SEVEN DECADES, did Drumpf stop that !?
    They should just go all in and name Jerusalem the capitol of the United States. That’s real transparency in government! Trump’s Transition Team Colluded With Israel. Why Isn’t That News?
    Many made a big deal out of Trump saying “Merry Christmas” ….. well ….. that was to cover his BETRAYAL– Sold – Amerika. Check out the pics and weep.. ‘Trump takes a victory lap calling Hanukkah celebrations ‘especially special’ this year because he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital -‘…-lap-Jerusalem.html
    Remember all the outrage over Obama following local manners and custom and bowing to the Japanese and Saudi officials and how you cheered when Trump was “manly” and did not bow? Well how do you like Trump NOW? Trump just bent over and spread his cheeks in spite of the objections of every NATO member, the Vatican, and every other country in the World. In spite of the FACT that it is Jews blocking his wall that IS NOT BUILT and the Medical reform that DID NOT PASS ….. Trump whose administration is filled with Fifth Columnists just dropped onto his KNEES to Netanyahu —–. Real “manly” there Drumpf —
    “My opinion of Christian Zionists? They’re scum. But don’t tell them that. We need all the useful idiots we can get right now.” — Benyamin Netanyahu, at the time a former. prime minister”

    • Replies: @Miro23
    , @Eileen Kuch
  7. Virgile says:

    Bannon a zionist?? He has been accused of being antisemite.. What else?

  8. Trump doesn’t understand Iran? More interesting that Khamenei/Khatami doesn’t either, or at least parts of it.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
  9. My what absurd intellectual knots we tie ourselves into avoiding the reality of Trump’s Israel First foreign policy.

    It has nothing to do with “misunderstanding” Iran. They understand Iran perfectly well. They are busy making sure our idiocracy doesn’t.

    It’s the same formula they’ve used in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, etc. They know they’re lying. Pretending it is all just misunderstanding guarantees perpetuation of the republic-destroying Israel First policy.

    Or Make Israel Great. MIG. Not “Make Israel Great Again”. MIGA. Because it never was. Just a piddling little Kingdom on the East side of the Mediterranean.

  10. Miro23 says:

    I can’t disagree with most of this but what’s not so clear is US public opinion.

    It’s not exactly a secret that US (Congress & Trump) gives Israel special treatment and fights their wars but US public reaction seems to be all over the place.

    The many Trump supporters at Breitbart are crazily anti-Arab and pro-Israel, apart from hating Hillary Clinton. At the higher level Neocon Washington Post, the comments are diverging from the articles (Articles by Zionists and commenters tending towards America First), and on university campuses BDS is growing alongside PC activism.

  11. After 8 years, Obama didn’t understand Iran. He didn’t understand much else other than he had no chance at getting any better at golf.

  12. Moi says:

    So what’s your opinion of Hafiz? Asking because you come across as an Iran expert.

  13. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Iran is run by a self-serving and pocket-lining theocracy. That’s all anyone needs to know to understand its politics.

  14. MEexpert says:

    More interesting that Khamenei/Khatami doesn’t either, or at least parts of it.

    What a stupid comment? Just because a few people protest in one part of the country, doesn’t mean that the leaders don’t understand them. Another proof that you don’t know what you are talking about is that Khatami is not the president of Iran anymore. Hassan Rouhani is the current president.

    • Replies: @anony-mouse
  15. windwaves says:

    yes, the morons….”Make Israel Great” …could not really add the “again”.

    THe true enemy is Israel guys

  16. @MEexpert

    Not up to me to be a ME Expert either, MEexpert. As to ‘one part of the country’:–18_Iranian_protests

    • Replies: @anon
    , @MEexpert
  17. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Protests is good . It can increase in intensity It can bring more people . Carpetbaggers migrate as well. People see other marching . More people join. For this to happen, one needs outside forces and internet access Internet has to allow those protests and the rationale for protests to be streamed Internets and TV have to show the support they are getting form outside.

    Occupy Wall Street BLM both had the potential of unraveling US. Alas there was no foreign power

    Same critical ingredients are missing in Israel.

    Recent demonstration against the cut in workforce by a pharmaceuticals had and still have the potential of bringing down Israel. Only missing is a foreign power. Rest- ie propaganda, mind shaping, disavowal and de- legitimization will follow.

  18. @angustry

    NAILED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. MEexpert says:

    Original and genuine protest was in one part of the country. The vultures jumped in with their stooges and started copy cat protests in other parts. Those protests were staged not real. Just like Soros-led protests against Trump. Furthermore, if your only source of information is Wikipedia, I feel sorry for you. You should not be commenting on things you don’t know.

  20. Respect says:

    Yankees do not even understand Mexico , even Texas I would say , how do you want them to understand exotic Iran ?

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