There is no debate that the Pentagon has been spoiling for a fight with Iran. It’s pretty much been an open secret for nearly 2 years. Then following a suspicious attack on a Japanese tanker in the Straight of Hormuz last week, we have a U.S. drone that was shot down, once again the details of which are a little vague.
In the U.S. version of events, the drone was flying in international airspace when it was shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile. Iranian officials counter this by saying the drone did pass into their airspace, and saying they were able to recover some of the wreckage in Iranian waters as proof.
Firstly, let me start by saying that flying near or in and out of another country’s airspace as a provocation is not new at all and I believe that’s what happened here. The drone was flying in and out of Iranian airspace to provoke some kind of action. Either to get a missile lock, or in this case a missile fired.
This is all pretty standard military procedure. Just about every month there is a story of a military aircraft from one country “buzzing” the ship or territory of another country. Russia did it in American airspace just last month. In this article from NBC News it outlines how Russian bombers were doing exactly what our drone was doing in Iran. In the story, Russian bombers were flying extremely close to Alaskan airspace and had to be intercepted by American fighter jets. Now of course, the Russian bombers were not trying to illicit an attack, but it was a provocation to get American defenses to act. Like I said, this is all pretty standard stuff.
But the problem comes in because it’s highly likely Trump didn’t order this provocation. This fly-by into Iranian airspace was ordered from higher ups at the Pentagon to illicit exactly the kind of action it did, and therefore put pressure on Trump to have to act and further escalate tensions in the region.
I doubt Trump will take the bait on this, he knows that getting into an armed conflict with Iran, no matter how small will hurt his chances in 2020. He’s been publicly critical of the Iraq war and so is most of his voting base. Sometimes a war can help a candidate to get reelected, but the American appetite for foreign conflicts is at an all time low.
But if Trump doesn’t act and the Pentagon continues this provocation with Iran, Democrats can use Trump’s inaction as an attack vector to say he’s weak and nothing but all talk when it comes to Iran.
And that’s why the Pentagon’s actions are so bad here, they put Trump in a lose-lose situation. If he acts, he risks losing support of his base by starting yet another middle-east conflict. But if he does nothing and there are more incidents, Democratic 2020 candidates can attack Trump for being weak and unwilling to act on his own threats.
The Pentagon is most likely doing this on purpose. They know they are putting Trump in a tough spot, and they don’t mind doing it to achieve their goals. Trump and the Pentagon have been butting heads for 2 years now, with generals angry that Trump doesn’t rubber-stamp whatever conflict they happen to want. So now, not only does Trump have to battle Democrats, he has to battle his own Pentagon trying to undermine him and force him into a bad decision.
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